With every lackluster finish from Jordan Spieth, his dominant 2015 season and stellar ’16 and ’17 seasons feel more and more like ancient history. During post-round interviews, Spieth is increasingly sounding like a 15-handicapper who continuously assures everyone that they are a mere swing tweak away from single digits. Week after week, Spieth insists that he and his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, are well on their way to putting the pieces of that once-unstoppable swing back together, but The Open at Portrush marked two years since Spieth’s last victory, and after a season where he has more missed cuts than top 10s, his winless drought has no end in sight.
The young prodigy who emphatically announced his presence on the PGA Tour in 2013 with a dramatic win at the John Deere Classic has recently taken a nosedive in just about every statistical category measuring tee to green performance. While the numbers don’t lie, it also doesn’t take a statistician to see the deterioration of Spieth’s game. As of late, Jordan relies heavily on his scrambling, where he is undoubtedly still elite, ranking inside the top 25 in strokes gained (SG) around the green and 6th in SG putting, but a game that puts so much pressure on making par from treacherous spots inevitably leads to inconsistency, and he has struggled to put four rounds of solid golf together. While his tee to green stats dipped in 2018, they have completely plummeted this year, where he ranks 152nd in SG tee to green, and even worse off the tee. His irons have been poor, but his driver has been even worse, where he consistently struggles to find even 50 percent of fairways, which is particularly penal for Spieth because of his lack of any considerable length.
Perhaps there isn’t a fickler game than golf, and surely even the best in the world get a pass on a few months of poor play, but after two years of a substantial drop off in form, is there a chance that this Jordan we have been seeing lately is the Jordan we should expect to see in the coming decade?
The peculiar problem in analyzing Spieth’s young career is that it really is becoming a tale of two careers. For argument’s sake, 2013 can be called his arrival year, when he won for the first time and gained status on tour. In 2014, his first full year on tour, while he was without a win, he notched a second-place finish the Masters and leaped into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, solidifying that his 2013 win was no fluke. Of course, that led to his five-win 2015 season, including the Masters and U.S. Open, followed by two wins in 2016 and three wins in 2017, one of those the Open at Royal Birkdale. That Open added his major tally to three at the age of 23, and given the head on his shoulders and his track record of success at every level, anyone with even a slight pulse on golf would say Spieth could be capable of ten or more major victories and there were even whispers of comparisons of Tiger Woods. Since that evening in England, though, Spieth is winless and clearly searching for answers specifically surrounding his swing. Anyone who has played golf knows how quickly a golfer can lose “it,” whatever that might be, but for Jordan, it seems this slump has officially turned into his new normal.
This is absolutely not to say that Spieth cannot or will not return to former glory, but it is clear now that something is wrong with his game and the time to press a metaphorical panic button may be sooner than later. The questions following Spieth in the last couple years have all revolved around when and how he will get his game back, but at some point, it may have to be asked if the Jordan Spieth of old will ever be seen again.