Quick look at Valspar Championship

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Five years ago at Innisbrook, Jordan Spieth earned his way onto the PGA TOUR. Three years ago, he won the Valspar Championship, the first of five wins in a season that elevated him to superstar status.

Now he comes to Innisbrook without a win in his last 14 worldwide starts – his biggest drought since his rookie season in 2013. He’s yet to post a top-5 finish in his six TOUR starts. He ranks 163rd in strokes gained: putting, a baffling development for one of the game’s biggest clutch putters. And good friend Justin Thomas has passed him in the world rankings.

The confidence is not wavering, though. Spieth likes the way his game is progressing, and he hopes that Innisbrook – which has treated him so well – will be the spark to the rest of his season.

“This tournament bringing really good vibes being here can do a lot for me going forward for the rest of the season,” he said Wednesday.

Suffering the flu in late December is one reason for Spieth’s slow start. In fact, speaking of slow starts, that’s another reason why Spieth has struggled to contend this season.

He ranks 156th on TOUR in first-round scoring average (71.50), breaking 70 just once in his six starts. Compare that to his TOUR ranking in the other three rounds – 3rd in the second round, 13th in the third round and 7th in the final round. Too often, Spieth has been playing catch-up for most of the week, requiring him to take more chances.

“The first rounds set me back this year,” Spieth said, “but talked with Michael (Greller, his caddie) yesterday. We’re in a very similar position to 2015 at this very moment.”

Provided Spieth can solve his putting issues – he said the holiday flu reduced the amount of practice time on the greens, and thus led to some alignment problems – the rest of his game seems good to go. He ranks sixth on TOUR in strokes gained: tee to green.

“Ball-striking is all there to win golf tournaments,” Spieth said. “Just a matter of seeing a couple putts go in and getting comfortable early in a tournament and gaining that confidence.”

That confidence (or lack thereof) on the greens is the primary thing Spieth thinks is preventing him from flashing the kind of form he did in 2015.

“You go through peaks and troughs through every part of your game,” Spieth said. “I believe I hit a trough and I’m back rising towards a peak when it comes to on the greens. I’ve got to maintain everything else and I believe I’ll be a better player, if that’s the case.”

Innisbrook has provided Spieth with many fond memories. Perhaps he’ll add another chapter this week.

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