Another step in the right direction for Spieth
May 23, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth's Round 1 highlights from Charles Schwab
FORT WORTH, Texas – Jordan Spieth measures his progress in weeks, insisting that strides have been made on his swing, and that he’s now entering the precision stage of what seems like an inevitable return to winning golf.
The rest of us seem to be measuring his progress in days – specifically the last eight. Last week, there were the four rounds he put together at the PGA Championship, resulting in a tie for third. It was his first top-10 finish of the PGA TOUR season, albeit still six shots behind winner Brooks Koepka.
And on Thursday, there was the 5-under 65 in the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, placing him just a stroke off Tony Finau’s lead at Colonial.
Afterward, Spieth was asked if the last five rounds could be defined as “significant” progress. Yet from his perspective, the uptick in performance has been brewing for much longer.
“Probably the same as the previous four or five weeks before … since I’ve been really working on the right things and have the right moves for it, whether it’s the full swing or the putting,” Spieth said. “It’s just once you’re doing the right thing, repetition gets it closer and closer and gets you more precise.”
That’s not to say Thursday’s round was a display of total precision. He hit just half of his fairways, and was 11 of 18 in greens in regulation. Trying to force a low hook with a wedge from the fairway at the par-4 18th (his ninth hole of the day), Spieth found Crampton’s Lake left of the green on the way to a double bogey.
But thanks to a hot putter – he made 153 feet worth of putts – and a chip-in birdie from 73 feet at the par-3 13th, Spieth made the most of his round. Given how well he was putting Thursday, Spieth was second-guessing his decision with the approach shot at 18.
Jordan Spieth chips in for birdie at Charles Schwab
“Considering I was 50 percent from 15 feet [putting], I may as well just keep giving myself 15 feet,” Spieth said. “If it’s any other pin, I probably birdie the hole, and I just tried to get cute with that one.”
Spieth knows there is still work to be done tee-to-green. Six of his seven misses off the tee Thursday were left. That was in response – and perhaps an overcorrection -- to his misses right that have plagued him this season.
The fact he was hitting it where he wanted to hit it, though, is another sign of improvement.
“I still had some scar tissue on shots today where I’ve had some foul balls to the right this year where that’s been my miss,” Spieth said. “… I played away from that shot because of the potential of what’s been there this year.
“So, say, last week I probably trusted it 75 percent. Probably trusted it 90 percent today. Just trying to continue to when you trust it, pull off the shot. You know the feel and you know that the old ball is kind of out the window.”
A year ago, Spieth finished T-32 at Colonial – a surprising result given his previous results in this tournament, including a win in 2016 sandwiched between a pair of T-2s. In retrospect, last year’s finish was an indication his game was out of sorts. Until last week at Bethpage Black, his only top-10 finish in the last 12 months was a T-9 at the Open Championship.
It’s been a long, sometimes frustrating, climb back. While Spieth hasn’t been relying strictly on results to measure his progress, he realizes that’s what the rest of us have to go on.
“Score-wise, it’s not necessary for me to feel good,” he said. “It’s more just I knew once I started to get the club back out in front of me, that the golf would start to be fun again – and it certainly is.”
Professional golf, of course, is more fun when winning is involved.
No one would be surprised if Spieth ends his two-year drought this week on a course that fits his game – especially if his hot putter continues to mask his work-in-progress swing.
“Certainly could use hitting a few more fairways and a few more greens around Colonial the rest of this week,” he said. “But the putter blade is sharp.”
He hopes the rest of his game will follow.
Jordan Spieth cards closing birdie at Charles Schwab