SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth may be sitting proudly at the top of the world rankings but the American believes his short game needs plenty of work before he can regain the mantle of the hottest player in golf.
The 22-year-old double major winner finished tied for fifth at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday after some erratic play on the greens left him five shots adrift of compatriot and champion Rickie Fowler.
The victory in a strong field also featuring four-times major winner Rory McIlroy and world number six Henrik Stenson left Spieth, already a winner in Hawaii this year, with someone to target.
“I’d argue Ricky Fowler is the hottest name in golf right now, he is the previous week’s winner, he beat all of us, so he is the best player, that’s the way I look at it,” the Texan told reporters at Sentosa Golf Club on Tuesday ahead of this week’s Singapore Open.
“I look at it most recent, the rankings look at it in a two-year cycle. For me, I was beat by four guys last week, I need to get better, that’s my drive,” added Spieth, who stormed up the rankings with victories at last year’s Masters and U.S. Open.
“I‘m not satisfied if I don’t have my best stuff week-to-week, even though that is not going to happen. It still leaves me wanting more, so I come into this week trying to really improve my short game from last week as well as maintain my ball striking.”
Spieth is the overwhelming favorite to triumph in the $1 million Asian Tour opener, also co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour, with world number 26 An Byeong-hun and Welshman Jamie Donaldson the only others in the field ranked in the top 50.
Weariness, though, is another opponent Spieth will have to negotiate after feeling the effects of a “crazy four-month adventure” of tournament play in South Korea, China, Australia, the U.S., Middle East and now Southeast Asia.
“It was certainly fatigue at the end of that day,” he said of his feelings after Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
”I was very pleased with the form last week, I just didn’t make anything and that happens. I can normally rely on my putter when everything else goes off and I had a lot of chances from that mid-range distance I normally feel very confident on but I just mis-read them or the speed was just off.
“I was actually pretty pleased to turn in a top five with what I felt like was disappointing with my short game.”
The hazard-filled Serapong Course layout is not a place for anyone struggling with their short game, however, with large undulating greens ready to deceive, as McIlroy found out during a third-place finish in 2012, the last time the event was held.
“Looking at the yardage book there is a lot of trouble, a lot of water hazards,” Spieth said of the tight layout.
“And some massive greens too, so I will need to work on my speed control... so I‘m not three-putting. You can get 60 or 70-feet putts regularly out here. The goal is definitely to win this week.”
Editing by John O'Brien