March 04, 2021

Spieth Season? Recent Play Hints At Major Comeback For Major Winner

Orlando, Florida, 4th March 2021

Is he back?

The buzz started after a spectacular Saturday in early February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. A career-best 10 birdies leading to a 61, tying his career-low score on the PGA TOUR. A share of the third-round lead. A spot in the final group on Sunday – his first in nearly 2-1/2 years.

Is he back?

The chatter continued the following week when he held the solo lead after the second and third rounds at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, evidence by his supporters that the previous week had not been a fluke. Twice, he holed out from more than 100 yards – just the second player in TOUR history to pull off that feat.

Is he back?

Another positive sign through the first two rounds of The Genesis Invitational – in contention and inside the top 12 of the leaderboard for a 10th consecutive week. Consistency and confidence were on full display.

So, is Jordan Spieth back?

It depends on your definition and perspective, of course. If being back requires returning to the winner’s circle, then no, Spieth is not yet all the way back. He remains in search of his first PGA TOUR win since the 2017 Open Championship, a drought currently at 79 worldwide starts. For a player who will eventually enter the World Golf Hall of Fame, winning remains the gold standard.

But if being back means simply leaving the abyss of an extended dark period that was both perplexing and frustrating – besides being unexpected, of course – then yes, perhaps Spieth is back. With a T4 at TPC Scottsdale and a T3 at Pebble Beach, Spieth recorded consecutive top-5 finishes for the first time since 2018.

More important, he’s showing progress and feeling confident that he’s on the proper path. With the PGA TOUR schedule entering its big stretch of championships starting with THE PLAYERS Championship in March, it no longer appears to be a question of whether Spieth will make noise, but just how much he’ll make each week.

“As long as I’m trusting what I’m doing, I know I’m moving in the right direction,” Spieth said. “That’s just the head space that I’ve wanted to get into – and for a while now.”

A while, indeed. When Spieth won at Royal Birkdale in 2017 in a drama-packed final round, it was his third win of the year and 14th of his TOUR career. He added a couple of runner-up finishes during the FedExCup Playoffs and seemed poised for a spectacular 2017-18 season.

But after a Sunday 64 at the 2018 Masters that nearly fueled an improbable rally from nine shots down – he eventually finished tied for third with Patrick Reed – Spieth failed to build on the momentum. In truth, he went the opposite way. He produced just one top-10 finish in his final 13 starts of the season and did not qualify for the TOUR Championship. It was his first winless season on TOUR.

The 2018-19 season was equally unrewarding, with just one top-5 finish in 23 starts. Again, no TOUR Championship. And the 2019-20 season was even less fulfilling; he opened the season with a T8 at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES, and could never match that in his ensuing 16 starts. He made the FedExCup Playoffs but was bounced after two rounds. And he was not selected for the 2019 Presidents Cup, the first time as a pro that he did not represent the U.S. Team.

So what happened?

“There was a number of things that I got off on mechanically,” Spieth explained. “It was very frustrating because I felt just as competitive and felt the same, still the same me. I just would take the club back and feel lost.”

The numbers bear it out. In his last winning season of 2017, he ranked second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. The next season, he fell to 23rd. Then 157th in 2019 before moving back inside the top 100 (90th) last season.

Meanwhile, his putting was all over the map. In 2018, he was 123rd in Strokes Gained: Putting. The next season, he ranked second. Last season, he ranked 105th. In essence, he couldn’t count on the flat stick to save him.

For a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, he definitely looked lost. Golf fans suffered right along with him. It was difficult to see him struggle.

“First time in my life where I’ve had a significant dip in success,” Spieth said. “It had kind of been a nice uptick every single year. So just kind of learning how to deal with that and doing it – and having to do it in such a public way was very difficult, can sometimes present even more challenges.

“But at the same time, the idea is to get to the bottom of it, turn it around, make progress every day and recognize that’s the past. I can use it as having scar tissue and use it to my advantage going forward.”

People wanted to help, but Spieth was determined to figure it out on his own, along with the help of swing coach Cameron McCormick. Everybody else was tuned out – with the exception of Butch Harmon, who offered some feedback at Spieth’s request.

"He asked if I could come over and take a look at what he and Cam were working on," Harmon explained during an interview with PGA TOUR Radio. "I agreed with most of the stuff they were working on. I thought I was going to have to change his clubface at the top of the swing – you know how open that gets because he has a very weak left-hand grip – but they had worked beautifully on that. ... I didn't think he was turning enough ... if you don't wind stuff up, you can't unwind it."

Said Spieth: “I was probably too stubborn and waited too long to probably reach out to people that I definitely could have for just help, whether it’s certain areas of the game or just getting through … down years or something like that.”

Spieth kept working but his first start this season was a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. He dropped to 92nd in the world, his worst ranking since his first TOUR win at the 2013 John Deere Classic moved him to 59th as a 19-year-old.

From that perspective, it was his low point. Even Spieth admitted he “was not in a great head space.”

