Spieth misses cut, continues search for his best
January 31, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth jars long birdie putt at Waste Management
Most of us can appreciate the travails of Jordan Spieth at the moment.
Trying to appreciate his game at its peak was something most of us mere mortals cannot fathom. Solid off the tee, crisp iron shots, and a short game that at times seemed to never miss. He took that game to a FedExCup title, 11 PGA TOUR wins and three majors in his early 20s.
But his current efforts over the past few seasons, where one part of his game would be firing but another be off, is something more familiar to most amateur golfers for sure. On Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Spieth found some needed rhythm off the tee and on approach at times, but his putter largely deserted him. He gained as many strokes on the field in his approach game that he had lost on Thursday but rounds of 74-69 will see him miss the weekend.
It’s part of a larger slide for the now 26-year-old who is coming up on nearly three years since his last victory at the 2017 Open Championship. Since claiming the claret jug, his only top-five finish came at the 2018 Masters.
Despite falling outside of the world top 50 for the first time since he first entered it in 2013 early this week, Spieth’s game is still miles above us weekend warriors. He’s still in another stratosphere and while words can sometimes be cheap and “it’s close” is one of the most used clichés in the sport, you really believe him when he says a turnaround is coming.
“I drove the ball really well, just hit my irons poorly yesterday, which set me back. And then just historically, I've had a really hard time reading these greens and it just continued this week,” Spieth said after his round. As he signed his card, he had lost nearly three strokes to the field on the greens over the two rounds.
“Felt like I put good strokes on it and then I would look up and I missed them by like a foot offline, which was very unusual for me,” he added. “But overall I'm really happy with the progress I've made off the tee. That was the best I've driven the ball in a couple years. So when that happens I know the rest of it's kind of coming behind. Did a lot today to make it work and I hit 16 greens which is another really good sign.”
Spieth worked his tail off over the off-season with coach Cameron McCormick to get his swing back to the heady days of 2015, but on Tuesday they made another adjustment. He strengthened his grip by some “five degrees” and is working on getting his shaft flatter with a very closed clubface in his backswing. This makes his accuracy into the greens Friday perhaps even more impressive. But the flip side of that is there could be some more erratic golf as he tries to embed yet another change.
“That's something that takes 2-3 months to nail down,” Spieth told Golf Digest of the changes. “It’s an unusual feeling for me and it’s been difficult to trust, especially without having my grip in the perfect place. I miss a lot of left shots given the grip. My hands are pretty good and I’ll be able to figure it out in a couple of weeks, but I did it with the idea that we have a couple of months before the first major.”
Next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am provides a welcome happy hunting ground for the Texan to continue his efforts. He won the tournament in 2017 and has never missed the cut in seven starts, finishing inside the top 25 in six of them.
“When the driver starts to come around… that's normally last… so when that starts to come around, I'm not worried about the rest of the game. And I'm not worried about the putting either,” Spieth continued.
“I've had bad putting weeks where I've walked away saying, I don't know what's going on in the stroke. But I hit my lines almost every single putt and just simply misread them all. And I know that that's not the case historically for me on the three courses next week, so I'm looking forward to that.”
While he remains upbeat looking forward, he was emotional on course at TPC Scottsdale, even more so than usual. Afterwards, he admitted he felt like he had let down a few of his friends who had flown out to watch the tournament.
“(The frustration) was just will. I just really wanted it. I wanted to play the weekend. I had a bunch of buddies come in town. I wanted to kind of give them something to watch the next couple days,” he lamented.
“So when I just couldn't do the easy part for me, which is the putting, that's what was so frustrating. It's not like overall frustration. I've had plenty of that. I'm done with that. I'm on the rebound now.”
Currently Spieth is not locked into the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship on Feb. 20-23 but can still earn his way in over the next few weeks. If his ranking slides further, he could also find himself out of the World Golf Champions – Dell Match Play Championship on March 25-29.
“I don’t know where I’m at in the world ranking,” he said. “Don’t care, don’t look at it. I’m just trying to step up and win a golf tournament and let everything else take care of itself [but] you need to play all four rounds to win a tournament.”