Seeing Jordan Spieth’s name back at the top of a leaderboard is like putting on an old pair of your favourite jeans. It just feels right. For what seems like too long, Spieth has been cast adrift in the world of golf, struggling for form and confidence, leading to a dramatic drop in world ranking. However, what we have seen from him in the past five weeks has given me enough confidence to stick my neck out and finally confirm, he is back.
I have put off writing this article for as long as possible as it seemed premature to declare Spieth’s return on the back of a top 5 at the Phoenix Waste Management. But I could no longer contain my excitement so I have decided it’s official. I was sat in the 18th grandstand at Royal Birkdale in 2016 when Spieth lifted the Claret Jug, and if you had told me that day I wouldn’t see Spieth win again for five years I would have almost certainly checked what you were drinking. But here we are, it’s 2021 and the figure in Spieth’s win column hasn’t moved.
The Rise Of Spieth:
Jordan Spieth announced himself on to the world of golf with a bang. At the tender age of 16, Spieth finished T16 at the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship becoming the sixth youngest player ever to make the cut on the PGA Tour. Big things were expected of the young Texan, and he once again delivered when he became only the fourth ever teenager to win on the PGA Tour, claiming his Maiden victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic. From that point, Spieth never looked back.
Seemingly without any hurdles, Spieth quickly became one of the leading lights on the PGA Tour and in 2015 became a two-time major winner, getting his hands on both The Masters Green Jacket and the US Open. The sky was the limit for Jordan at this point, with unavoidable comparisons being made to the games greatest.
Fast forward the clock two years and Jordan Spieth was stood on the practice ground at Royal Birkdale, rescue in hand, conjuring up one of his greatest escapes, en route to his first Claret Jug. Spieth put together one of the all-time great back nines in order to fend off Matt Kuchar, and in doing so won his third major putting him on track to complete the career grand slam.
So where did it all go wrong?
Unfortunately for Spieth, this was where his story took a decided left turn. After his Open victory at Royal Birkdale, things started to slip for him. The former world number one’s ranking started to trend in the wrong direction and before he knew it he was out of the top 50 in the world. While he has managed a handful of top ten finishes since his last victory, they have been too few and far between.
OWGR Year-end world ranking position
2018 – 17
2019 – 44
2020 – 82
Picking apart the individual reasons for Spieth’s fall out of form is difficult, I am not a professional swing coach so I wouldn’t want to speculate about the mechanics of his technique. However, if we take a closer look at some of his statistics we begin to see a trend arise that shines a light on where it might be going wrong.
Jordan has always been known as a prodigious putter. I can honestly say that as long as I have been watching the game of golf, I have never seen someone hole out from distance as often as he does. His putter was always his biggest strength and regularly it covered over the cracks of some of the weaker parts of his game. During the 2015 campaign, Spieth was fourth in the world tee to green and combined with his putting he was almost unbeatable.
If we try and put our finger on the cause of Speith’s troubles though, there is only one place to start. We have seen over the last five years that the driver has been causing Spieth all sorts of problems. He has a two-way miss at the moment which I can confirm is not conducive to low scoring.
When the driver isn’t hot it puts a huge amount of pressure on the rest of your game, as you are always fighting to save par. That being said, Spieth’s irons and putter were definitely out of sorts, but I believe these are closely linked to his issues on the tee box, It was almost a perfect storm.
As we can see from his stats this season though there is one outlier that is potentially preventing Jordan from claiming his next victory. While the putting and tee to green have improved considerably, Spieth still lies 181st in strokes gained with the driver. So why did his driving go from being in the top 50 to one of the worst on tour?
Former world number 1 David Duval believes he knows where it all went wrong for Spieth.
“When we got done talking at the end of the year in 2015 after that historic season he had, one thing I said and cautioned him and hoped he wouldn’t do was chase distance. He came back in 2016 saying he was trying to find 5 or 10 yards in the offseason and I was like: ‘oh boy.’ “
It’s a tale as old as time and one that is likely culpable for the rapid fall-off in Jordan’s driving stats. The search for distance is one littered with corpses and unfortunately, it almost claimed another in Spieth.
What can we realistically hope for next?
As Justin Thomas said: “Jordan is back doing Jordan things.” The putter is hot again and he is once again putting together rounds of real promise. While I wouldn’t want to bet on him winning this week at The Players, there is a tournament just around the corner where he has a long history of success. It would be fitting if Jordan could crown his comeback with a win at Augusta in April, and I dare say it would be one the golfing world would really enjoy. Has he got it in him? I think so, it takes a great deal of skill and determination to achieve what he already has and he will need to draw on all of it to complete his much-anticipated comeback.