HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.– Masters champion Jordan Spieth is back to work this week at the RBC Heritage Classic after two days celebrating his victory at Augusta National and being showered with attention.
Spieth arrived at Sea Pines Resort late Tuesday night after a media whirlwind in New York since tying Tiger Woods’ Masters record of 18-under 270 to capture the green jacket. The 21-year-old said it was a dizzying stretch with 26 appearances and interviews in 25 hours.
“It was a little crazy in New York having paparazzi know where we were going to eat dinner even though we never told anybody,” Spieth said Wednesday.
Spieth doesn’t believe the success will change him. In fact, he said he upheld his commitment to the RBC Heritage in part to chase down Rory McIlroy for world No. 1.
“I wouldn’t come to a tournament just to come to a tournament, especially with that goal still in mind,” said Spieth, who moved to No. 2 in the world rankings with the Masters’ win.
Spieth has had two victories and two runner-up finishes in his past four events. He would have liked to have had his normal pre-tournament preparations at Harbour Town Golf Links. Instead, he’ll go into his first-round tee time Thursday not having played a hole of practice on the tricky, Pete Dye-designed layout.
“I’m sure Jordan’s wiped,” said Kevin Streelman, the Par-3 contest winner at Augusta National last week who finished tied for 12th behind Spieth. “But he’s 21 years old, he can handle it.”
Spieth has had success here the previous two years, finishing ninth in 2013 and 12th last year. The RBC Heritage gave him an invite two years ago when Spieth was a rising, yet largely unknown 19 -year-old trying to make his way on tour. The top-10 finish, Spieth said, helped his confidence and status on the PGA Tour.
“This tournament helped with job security,” Spieth said. “So it’s a tournament that’s close to me and I love it here.”
Most Masters champions – and many of the game’s best players – take the next week off after a pressure-packed week at Augusta National. Spieth heads a group of five ranked in the top 20 of the world (No. 10 Jim Furyk, No. 14 Patrick Reed, No. 17 Matt Kuchar and No. 19 Billy Horschel are the others) to compete this week.
Streelman enjoys playing right after a major, knowing his game is honed in and peaking after a Grand Slam event.
“Your game is really primed and amped up,” he said. “I’m very prepared.”
Kuchar is the tournament’s defending champion, holing out from a green-side bunker on the 72nd hole to defeat Luke Donald by a stroke.
Spieth’s success has him atop the FedEx Cup standings, the youngest player ever to lead that category.
There have only been two Masters winners the past 15 years to follow up their victories by playing Harbour Town. Vijay Singh tied for third here in 2000 a week after winning the Masters while Zach Johnson was sixth in 2007.
Only Bernhard Langer is 1985 followed a Masters victory with a triumph a week later at the RBC Heritage.
Spieth believes he’ll be the same driven, focused competitor he’s always been after winning the major he dreamed of as a child. That might be difficult after this week’s spotlight. Spieth got congratulatory Tweets from stars like Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and about 200 texts and emails since the victory.
“Given some time, that will subside a little bit,” he said.
What won’t ease up, Spieth said, is his desire to achieve the very best in golf, a quest that continues at Harbour Town.
“I was very much looking forward to getting back here, getting on solid ground and taking a deep breath,” Spieth said. “I’m really looking forward to this week.”