Is Spieth even better than we think?


KAPALUA, Hawaii – What if the Jordan Spieth train keeps moving forward with the greatest of ease? What if, as Spieth suggested earlier in the week, this is just a continuation of 2015 and he collects another five-plus PGA Tour victories and a major or two? Or three?

What if we haven’t seen Spieth’s best?

Sure, that’s a lot of ifs, and if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. Or something ridiculous like that.

The calendar year is only two competitive days old and we’ve seen nothing to suggest Spieth is going to do anything other than what he’s been doing.

We’re quick to compare Spieth with Tiger Woods, and often it seems unfair, yet we continue to see Tiger-like things from the 22-year-old Texan. We’re witnessing a man who is seemingly in contention after every round, is the ultimate grinder, drives it great, hits it close and makes every putt he needs to make. He has no weakness.

Spieth followed a first-round 66 with a 9-under-par 64 Friday at Kapalua to take a four-shot lead into the weekend at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He hasn’t made a bogey, hasn’t recorded a three-putt and the last two men to reach 16 under par after 36 holes (David Duval 1999, Ernie Els 2003) both won.

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“I am extremely pleased with where it’s at to start the season,” Spieth said of his form.

Spieth has played six rounds at Kapalua and has been either first or second after all six. All six career rounds at Kapalua have been under par. If he wins this week it would be his seventh PGA Tour title, which would tie Woods for most Tour wins before age 23 in the modern era. (Horton Smith collected his 14th win in 1930, when he was 22.)

Remember when the collective “we” were nervous when Spieth missed consecutive cuts at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank last fall and believed he was tired from the rigors of such a long, draining season? Yeah, me neither.

Since that point Spieth has played 22 competitive rounds, his highest score is 72, his lowest is 63 and his scoring average is a touch below 68 (67.82). 

The second round here at the Tournament of Champions was another clinical execution. Spieth was 3 under after eight holes then chipped in for eagle from 40 feet on the par-5 ninth hole. He nearly holed out his approach on the 13th hole and followed that birdie with two more on 14 and 15. Spieth made par saves from 5 and 7 feet respectively on the next two holes, then made a birdie from 14 feet on the final hole when his ball sat on the edge of the cup for a second before dropping in for a 64.

“He led the Tour in putts made from 20-25 feet [in 2015],” Butch Harmon said on Golf Channel’s telecast. “At one time he was making 33 percent of his putts from 20-25 feet. Even Nicklaus and Tiger, the two greatest pressure putters we’ve ever seen, weren’t doing that.

“This guy makes a lot of birdies everywhere. He’s unbelievable.”

Kevin Kisner, who along with Fabian Gomez is in second place, will play alongside Spieth in Saturday’s third round. Kisner said he really tried to work on only one thing during the short offseason.

“Putt like Jordan.”

If Kisner putts like Spieth over the next 36 holes, it’s likely Kisner still won’t catch him. Spieth is at 16 under par, meaning 32 under par is absolutely doable around this behemoth that he says has produced the slowest greens he’s ever putted on in his brief Tour career.

“I mean, it would be a great goal to try and achieve [32 under] and I think if I got there, it would make for a stress-free finish,” Spieth said.

If. There’s that word again.