(Reuters) – Jordan Spieth’s victory in last year’s British Open had boosted his self-belief, convinced him to ignore any critical nay-sayers and gave him the confidence to become ‘the man’ in golf in 2018, even if Tiger Woods was planning a comeback.
The 24-year-old Spieth, who clinched his third major title at Royal Birkdale, recognized that he is now under a relentless spotlight, but the three-shot win over fellow American Matt Kuchar had helped release that pressure.
“The Open Championship just did wonders for me, individually, not only my view of myself but being the man in the arena,” the world number two told reporters in Hawaii ahead of Thursday’s first round at the Tournament of Champions.
“I’m the one out there putting it on the line every week. I’m going to fail and learn, I’m going to succeed. But I’m the one in the arena.
“In general, there are going to be critics and people who disagree with the way you do things but I think I’m in a great place and starting 2018.
“I’m ready for anything. I’m ready for failure, success and everything in between.”
With three major victories and a couple of other close calls under his belt, Spieth knows he will face stiff competition in 2018 from fellow 20-somethings like compatriot Justin Thomas, the defending champion at Kapalua.
“The unknowns are very exciting right now with the amount of depth and talent at a younger age, mixed with guys in their 30s, number one in the world DJ (Dustin Johnson),” Spieth said.
“Obviously the major question, what’s it going to be like with Tiger coming back,” he added in reference to 14-times major champion Woods, who hopes to play a full schedule after a back fusion operation last April.
“It’s a pretty special time to be a part of professional golf.”
Spieth and Thomas are among a small 34-man field that includes the top five players in the world — Johnson, Spieth, Thomas, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)