After dealing with COVID-19, a healthy Jordan Spieth returns to PGA Tour at AT&T Byron Nelson

Spieth begins a busy stretch of four tournaments in as many weeks after recovering from COVID-19.

After dealing with COVID-19, a healthy Jordan Spieth returns to PGA Tour at AT&T Byron Nelson

After turning off Magnolia Lane last month to begin a well-deserved break of two weeks, Jordan Spieth was feeling mighty fine about his world.

He had just finished in a tie for third in the Masters, which capped a superb stretch of golf where he finished in the top five on five occasions in eight starts, which included his first PGA Tour title since the 2017 Open Championship coming at the Valero Texas Open.

All his struggles seemed so far away, the ones that kept him winless for nearly four years and had him plummeting down the Official World Golf Ranking to 92nd, his lowest standing since 2012.

He was Jordan Spieth again, the former world No. 1 and three-time major winner doing magical things inside the gallery ropes and moving to No. 28 in the world.

But then he was forced to deal with another obstacle – COVID-19.

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About 10 days after the conclusion of the Masters, Spieth tested positive for the infectious virus. He didn’t know how he got it, nor did he lose his appetite or sense of smell. But he did have to quarantine in his Dallas home away from his wife, Annie, as he successfully defeated the virus.

“It was bad for a day and a half and then it was just kind of annoying for the next five days, kind of lost energy, and sinus stuff,” Spieth said Tuesday ahead of his start in the AT&T Byron Nelson. “And then after that I started to kind of get full strength back and I would say the last week to week and a half now I’ve been acting as if it never happened.

“I’ve just gone about my days feeling full energy and being able to hit kind of full workouts and practice sessions and all that kind of stuff. So at this point it’s get back to playing golf and try and get in the same rhythm I was in and just kind of be patient with it.”

Spieth was surprised he got COVID-19, saying he had been careful because, one, he obviously didn’t want to deal with it, and two, he didn’t want to miss any tournaments. Unfortunately, he did have to pass on playing in the Valspar Championship, which he won in 2015.

Now he’ll start a stretch of four tournaments in four weeks, including next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. It’s the only major he hasn’t won.

“I’m not exactly sure yet,” Spieth said about where his game is at. “I’ve only played a couple rounds, so I’m looking to kind of maybe knock a little rust off that I didn’t think would necessarily be here.

“I feel good. I feel strong. I feel ready to go for a good stretch of golf coming up.”

It begins at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas. The course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, has hosted Q-School and Korn Ferry Tour events but will be making its PGA Tour debut this week.

Spieth, who made his PGA Tour debut in this tournament in 2016 as a 16-year-old amateur, isn’t overly familiar with the course. He played two junior tournaments on the course and failed to earn his card at Q-School here in 2012.

“I played last Wednesday, just came out and played with my dad and my agent just to kind of check it out,” Spieth said. “I knew all the shapes of the holes and stuff like that, but it had been really nine years since playing in a tournament.”

But Spieth is familiar with the Texas winds and the impact they can have.

“It can play very different based on the conditions. You can say that about any golf course but really even more so out here,” Spieth said. “If the wind doesn’t blow, you really are kind of looking at trying to go score. Then when it does, you’re almost kind of holding on and saying, all right, I want to take advantage of the par-5s, but the rest of the course is going to be really tough.

“I think it’s going to be more of like a second shot risk-reward golf course to try and go low, but you can also play it smart and really hang in there if you’re able to putt well.”

In other words, it’s the latest challenge Spieth has to deal with. He conquered his struggles, toppled COVID-19. Now he’ll see if he can keep doing Jordan things.

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With thoughts of sushi on his Masters Champions Dinner menu, Hideki Matsuyama returns to action with a confidence boost

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama celebrated his victory at the Masters back home in his native land and brought the Green Jacket along for the (...)

With thoughts of sushi on his Masters Champions Dinner menu, Hideki Matsuyama returns to action with a confidence boost

At the 2019 Zozo Championship, the PGA Tour’s first official tournament in Japan, Jordan Spieth was paired in the first two rounds with Australian Adam Scott and Japan’s favorite son, Hideki Matsuyama. It gave Spieth a first-hand taste of what the life of a rock star must be like.

“I remember walking off the first tee talking to Adam and being like, I remember him saying, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ I mean, it was six deep the entire first fairway,” Spieth recalled. “It was probably the biggest Thursday crowd and most like, maybe most exciting, most nerve-wracking crowd I had ever played in front of on like a Thursday and Friday. It was bizarre. And then I can only imagine, obviously, what this Masters impact has had over there.”

As Spieth, the 2015 Masters champ noted, he didn’t have an entire country living and dying with his every swing. If Matsuyama had rock-star treatment then, his popularity has soared since he became the first male Japanese golfer to win one of the four majors, capturing the Masters on April 11 by one stroke over Will Zalatoris.

When last spotted in the US, Matsuyama, 29, was strolling through a Chicago airport carrying the winner’s Green Jacket en route to a commercial flight to Japan, where he enjoyed showing off his new prized possession to his parents and friends. He also wore the Green Jacket on two other occasions – first for a press conference and then to receive the Prime Minister’s award from Japan’s Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo.

“I realize now the responsibility that goes with a major championship, especially the Masters,” Matsuyama said, “I’m honored. I’m flattered by the added attention, but at the same time, sometimes it’s difficult to say no. But it goes with the territory and, again, grateful that I have this opportunity and I’ll try my best to prepare well for what’s to come.”

Matsuyama hardly touched a club while he was in his native land, and he said he planned to use this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch “to try to find my game again and prepare for the PGA Championship next week.”

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Hideki Matsuyama poses with a framed, autographed Masters flag that he gave to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on April 30, 2021. Matsuyama received the Prime Minister’s Award in Tokyo on Friday for winning the Masters. (Photo: Masanori Takei/Kyodo News via AP)

If anyone can avoid a Masters hangover, it’s Matsuyama, who has never shied away from hard work. As a matter of fact, Zalatoris, the Masters runner-up, identified Matsuyama’s work ethic as the trait he most admires in the Japanese star.

“The guy just absolutely grinds his tail off,” said Zalatoris, who stopped to congratulate Matsuyama in the parking lot on Tuesday, and noted he’s a constant club tinkerer. “It’s just kind of cool to see a guy try to find the tiny intricacies in different clubs and his golf swing. It’s really admirable to see someone who is that passionate about excelling at this game.”

Matsuyama has been so busy since his life-changing triumph that he hasn’t watched the Sunday broadcast of the Masters yet, but seeing the highlights brought back a flood of emotions.

“I got nervous again, just like I was playing, and it was, at some points, difficult to watch because I was so nervous,” he said.

Matsuyama described winning the Masters as both a sense of relief after previous close calls at the majors and a confidence booster, one that he hopes can spur him to even greater heights.

“It had been awhile and now moving forward and looking forward I still have the drive to want to win more on the PGA Tour and hopefully the confidence or the relief,” he explained. “It’s kind of an unusual combination of the two feelings of how I look at myself and hopefully I’ll be successful in the future.”

While he has time to select his menu for the Champions Dinner held on the Tuesday of Masters week, Matsuyama said he’s leaning towards serving sushi.

“I’m a little worried,” he said. “I don’t know if everyone will really like sushi or not, but I’m going to check with some people and get their advice and what they think. There’s a lot of really good food from Japan, a lot of, some of the best beef in the world, so I’m thinking about that and looking forward to it next year.”

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