Spieth targets wedge play, putting for improvement

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Strange as it sounds, Jordan Spieth says he can get even better in 2016. 

The surprise is that he wants to upgrade his magical short game.

Improvement at the elite level is more about tweaks than wholesale changes, and so it was Tuesday that Spieth said that he needs to work on his wedge play and, yes, even his putting in 2016. 

After poring over the numbers provided by stats guru Mark Broadie last month, Spieth and longtime swing coach Cameron McCormick identified two areas they can address: proximity to the hole from 60-140 yards and up-and-down percentage from around the green.

When Spieth is dialed in – think the Masters – there might be no one better with a wedge in his hands. But overall, he ranked outside the top 100 on Tour in proximity to the hole from 50-75 yards (136th), 75-100 yards (146th) and 50-125 yards (111th). He didn’t separate himself around the green either, finishing in the middle of the pack in scrambling from inside 10 yards, proximity to the hole from the sand and scrambling from the fringe. Those statistics do not factor in the year’s first three majors, because ShotLink is not available at those events.

Even before McCormick shared the statistical findings, Spieth told his coach that he thought he could improve from those distances. 

“I said I felt like my wedge play was average last season,” Spieth said at Kapalua, “and it was as average as any category that we had.”

Consider the first range, from 50-75 yards. Spieth’s average shot from that distance finished 18 feet, 6 inches from the cup; the Tour average is 16 feet, 9 inches. That doesn’t seem like much of a difference, of course, but closer wedge shots mean better looks at birdie and better scores.

Spieth also said that he can “get better at certain putting ranges,” even though putting remains the most envy-inducing aspect of his game. Though he ranked first on Tour in putts made from 20-25 feet – an incredible 25.9-percent conversion rate on his 81 attempts – he was well below the Tour average from 5 feet, 7 feet and 10 feet. He still finished the year No. 1 in several putting categories and was eighth in the Tour’s strokes gained statistic. 

The top players are always searching for ways to get better, and Spieth is no exception. Even marginal improvement in those areas could lead to another huge year.