SYDNEY: World No.1 Jordan Spieth is gunning to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as only the third non-local player to win back-to-back Australian Opens this week — but a “fired-up” Adam Scott is standing in his way.
It was a year ago the American ignited a “dream” 10 months by winning in Sydney, and a week later claiming the Tiger Woods-hosted World Challenge.
He went on to capture the opening two majors of 2015, along with two regular PGA Tour victories and the season-ending Tour Championship in a breakthrough season.
Spieth said he was thrilled to be back at The Australian Club for the tournament’s 100th edition, where a final-round, course-record 63 carried him to an impressive six shot success last year.
Now he is seeking to become the first overseas player in nearly 40 years to lift the trophy twice in a row after Nicklaus completed his double in 1976.
“Anywhere you can go back and you have great memories can help you out and it just puts good vibes in going forward,” Spieth said.
“So I am looking forward to trying to do the exact same thing as last year.”
In contrast to Spieth, Australia’s world number 12 Scott is seeking a first win since capturing the 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational Colonial.
But he said he was highly motivated to win on home turf with the “whole golf world” watching as Spieth defends his title.
“I am very fired-up to win the Australian Open this week,” said Scott, a former world number one who finished fifth in Sydney last year.
“I’ve been building it in my own my mind just knowing Jordan has come back to defend and as the number one golfer in the world.
“It’s important and it’s great that he is here because the whole golf world will be watching what happens this week, so he’s doing a huge favor for Australian golf this week.”
Spieth will play the opening two rounds with 1997 Australian Open champion Lee Westwood, who is competing in the event for the first time since beating then world number one Greg Norman in a four-hole play-off 18 years ago at the Metropolitan Club in Melbourne.
“It’s been a long time since I won that Australian Open and this also is the first time I’ve played in Sydney since my first Australian Open in 1994, so I am really looking forward to the week,” said the Englishman.
“And again, the organizers seem to have assembled a great field and it’s still a tournament that players want to win.
“You only have to see what winning the Australian Open in 2013 did for Rory McIlroy the following year, and then last year with Jordan (Spieth) winning, just look as his fabulous season this year.”
Joining Spieth, Scott and Westwood in the field is European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, along with Belgium’s big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts who will accompany Scott over the first two days.