'Calm, collected, and confident' Jordan Spieth emerges from 'panic place' to be ready for Masters

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Jordan Spieth says he has settled after a poor start to the season.

Jordan Spieth believes it is a case of panic over as he targets a second Masters title and the fourth major championship of his career.

Spieth has been far from his best this season and reached a low point, particularly with his putting, with an opening 76 – while playing alongside Tiger Woods – in the Valspar Championship last month.

The 23-year-old went on to miss the cut and failed to get beyond the group stages in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but bounced back to finish third in the Houston Open in his native Texas on Sunday.

“I made big strides in the last two weeks to get from kind of a panic place to a very calm, collected and confident place,” the 2015 Masters champion said.

“It’s difficult to do in two weeks. Sometimes it takes years. And I feel like I’ve been able to speed that process up a lot over the last couple of weeks.

“I feel better coming into this week than I did in 2016 and 2014 where I came off of missed cuts in Houston. There’s a lot to be said of the previous week’s momentum and being able to work my way into contention and hit some putts under pressure that I felt.

“I didn’t do a lot of scoreboard watching. I kind of pretended like I was tied for the lead even though I figured I was a stroke or two back. I kind of wanted that ‘You need to make this’ feeling and I started to really roll some putts in under the gun.

“My iron play and off the tee has been fantastic, just like it was last year. It’s just been about finding the [putting] set-up that I had for a couple of years that I kind of got a little stiff and away from recently.

“Settling into that from round one here will be important, but I feel like last week was a tremendous stepping stone in the right direction.”

Spieth has finished a remarkable second, first, second and 11th in his four Masters appearances and will also have the chance to complete the career grand slam by winning the US PGA at Bellerive in August.

“It’s not been the greatest start to the year of any that I’ve had,” the world number four added. “But I kind of look at it in thirds. You get 10 or a dozen events before the Masters, then the Masters through to the US Open is the next third, and then you get the last two majors and the FedEx Cup play-offs in the last third.

“I feel good about my game, I feel like I should have a chance to win this week. But if I don’t, it’s coming soon and that’s exciting for me.”

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Ian Poulter not worrying about unlucky 13 after dramatic qualification for 2018 Masters

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Ian Poulter sealed the final spot at the Masters with his Houston Open win.

Ian Poulter admits he is underprepared for his 13th Masters appearance, but feels 13 is certainly not an unlucky number where he is concerned.

Poulter secured the last place in the field at Augusta National by virtue of his dramatic victory in the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, making a birdie on the 72nd hole before beating Beau Hossler in a play-off.

The 42-year-old then spent a day at home in Orlando before travelling to Augusta on Tuesday, where he was the 85th player in the 87-man field to officially register for the year’s first major.

Poulter, who has missed just one cut in his previous 12 Masters starts, said: “Thirteen is an unlucky number but I don’t feel it is after I’ve made it in.

“I’m the least prepared as I’ve ever been but I need to stay fresh because I know this golf course very well. I love this place.

“I’ve had success here, obviously not with the green jacket, but I’ve had success shooting 67, 67 over a weekend (to finish sixth in 2015), and I’ve got off to fast starts.

“I know I can play this golf course so it’s really about me managing my energy levels this week, staying patient and enjoying it for what it is. Last week I wasn’t supposed to be here and this week I am so I really need to enjoy what it means to get back here to play and see how we go.”

Poulter had packed his bags ahead of a possible missed cut in Houston following an opening 73, but stormed back to shoot rounds of 64, 65 and 67 to secure his first win since 2012 and a first stroke-play title in the United States.

“To watch the TV and see everyone play practice rounds, chipping and putting, and the excitement of Tiger (Woods) being back in form and all of that seemed a bit weird, but I’m here now,” Poulter added.

“I have zero expectations. I have never pitched up to the Masters on a Tuesday afternoon, I would never have done as little preparation as I’m about to do for this event.

“So as confident as I feel going into this week, I believe I’m unprepared, so let’s see if that works in my favour. Sometimes we’ve seen that in the past with players and it worked out well last week, so hopefully it can work out well this week.”

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World No1 Dustin Johnson raring to go for Masters after last year's mishap

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Dustin Johnson missed last year's Masters but is raring to go for this year's event.

Dustin Johnson can even joke about it now – sort of. The American was riding high heading into the Masters last year.

Having finally broken through for a first major title at the 2016 US Open, Johnson had gone from strength to strength, winning three straight tournaments and seizing the world number one ranking before arriving at Augusta National.

“I was about as confident as I’ve ever been,” Johnson says.

But he never made it to the first tee last year, after a mis-step on the stairs at his rented house in Augusta left him with a badly bruised back on the eve of the tournament.

This year, Johnson quipped in his deadpan style, his plan for Wednesday was to “take it really easy”.

But he admitted that having to sit out the first major of 2017 added an extra edge to his anticipation this week.

“Obviously I was playing very well, and it was very disappointing not to be able to play,” Johnson said. “This year’s a completely different year, and I’m really looking forward to coming into this year – especially missing last year.”

Dustin Johnson has  won one major, the 2016 US Open.

Dustin Johnson has won one major, the 2016 US Open.

Johnson, 33, is still perched atop the world rankings – although Justin Thomas leads a trio of players who could supplant him this week.

He opened 2018 with a victory in the US PGA Tournament of Champions and finished tied for second at Pebble Beach, but he hasn’t been the juggernaut of 2017.

Nevertheless, Johnson says his confidence level remains high – a 9 1/2, perhaps, compared to 10 on a scale of 10 last year.

“Starting to swing it a lot better,” Johnson said. “Feeling a lot better on the golf course, for sure.”

A native of nearby Columbia, South Carolina, Johnson remembers watching the Masters as a boy. Now, he believes, he has the major championship know-how and enough experience of the Augusta National course to challenge for the green jacket.

“The more you play here, the more comfortable you get around this golf course,” said Johnson, who notched top-10 finishes in 2015 and 2016. “You know what tee shots and where to hit it and the flags and kind of how to attack the golf course.

“Then, I think just me as a golfer getting better throughout the whole game, just having more confidence, hitting it better, driving it better, doing everything a little bit better always helps around here.”

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