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Spieth's Valspar MC doesn't rattle Masters confidence

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. – One player from the tournament’s marquee grouping is near the lead at the halfway point of the Valspar Championship, while another is headed home. Just don’t let the role reversal surprise you.

While Tiger Woods surged to the top of the leaderboard Friday at Innisbrook Resort, 2015 champion Jordan Spieth continued to stumble. Spieth dug himself a sizeable hole with an opening-round 76, and his effort to play the weekend stalled out during an even-par 71 that left him at 5 over.

After finishing T-20 in each of his first four trips around the Copperhead Course, Spieth missed the cut and only managed three birdies over 36 holes.

“I just got way off in my iron play,” Spieth said. “The putting, not really improving either from last week. That’s how you shoot over par. I’ve been striking the ball well enough that I almost couldn’t shoot over par no matter how I putted, with the way I’ve been striking it. And I just had a really bad ball-striking day yesterday.”

This is Spieth’s second missed cut of the season, as he also made an early exit at the Waste Management Phoenix Open before stringing together three straight top-20 finishes including a T-14 result last week in Mexico.

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“I made a lot of progress in the West Coast swing, and then these last two weeks I took a step back, unfortunately, is the feeling right now,” Spieth said.

In addition to some errant iron shots, Spieth has identified an issue in the alignment of his eyes over putts. Traditionally one of the best with putter in hand, he needed 59 putts to complete two rounds and lost ground to the field on the greens.

Spieth will now get a head start on his final off-week before the Masters, with starts at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and Houston Open looming before he returns to Augusta National. Despite the setback this week, he remains optimistic about his chances for a second green jacket.

“I’ve missed the cut twice the week before Augusta and had a chance to win on Sunday,” Spieth said. “I know that it’s close. I’ve been saying that, and I’m not performing on what I’m saying yet, but I really do believe that it’s just something where I have to match my eyes up, and then it clicks.”