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Jordan Spieth has work to do before a Masters title defense

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Jordan Spieth ends a rough week at Valspar by taking shots at slow greens and his caddie.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jordan Spieth has had, by his 2015 Player of the Year standards, a tough few weeks.

Since a convincing eight-shot win at Kapalua to start the 2016 campaign, Spieth has notched a T21 at Pebble Beach, a missed cut at Riviera, and two top-20 outings at Doral and last week at the Valspar Championship. Not too shabby for a PGA Tour player but not what the world No. 1 has come to expect of himself -- especially with his chance to go back-to-back at the Masters little more than three weeks away.

Spieth took pros and cons from a T18 finish at Valspar that could have been so much closer if his putter worked all week the way it did at the end.

"Ball-striking is getting close," Spieth told reporters after Sunday’s 2-over 73 finish. "Everything is, I would say, in a good place as far as being ready for the Masters."

Spieth appeared ready for an early end to the first of five title defenses this year when he scuffled out of the gate to an opening 76. He followed that up by making a rookie mistake of testily responding to criticism of his play on social media.

With that brouhaha behind him, Spieth clawed back into the mix with 68-67, only to stumble to the finish line with that 73.

Then, in another surprising move, Spieth took rare parting shots at the conditions at Copperhead, as well as his caddie.

"Really poor [performance] from both me and Michael [Greller] today," Spieth said after coming up seven shots shy of eventual winner Charl Schwartzel (and Bill Haas, who lost to Schwartzel in a playoff). "Our decisions cost us a few shots early and all the momentum and, you know, we both get the credit when things are going good and we're going to take the fall today.

"I hit the shots," Spieth conceded,"but, you know, we made a couple decisions that make me look back and think, ‘Wow, we got some stuff to talk about before we get ready to go into a major.’ Bit of a bummer. But it's okay. We got plenty of time."

One area of concern for Spieth was the way he began his week.

"I need to start my rounds better. It's that simple,'' said Spieth, who carded a first-round 79 on his way to that MC at the Northern Trust Open.

"Can't start over par in rounds every single round and expect to do anything with it," said Spieth, who had four top-10s on the PGA Tour by this time last year. "Just too hard to turn around all the time. I'm used to getting off to good starts. Unfortunately, this week started black before red quite a few times.’’

Spieth will have a chance to get his game back on track at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in two weeks and likely the Shell Houston Open immediately ahead of the Masters.

"I'd like to get things sped up and maybe contend before we get to Augusta, but it was nice to come back this week, all in all," he said. "After the first day, it looked like everything was kind of going the golf course's way and found a way to fight back."