Orlando (Florida): With the spotlight shifting just a little bit from Tiger Woods to the main tournament — the Hero World Challenge — defending champion Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth, who was so close to winning the Masters, but closed a fine win at the Australian Open are now coming under the arc lights.
Johnson, who has had some injuries lately, is bidding to become only the second man after Tiger Woods to win the Hero World Challenge back-to-back, while Spieth wants to underline his growing prowess with another win at a star-studded field.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, has won this event once and finished runner-up twice, but that was on the Sherwood course, but it is not as if he does not know Isleworth, for he lived in Orlando for more than eight years. On Wednesday, soon after the Pro-Am, he said, "Any time you get invited to a tournament like this you know you've done something right. I thoroughly enjoy 18-man fields. That makes it a lot more fun. And I like no cuts."
Speaking about Isleworth, he added, "I did live in Orlando for a good eight-plus years. I'm not too unfamiliar with this golf course. I think it's probably one of the best in central Florida. You can argue it is the best as far as challenge goes. It is difficult, but it's fair. It's not like it's outrageous."
He added, "It's a great, fair test. They pushed some tee boxes up, which is nice — certainly for me. And the greens are perfect. And you still have to hit fairways."
Talking of the conditions, Johnson observed, "(After) The rain that came yesterday, the ball was rolling. I think that's probably just indicative of the fact they put a lot of sand in these fairways and the superintendents have done some great work."
As for Spieth, he could not stop smiling and it was a confident one. He, too, had a taste of Orlando. He said, "I did it a couple times in college. Once here at Isleworth… had a big lead Sunday down the stretch and played well and was able to soak that in. That's probably the most recent."
On 2014, he said, "(I) Had a few goals at the beginning of the year, and one of them was to try and win twice this year. I was keeping (that) to myself most of the year. Obviously, (I) wanted to contend in a Major and make the Ryder Cup team, but with no victories it was still pretty tough with how many chances I was given this year, especially on Sundays."
Spieth won the John Deere and the Australian Open, but also revealed that he learnt a lot from a Greg Norman quote, 'You learn a lot more from your failures than you do from winning.'
Spieth, who had the lead at one stage but ended second to Bubba Watson at the Augusta Masters, has the talent to win Majors. But, for the present, he is ready for the high-profile Hero World Challenge this week and then the 2015 season, where he looks forward to returning to Augusta and hopefully, improve on the 2014 result.