Is Jordan Spieth Really on the Comeback Trail?
SO WHAT are we to make of Jordan Speith's performance in finishing fourth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open?
“I'm really excited about the progress that has been made,” said Spieth, who went from a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, his only other start of 2021, to having a chance to win at TPC Scottsdale. “It is far from where I want it to be - as far as how it feels, but, boy, I was debating not even playing.”
The highlight of Speith’s week was a stunning 61 in the third round. He rolled back the years, holing putts from all over place, and found himself leading the event after 54 holes. In the end he came up short. We shouldn’t be surprised. It is is July 2017 since he won The Open at Royal Birkdale.
Longer hitters such as winner Brooks Koepka have historically done well at TPC Scottsdale, and Spieth admits it “isn't a great golf course for me.” He had missed the cut in his past two starts here, in 2020 and 2018. And he wasn’t happy with his game at Torrey Pines. He had planned to give Phoenix a miss and head straight to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am instead.
But in that third round he recorded 10 birdies, tying his lowest-ever score on the PGA Tour. And he easily eclipsed his previous best in seven starts this season, a tie for 38th at the CJ Cup.
All in all, it was a good week for the former world No1 who came into the Waste Management 92nd in the world and 179th in the FedExCup.
But the old problems plagued his game yet again on Sunday, hitting just five fairways. Over the course of the week he only managed to find a total of 23 fairways, dead last among those who made the cut.
Spieth’s putting, so electric in rounds one and three, was off, as well, as he took 33 strokes on the greens on Sunday. But when he birdied the par-5 13th hole, there were nine players either tied for the lead or, like Spieth, one back.
It was another wayward drive that ended his chances. He hooked his tee shot at the par-five 15th and it finished up in the water. In the end, he did well to salvage a par. And he found water again at the 17th, although a birdie at the last sent him off in a good mood. He said that he had been encouraged by his performance.
Even Rory McIlroy was excited. "Yeah, I think from a viewership point of view it definitely gets everyone excited,” said McIlroy. “And the way he plays. I mean, I watched his back nine on Saturday and it was absolutely insane what he was doing. It's typical Jordan.
“It was awesome to see him back to sort of the – not the old Jordan because he's only like 27 or something – but back to showing us what he can do.”
“I'm only looking forward,” Spieth said. “Only looking at this from a positive angle right now. I really am. I believe in what I'm doing. A result like this just helps confirm what I was already feeling, and that just moves the needle the right direction.”
The jury is still out. Spieth was able to get away with so many missed fairways at Scottsdale because it is a wide open golf course that doesn’t really punish poor driving. Pebble Beach, where he has won in the past, is a different kettle of fish.
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