• Jordan Spieth believes next week’s Masters will be toughest in memory
  • That’s because of the depth of the field and the quality of golf being played
  • Defending champion Spieth had to give back his green jacket this month
  • Spieth claims handing it over just makes him want to win in even more 

Derek Lawrenson for MailOnline

Defending champion Jordan Spieth believes next week’s Masters will be the hardest to win in living memory.

The 22-year-old reckons there hasn’t been an edition of the tournament in recent years where so many of the top players are going into it in prime form.

‘I think it will be the hardest to win because of the depth of the field and the sheer quality of the golf being played,’ he explained. 

Defending champion Jordan Spieth believes next week’s Masters will be hardest to win in living memory

Defending champion Jordan Spieth believes next week’s Masters will be hardest to win in living memory

Bubba Watson presents Spieth with the green jacket after he won the 2015 edition of the tournament 

Bubba Watson presents Spieth with the green jacket after he won the 2015 edition of the tournament 

Spieth admits having to hand over the green jacket only fuels his desire to win it back in April again

Spieth admits having to hand over the green jacket only fuels his desire to win it back in April again

‘Just go down the list. Jason Day is playing some unbelievable golf and fully deserving to be world No 1. You’ve got Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion playing well. 

‘There’s Louis Oosthuizen playing outstandingly, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and then there’s Rory McIlroy. He’s played Augusta very well in the past and playing some strong golf. 

‘I know for a fact he wants to win it really badly. We all want to win it badly.’ Spieth said he’s so excited to get back to Augusta that ‘every time I think about it I want to go out and do some push-ups.’ 

Further fuel for the fire came in having to give the precious green jacket back. ‘It made me feel that maybe I took it for granted a little because it was stuck in my closet for the longest time,’ he admitted. 

‘Sure, I kept looking at it and took advantage of it at the start but maybe I could have taken it around with me more. But packing it up and sending it back to the grounds has really motivated me, one hundred per cent. 

‘I want to keep that same now torn garment bag that has the jacket in it that says “2015 Masters champion.” I want to keep the jacket inside that and take it away again. 

Jason Day of Australia proudly holds the Walter Hagen Cup following his victory over Louis Oosthuizen

Jason Day of Australia proudly holds the Walter Hagen Cup following his victory over Louis Oosthuizen

Phil Mickelson  hits a shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the World Golf Championships

Phil Mickelson hits a shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the World Golf Championships

‘It might seem silly to think that would be a motivation but it’s things like that, they make a difference. I’m more motivated to win it back than I was to win it for the first time.’ 

Spieth has one more tournament to complete here at the Shell Houston Open, which starts on Thursday and where a sudden-death play off loss last year gave him momentum heading to Augusta.

’The game’s all there, so this is all about trying to trim the fat and get into contention,’ he said. 

Rory McIlroy watches his shot during his semi-final match with Jason Day in Austin, Texas

Rory McIlroy watches his shot during his semi-final match with Jason Day in Austin, Texas

‘All my game is lacking right now is that nerve-wracking feeling of pulling off shots that matter, and that means having a chance to win come Sunday. Having such a chance really helped me last year when I got to Augusta.’ 

The personable Texan was in great spirits as his Masters defence draws ever closer but warned the celebratory air will all draw to a close this Sunday.

‘It’s great to look back for what a year it has been,’ he said. ‘But once I get to Augusta there will be no celebrating whatsoever. Hosting the champions’ dinner on the Tuesday night will be a great honour but I won’t consider it a celebration. That week is solely about the 2016 Masters to me. 

Watson watches his drive on hole one during round-robin play against Emiliano Grillo earlier this month

Watson watches his drive on hole one during round-robin play against Emiliano Grillo earlier this month

‘We had a correct formula last year and we will try to use that again. Will anything be different? Hopefully I might just feel a little more comfortable, having won it before. Who knows? I’ll let you know when I’m there.’ 

A strong field has gathered for this Masters appetiser, for alongside Spieth there’s Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and veteran Mickelson, who will be bidding to win a fourth green jacket next week.

The British and Irish contingent includes Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington, who needs to win this event to earn himself the last invitation to the Masters.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

Who is this week’s top commenter?
Find out now