Jordan Spieth celebrated being back where it all began a decade ago with a trademark Jordan Spieth round on the opening day of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook – the tournament that gave him his big break on the PGA Tour.
Back in this event in 2013, a 19-year-old Spieth managed to finish T7 to earn a special temporary membership on the PGA Tour that gave him the springboard to what has already been a fantastic career.
Spieth showed signs of what was to follow during his final round a decade ago, managing to hole a flop shot and get up-and-down from a bunker to claim the finish that would unlock the PGA Tour for him – and he’s not forgotten it.
“It was everything at the time,” said Spieth. “I didn’t have any status anywhere and I had made a decision not to go secure Korn Ferry Tour status the week prior, and go to Puerto Rico instead and played well, and then got into here.
“I mean, that was huge. That opened up all the opportunities for the rest of the year that kind of was a springboard for getting all the way to the TOUR Championship and then the Presidents Cup and just really, really great memories that I wouldn’t have had if it were weren’t for the finish to this event.
“It’s a special tournament – I don’t forget about that. It gave me a lot of freedom and essentially being able to play a full schedule until eventually winning later that year, which then you actually get to choose where you want to go. So it was a massive opportunity because of this event.”
It’s the kind of sliding doors moment that PGA Tour pros don’t forget about, as they know that the margins are so fine that everything that followed for Spieth all stemmed from his 2013 performance on the Copperhead Course.
His sparkling Masters debut, finishing second when he could have been a rare first-time winner, came a year later to announce himself as a big-time player – before slipping on the Green Jacket in 2015 and adding two further Majors.
And Spieth celebrated his decade in the limelight in style with a four-under round of 67 to sit just a shot off the first-round lead of the 2023 Valspar Championship.
A typical Spieth round saw him hit just five fairways but produce a putting masterclass, gaining four strokes on the field with the flat stick in his best performance on the greens for two years, while also topping the field for scrambling and sand saves.
Spieth nailed a 57-foot bomb for one of his four birdies in a somehow bogey-free round, even producing his special move of recovering from a wayward tee shot – producing a remarkable escape before draining a 31-footer for birdie when facing at least a bogey.
“I would have signed for two or three, as you kind of do around this place,” Spieth admitted after making 147 feet in putts on the day.
“With only hitting like five-ish fairways, you do that around this place and shoot under par, it’s pretty solid. I was able to sneak a couple extras with the putter today.
“I mean, when I struck the tee ball (at 6), it was a crapshoot. So pretty fortunate to escape with a three. I didn’t really have a shot at the hole there, but I told Michael (Greller, his caddie), if I walk up and I have any form of a swing, I’ll be happy. So there was no complaining.”
It’s just what it’s been like for a decade watching Spieth, a flawed genius on the golf course, extricating himself from the most difficult of spots – all self-inflicted of course – showing an artistry and imagination that few can match, but also playing from places on the course few ever visit.
It’s never a dull moment watching the 29-year-old Texan swashbuckling his way around a golf course, and it’s apt that he’s doing at again at the very course that gave him his big break a decade ago.