CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Jordan Spieth knew he would be returning the Claret Jug to R&A officials on Monday at Carnoustie. He didn't realize he would be part of a ceremony to do so.
"The traditions of The Open are very special, even if you're on the wrong end of that one," said Spieth, who won The Open at Royal Birkdale a year ago.
"It didn't really hit me," he said. "I thought maybe somebody would meet me in the parking lot, and I'd just give them the case back, and we'd move on. But it was a ceremony and because of that, it actually hit me harder.
"I was like, man, this was my possession. I took it to all the places that allowed me to get to where I am today. My family was able to take it around. Members of my team were able to take it. It's the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer. So having to return that was certainly difficult; [it] kind of hit me a little bit there on the tee box."
R&A, the tournament organizer, actually has more than one Claret Jug. The official one has a home in the R&A clubhouse. Another one is given to the winner, who is able to take it with him wherever he chooses, with the stipulation it is returned on Monday of Open week.
Spieth, 24, has not won since hoisting the Claret Jug with a dramatic back-nine charge at Royal Birkdale, struggling with various aspects of his game this year, most notably putting.
His best finish was third place at the Masters -- he shot a final-round 64 -- but since then Spieth has not cracked the top 20 in any event. He missed the cut at the Memorial and U.S. Open and tied for 42nd at the Travelers Championship.
"My game feels good, but I needed a break," Spieth said. "I was kind of dragging along, cut-line golf for a while, and playing a pretty heavy schedule, and I needed to kind of get away from the game, which I did. I feel good about the way I did it and the coming back to it."
As part of his respite, Spieth went to Seattle, where his sister, Ellie, performed in a cheerleading competition at the Special Olympics USA Games. While there, he took the opportunity to visit Chambers Bay, site of his 2015 U.S. Open victory, with his caddie, Michael Greller.
"We kind of walked down the 18th hole, and it was cool reliving those memories," he said.
He also went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a vacation getaway with friends.
"I had the same break I did last year," he said. "I went through the same schedule. It was nice to have a little vacation. I played a little golf, but it was more kind of fun golf. And then I came back and I was working hard at home. I had the itch to get back after it."