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Spieth's strong start points to bold challenge for Masters title


By Robert Jones

Former World No.1 Jordan Spieth insists that he can add to his three Major titles at next week's Masters despite persistent struggles with his short game in recent weeks.

The 24-year-old American missed the cut at the Valspar Championship last week and then lost to Patrick Reed in the Dell Technologies Match Play.

Spieth was among an elite group, including Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, regarded as likely to produce the sport's next superstar after winning the Masters and US Open in 2015, and last year's Open, but recent months have been frustrating.

The Open success last July at Royal Birkdale by three shots from fellow American Matt Kucher was his last win.

It is not difficult to see where his problems lie. The Texan is ranked 201st in total putting on the PGA Tour and 172nd in strokes gained by putting.

Despite this, Spieth has logged four top-20 finishes in six stroke-play ranking events which point to further success if he can iron out his putting deficiencies.

Spieth, ranked fourth in the world, is tuning up for next week's Augusta National showpiece by competing in the Houston Open and there were signs of improvement as he opened his challenge with a four-under 68 last night.

He said: "This hasn't been the start that I've wanted so far, but I would like to think the season kind of starts next week.

"You put a lot of emphasis on peaking for four weeks a year and that first one comes at the Masters. I'm trying to have a fantastic event here obviously, which is the best way to gear up for Augusta.

"I've gone into Augusta feeling lower than I am right this second about my ability to compete, or the ability to get into contention and win and still been in the last group or last couple of groups.

"In 2016 I was hitting it horrendously going into Augusta. I'm striking the ball a lot better now. I just putted extremely well starting from the first round at Augusta in 2016."

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