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Spieth ready to return focus back on golf at Heritage

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – This record may stand for some time.

No, not Jordan Spieth’s performance last week at the Masters, where he set or tied 36-, 54- and 72-hole scoring records on his way to a four-stroke victory. What’s truly impressive is the 21-year-old’s 25 interviews in 25 hours during a whirlwind media tour of New York City.

Over the last two days golf’s new headliner did interviews with ESPN Radio, “NBC Nightly News”, Fox, “The Late Show with David Letterman”, “CBS This Morning”, NBC’s “Today”, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive”.

It was all part of an odyssey that began when he putted out on the 18th hole on Sunday at Augusta National and included an early flight on Monday to the Big Apple and ended at about 10 p.m. ET Tuesday when he finally arrived at his rented house for the week in Hilton Head.

“[Tuesday] my energy level was maybe a two (on a scale of 1-10),” said Spieth, who tees off in Round 1 at the RBC Heritage at 12:40 p.m. “Today I’m back up to about a six. I should be at a nine tomorrow.”

Spieth’s presence at an event that has struggled in recent years to attract a marquee field in unquantifiable.

“Any time you have the Masters champion is unbelievable. He’s such a class act and to honor his commitment ... he has no idea how important that is to the community,” said Steve Wilmot, the RBC Heritage tournament director.

It will likely take some time, but chances are good Spieth will remember his decision to play this week’s event as an equally important next step in his evolving career.

Spieth becomes the first Masters champion to play the Heritage since Zach Johnson in 2007, and even the most jaded arm-chair pundits would have been challenged to criticize him if he’d decided to politely pass on a tee time at Harbour Town.

This is Spieth’s fifth start in six weeks, a run that included two victories and two runner-up showings. But as the world is learning, Spieth’s maturity extends well beyond his 21 years.

“I was asked Friday or Saturday when I was in the lead, ‘Hey, if you were to win Sunday are you thinking about maybe not going?’” said Spieth, who was offered a sponsor exemption into the Heritage in 2013 but ended up not needing it after quickly securing his PGA Tour card.

“From the get-go I was always planning on coming here. This tournament has been very good to me. I love it here.”

Johnson and Spieth spoke briefly on Wednesday at Harbour Town and although he didn’t offer any advice he could certainly relate to what the younger player is going through.

“It’s a whirlwind. I just actually sat down with Jordan for 30 seconds. It’s a good whirlwind,” Johnson said. “Every opportunity that comes through you want to say, ‘yes’ but you can’t. That’s hard.”

Spieth didn’t appear to tell anyone “no” since slipping into his coveted green jacket. On top of the parade of press interviews he estimated he’s received something close to 200 text messages and e-mails congratulating him for his victory.

And the coronation didn’t stop when he arrived at Harbour Town just before lunch on Wednesday. As he made his way through the club’s new locker room he was stopped every few feet by a fellow Tour player.

“Since I’ve been here each player, as expected, congratulated me because these are great guys, guys that I try and learn from on Tour,” Spieth said. “Everyone has come up and said, ‘Congrats man, it was fun to watch.’ Someone said, ‘I wasn’t planning on watching because I wasn’t there, but I really wanted to watch that. It was awesome.’”

Tour officials excused Spieth from Wednesday’s pro-am at the Heritage and he won’t see the golf course until he sets out Thursday afternoon from the first tee, but as Johnson learned in ’07 getting back to work brings its own version of solace after so much time in the spotlight.

“The best thing for me, looking back on it, I was exhausted and I’m sure Jordan is as well, was getting back inside the ropes,” said Johnson, who made a similar media tour in New York City after his victory. “That was a sense of normalcy. It was therapeutic.”

It also turned out to be a competitively productive week for Johnson, who finished in sixth place at the ’07 Heritage and was paired with eventual champion Boo Weekley on Sunday.

Given Spieth’s performance in his last four starts there’s another record he may be eyeing at Harbour Town. In 1985, Bernhard Langer is the only player to follow a victory at Augusta National with another the next week in Hilton Head.