Last week Jason Day walked off the course with trophy in hand, while Jordan Spieth departed with a renewed sense of frustration. It's a trend that has sprung up on more than one occasion in the past several months, and it's one Spieth hopes to reverse this week at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Spieth is playing in his de-facto hometown event, one week after he missed the cut by a shot at The Players Championship. He then watched over the weekend as Day cruised to victory, the Aussie's seventh win in his last 17 starts dating back to July.
It firmly cemented Day as the world's top-ranked player, and it left Spieth to head the pack trying to chase him down.
"There's some motivation there. He's playing his game. He believes his game is better than anybody else's, and he's on his game and so it is better than everybody else's," Spieth told reporters Tuesday. "What he's doing right now, I think I can win the next two events and I'm still not going to surpass him in the world rankings. He's separated himself, and that bothers me and it motivates me."
Day's current stretch is a run to which few players can relate, but Spieth happens to be one of them. After all, he tallied five wins last year, including a pair of majors, and opened this year with an eight-shot romp in Maui.
But Spieth let a second green jacket slip away last month, and after a month away from competition, returned only to be flummoxed by the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He spoke after his second round in Ponte Vedra Beach of a need to "lower expectations" and return to having more fun on the course.
That remains a goal this week for Spieth, but one that is complicated by the distractions of playing a hometown event, coupled with a course where he hasn't cracked the top 25 since a T-16 finish as a 16-year-old amateur back in 2010.
"I need to really focus on that, on staying on the positive because I can hit either extreme this week, trying so hard to play so well in front of so many friends and family," Spieth said. "If I can engage with my friends and family maybe and kind of smile more, you know, it's only going to help me on the course if I'm approaching it like it's just another round with friends."
A happy, smiling Spieth is a noble goal for an event where he remains the biggest draw, but the world No. 2 reinforced that he won't totally abandon the transparency with which he reacts to shots.
"When I say get back to having fun, I mean it's not like I'm still not going to get frustrated with myself because that's healthy, you should," he said. "If you don't execute a shot that you feel that wasn't that hard to execute, there should be some frustration, but no lingering or negative talk is really what I'm talking about. Just eliminating that."