Jordan Spieth’s form fell off a cliff, but he’s back in the groove and the timing couldn’t be better
There were days when he practiced so long that his hands bled and he wondered aloud if he was working on the right things.
There were restless nights when he spent the dark hours pacing bears in his Dallas home.
“This game can take you in many different directions,” Jordan Spieth admitted on Sunday evening, as the most curious fall from grace we’ve seen in golf in recent times seemed to end.
Jordan Spieth has taken shape at the right time on his way to the Masters in Augusta
The American had gone through a slump and even fell outside the top 50 in the world
With his favorite major now only 48 hours away, the direction Spieth is heading is crystal clear again. Even when he was outside the top 50 in the world, he was still the fifth favorite to win the Masters.
Now, after his Easter rise in San Antonio and a first win since the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, it’s no wonder many believe he will claim his second green coat and complete the comeback.
“If Spieth doesn’t win at Augusta this week, I’ll play a tournament round topless next year,” was Eddie Pepperell’s quintessentially colorful tweeted judgment.
Spieth was dressed in a characteristically understated polo shirt as he drove down Magnolia Lane at noon Monday. “It’s a lot more fun coming here when you feel like you’re in shape, I can tell you,” said the 27-year-old.
He thought he would be full of emotion after returning to the winner’s circle, but was pleasantly surprised when his 12th win felt more like normal, despite the 1351-day hiatus.
“I thought it was all going to hit me, but in the end it came down to a 30-inch putt to win,” he said with a smile. ‘I’m happy in a way, because clearly there wasn’t time to celebrate properly.
“I have to focus again on the first major of the season, and my favorite tournament in the world.”
Those are the emotions and difficulties that come with it, only two players in the last 60 years – Sandy Lyle in 1988 and Phil Mickelson in 2006 – have claimed the event for the Masters and then the green jacket, but Spieth is quietly convinced that he could be the third.
Spieth enters the Masters as one of the favorites to claim his second green coat
What delighted him most about his victory was that he was achieved when he felt there was much more to come.
“I’ve known for a while that I’ve been working on the right things, but I still feel there is still a long way to go,” he explains. “There’s another level I’ve been to earlier in my career and I’m still looking for it.”
There was little indication of what was to come when Spieth appeared at the Phoenix Open in February. He had taken a month off after the worst performance of his Masters career last November and had started again with a missed half-way.
The man who had won three majors at the age of 23 – only Tiger Woods won that many at a younger age – was in danger of dropping out of the top 100 in the world when he stopped the rot with a top-four finish in Arizona.
He followed it up by finishing third at Pebble Beach for his first back-to-back top-five finishes in three years.
Spieth claimed the Valero Texas Open trophy on Sunday for arriving in the best possible way
Providing more ammunition failed to make it onto the field for the first WGC event of the season in Florida last month.
“That really stung me,” admitted Spieth. “It was the first WGC I hadn’t qualified for since turning pro and it was a real driving factor.”
In San Antonio, Spieth had a 54-hole lead for the third time in six starts on Sunday. “I have shown in my career that I am a good ending,” he said. But it’s not what people think, you can’t expect everything to be okay if you haven’t been there for a while.
‘I’ve always believed that if you keep challenging yourself, the bounces will fall your way and you will collect your share of the trophies. That’s always been the motto I’ve lived by, and on Sunday I hit some good shots on the track, made some good putts and the game was great fun again. ‘
So to the Masters, where he took second place on his debut in 2014 with his first major win the following year, when he matched the record 72-hole score posted by Tiger Woods in 1997.
Spieth’s last success was at the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017 four years ago
In 2016, he seemed destined to hold on to the jacket, until he ran into a quadruple bogey seven in the par-three 12th to give Danny Willett a golden shot.
Now he’s back, complete with the constant commentary with his caddy Michael Greller that has always made him attractive to watch.
With high confidence and self-confidence restored, how many unlikely, ridiculous putts will he put in this time?