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Jordan Spieth's system? Go two-for-one at majors

OAKMONT, Pa. -- At 22, Jordan Spieth just might have this whole major championship thing figured out.

That doesn't mean he's going to win all of 'em. Anyone who watched the Masters Tournament two months ago knows that. It doesn't even mean he's going to win this week's U.S. Open, or either of the next two majors coming up this summer.

What it means is that he has learned how to handle these weeks. He has learned how to deal with them, both from a physical and mental standpoint.

Part of that secret formula? He counts majors as double.

It starts with his preparation, as Spieth will play a major championship venue -- especially for the Masters and U.S. Open -- about twice as much as he'll prepare on a non-major course.

"We get into these courses and spend more and more time dissecting," he said during a Monday interview session. "The time that we put in at a major, you can't put in every single week. There's just not enough time there. You'll wear yourself out."

It continues off the course during these tournaments, where he and his team learned early on to double up on housing for the week. Just as he does in Augusta each year, Spieth rented two houses near Oakmont -- one for hanging out with friends and relatives, the other for peace and quiet when he needs it.

The most important place this philosophy comes into play, though, is on the golf course. During competitive major rounds, Spieth considers each nine-hole split to be like an entire round itself.

"Major championships [are] like two events in one," he said. "You have to have the patience for two rounds each round."

When asked to explain this philosophy, Spieth, who is defending his U.S. Open title this week, insisted that it was all about gaining a mental edge.

"It's like playing 36 holes in a day, mentally," he continued. "The front nine feels like its own round and the back nine feels like its own round. There's just more that's going on in your head, because it's a major."

It's a theory that might not work for every top-level golfer, but it's impossible to debate that it hasn't worked for Spieth. Still a month shy of his 23rd birthday, he already owns two major victories, five top-two finishes and five straight finishes of fourth or better.

You can argue that these results are based less on theory and more on talent, but there's some less tangible thinking that has separated him from the competition, especially at such an early stage in his career.

From the time he turned professional, Tiger Woods spoke about wanting to peak four times per year so often that it became a cliché. And yet, he usually figured it out, intertwining talent, preparation and philosophy to play his best golf at the biggest events.

Since then, most elite pros have echoed this sentiment without having a true sense of how to make it a reality.

Answers can often range from practicing harder to focusing better to preparing more, but really, there's no magic elixir to getting the most out of a player's game four times per year.

Spieth is trying to change that -- for him, at least.

"A lot of it's just mental," he said. "I feel that we've geared everything up to peak at a major. And because I feel that way, it makes me as confident as I can be."

He then explained that it was this confidence from preparation that kept him in contention at the Masters without his best stuff from a technical aspect.

"Tee to green, I felt much worse than I did at events where I finished 25th at a tour event," he added, "but because I just felt that we were ready and that we could do it and I could draw on past experience, especially at that event, we got into contention. I willed the putts in. I couldn't really describe it to you other than it just being kind of a mental state of being confident at the majors."

All of which is exactly what Woods spoke about for years, and what Spieth's current competition is still figuring out. That's not to say Rory McIlroy (who has won two more majors than Spieth) or Jason Day (who won last year's PGA Championship) or Danny Willett (who took advantage of Spieth's collapse at the Masters) don't know how to win majors. They do, obviously. And each has figured out a game plan to best help them win this week.

As for Spieth, that strategy continues to prove right for him. From double the practice rounds to two rental houses to considering each round to be twice its actual length, he knows what has been working for him.

And as the defending champion, he knows how important that is this week.

"It's no more relevant," he said, "than at a U.S. Open."