- What has happened to Jordan Spieth’s putting? There are a couple of theories. But we should give the golfer the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fixing this part of his game.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — There have been times this year when Jordan Spieth looked so lost with his putter, I thought he might try to use it to brush his teeth. He couldn’t make the short ones, or the long ones, or the medium ones, and those are all the ones there are. It was hard to watch, mostly for this reason: He is Jordan Spieth. Not long ago, his putter was the surest club on the PGA Tour.
In 2015, he was No. 1 on Tour in putts per round.
In 2016, he was No. 1 again.
In 2017, he was 20th.
This season, he is 127th.
Spieth is also 190th in strokes gained while putting. Stats can be misleading, but not that misleading. At the Byron Nelson Invitational, Spieth missed a one-foot putt, stepped back and pulled his hat off his head, which was better than what he probably wanted to do, which was waterboard everybody on the course. You never expect a pro to miss a one-footer, but this year, Spieth is as likely to do it as anybody. He has missed 16 putts from four feet or closer this year. That’s near the bottom of the Tour as well.
If you are a Spieth fan and this worries you, I suggest you enjoy the sweet, dulcet sounds of a Jordan Spieth press conference. One of golf’s finest talkers will make you feel better.
“Everyone goes through peaks and valleys of results in any part of your game, and I just got a little off in setup, and I'm really starting to bring it back now,” Spieth said here Tuesday. “It feels very good … I had, actually, a strong performance on the greens at [The Memorial two weeks ago]. It was my one bad ball-striking week of the year, so I didn't get four rounds in. But I putted well there and am trending in the right direction.”
What happened to Spieth’s putting? It is probably not all technical. He has improved his ball striking significantly since capturing America’s attention with two major wins at age 21. When he says “I feel like my game is in the best shape it's been in a long time, including last year,” that is what he means. Players of all skill levels tend to think about ball striking more than putting. So it would be natural if Spieth expected his improvement to lead to more wins. And when it didn’t, at least immediately, that must have been frustrating. And from there, perhaps his confidence went down. It’s one theory, anyway.
Golf is full of horror stories like this: First a player’s putting touch leaves him, and soon so do his agent, his sponsors, his girlfriend and his fans. He is left with nothing but sad feelings to share with his dog, who runs away.
This will not happen to Spieth, for the same simple reason that we can’t believe he has struggled so much in the first place: He is Jordan Spieth. It’s not just that he has won three majors before the age 25. It’s how he did it. Nobody dusts himself off and gets back on the bronco like this guy.
He double-bogeyed the 71st hole at the 2015 U.S. Open, then birdied the 72nd and won. He melted down at the 2016 Masters and shrugged it off. Then there was the screenplay he wrote on the 13th hole at Royal Birkdale on the final day of last year’s British Open. He took a half hour and visited a dune, a practice area and an equipment trailer; when he was finally done, he had walked so much that he had a bogey on his scorecard and a 13.1 sticker for the back of his car. But he still won the tournament.
The Spieth we see on the course and the Spieth who talks off it both seem extremely secure. That is no coincidence, and it helps explain his career. Everybody in golf may be wondering what happened to Jordan Spieth’s putter, but Spieth doesn’t seem to notice.
“I haven't seen any dissection of it other than what I've been doing myself with the work with Cameron,” he said, speaking of longtime coach Cameron McCormick. “I just kind of had a lot of patience with it, and it's coming along nicely.”
Spieth has not won a tournament in almost a year. That’s not really a drought, but it’s also not what we would expect from Spieth. He can’t win a major putting as poorly as he has been putting. But the essence of Jordan Spieth is not his frustration when he misses a one-foot putt. It’s the magic that comes next.