The run-up to the Masters already has begun.
Just like generations before him who looked at the Florida events on the PGA TOUR as the start of the preparations for the Masters Tournament, Jordan Spieth says he has begun to gear up for defense of his green jacket.
The No. 1 player in the world recently made a stopover at Augusta National Golf Club, his second since winning last year's Masters. He also made a trip in December. Spieth, 22, was on his way to Miami for the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral when he took a slight detour to Augusta, Ga. The inspiring visit was just the medicine he needed after a recent missed cut at the Northern Trust Open.
Masters time is fast approaching.
"When we leave the West Coast and come over to Florida and then in Texas, that's what I think is, 'OK, it's time to get ready for the Masters.' That's just me personally," Spieth, 22, said. "The West Coast seems like its own kind of part of the schedule, and it did last year, too. We came into here after playing [at Augusta]. You get the excitement from just being and playing a couple rounds at Augusta National.
"And," he added, "you come into really the final stretch of a few events that you kind of want to knock out everything you can in tournament play, and hopefully grab a win or two in the process, because that's the best way to prepare before heading over there."
For good reason Spieth is replicating the formula that catapulted him to his four-stroke Masters victory a year ago. He undertook the same strategy in 2015, stopping at Augusta before competing at Doral and the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., which he won.
The Texan tied Tiger Woods' Masters record with an 18-under 270 total, but he doubts, based on his assessment of the greens, that anyone will be shooting that number again. "There's nothing different about the golf course," he said. "It's even in better shape this far before the event than it has been the last couple years. The greens were very, very quick and very healthy, so I've got a feeling that they are not going to want 18-under to win again."
A tougher golf course wouldn't be a surprise. After Jack Nicklaus won the 1965 Masters with a record 271 total, the golf course was set up much more difficult. Nicklaus became the first repeat winner, after a playoff against Gay Brewer and Tommy Jacobs, but the Golden Bear was 17 shots higher, at 288, to get into that playoff.
And Mark O'Meara's winning score in 1998, after Tiger Woods set a new record of 18-under 270, was a mere 9 under par.
The current eligible field is 90 players, including six amateurs, but only 88 on that list are likely to compete. Four-time champion Woods is still on the mend from back surgery, and Sangmoon Bae is serving his mandatory two years in the South Korea military.
Defending Memorial Tournament winner, David Lingmerth, will be making his first appearance at the Masters next month as he vies to become the first Swedish born player to win a Green Jacket. Lingmerth has recorded four top-10 finishes since winning the Memorial, including a second place effort this season at the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
The field will be further updated with any winners of PGA TOUR events prior to the Masters who are not otherwise exempt and any players ranked among the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking on March 28 who haven't yet qualified.