And yet, a week later, he shot 61 and found himself in the heat of battle. Golf is funny like that. Something can just click after years of frustration. Spieth might have the best explanation – if you hit “tens of thousands of golf balls the wrong way, it takes about that many to get stuff back.”

“Did some really phenomenal work from Sunday through Wednesday … that was probably the best period of a few days of work that I’ve put in in a long time,” Spieth said about the days leading up to Waste Management. “It just got me believing in what I was doing and progressing forward.”

The road back has taken longer than expected for the former World No. 1, and he’s not all the way there yet. Winning remains the ultimate objective, and not just one win, but multiple wins – and on the biggest stages.

For now, though, Spieth is feeling confident about the future. That might be the most important thing when wondering if he’s back.

“It gets me really excited about playing golf – and for me, that makes me happy,” he said. “It’s nice to be going to bed wanting to do what you love to do and you get to go do it. Can’t take that for granted and I’m glad to be on this side of it right now.”

The action from the PGA Tour - Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard - Day 3 will be LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD from 01:00 Hrs (01:00 am IST) onwards on Sunday, 7th March 2021.

Previous Post

Korea’s An and Im enjoy strong starts at Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard

Next Post

Lahiri finishes T-39 as Grace grabs a win for his father in Puerto Rico

Related Articles

  • June 02, 2020

    McIlroy, Johnson Shine at 'Driving Relief' Charity Golf Event

  • June 02, 2020

    PGA Championship postponed over coronavirus concerns

  • March 05, 2021

    Korea’s An and Im enjoy strong starts at Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard

  • March 04, 2021

    Spieth Season? Recent Play Hints At Major Comeback For Major Winner

  • March 01, 2021

    Lahiri finishes T-39 as Grace grabs a win for his father in Puerto Rico

  • February 26, 2021

    Lahiri closes bitter-sweet round with an eagle for 2-under 70 in Puerto Rico

  • February 24, 2021

    Atwal will play for Dad and Tiger as he joins Lahiri at Puerto Rico Open

  • February 23, 2021

    Japan’s Inamori Looks To Propel Career At WGC-Workday Championship At The Concession

  • February 19, 2021

    Ace earns Kim new car at The Genesis Invitational

  • February 08, 2021

    Lee enjoys career best runner-up finish at Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • February 07, 2021

    Superb finish keeps Lee in contention at Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • February 06, 2021

    Korea’s Lee stays in title hunt at Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • February 05, 2021

    Korea’s Lee enjoys day in the sun with 67 for T6 at Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • February 03, 2021

    Korea's An ready to ride on fans' return at Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • January 29, 2021

    Lahiri opens with solid 68, lies 21st at the Farmers Insurance; Reed, Noren lead

  • January 28, 2021

    Lahiri looks to minimise errors ahead of Farmers Insurance Open

  • January 27, 2021

    Korean’s Kim Aims To Ride On Momentum Ahead Of Farmers Insurance Open

  • January 25, 2021

    Korea’s Kim earns thrilling one-shot victory at The American Express

  • January 24, 2021

    Resurgent Kim shares third round lead after 67 at The American Express

  • January 25, 2021

    Lahiri off to a fine start at tougher Stadium Course at The American Express

  • March 21, 2021

    Pan and Im move into contention at The Honda Classic

  • March 25, 2021

    Korea’s IM overcomes nerves to notch opening win at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

  • July 08, 2022

    Amidst golfers leaving for the LIV Tour, Tiger Woods notches billionaire status

  • July 28, 2022

    The countdown for the Rocket Mortgage Classic 2022 begins!

  • August 02, 2022

    Fabulous Finau wins second-straight event with Rocket Mortgage Classic 2022

  • August 04, 2022

    India’s Aditi Ashok, and Diksha Dagar, among others set to pace with the world’s best women golfers at AIG Women’s Open

  • August 09, 2022

    AIG Women’s Open: South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai wins her first major with a playoff win over In Gee Chun

  • August 10, 2022

    Joohyung Kim cards a nine-under 61 to win the Wyndham Championship

  • August 11, 2022

    FedEx St. Jude Championship: Best picks for this week

  • August 17, 2022

    Will Zalatoris Wins $2.7 Million at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship

  • August 19, 2022

    PGA Tour BMW Championship 2022: All you need to know before the tournament

  • August 24, 2022

    Patrick Cantlay defends the BMW Championship title after a hard-fought final round

  • August 25, 2022

    Hailey Davidson to become the first transgender woman to win the coveted LPGA Tour card

  • August 25, 2022

    The lineup for the PGA Tour Championship 2022 revealed

  • September 01, 2022

    Rory McIlroy wins Tour Championship for third FedEx Cup title

  • September 05, 2022

    Rory McIlroy: Why the Irishman is currently the best golfer in the world

  • September 13, 2022

    Jon Rahm: Underappreciated player poised to dominate golf

  • September 15, 2022

    2022 Fortinet Championship Predictions: Homa, Pendrith, and McNealy all set to bag the title


Post a comment