Is Jordan Spieth back?!
How many times in the past few years have we heard that one?
Yet, Spieth did something Friday that he’d only done 19 times before and not since 2019. Spieth hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 greens, which according to Sean Martin of PGATour.com, is only the 20th time on Tour that Spieth has managed double-digit fairways and at least 16 greens in a single round.
Spieth’s second straight 4-under 67 around TPC Scottsdale also has the three-time major winner and former world No. 1 (current No. 92) in the mix at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“It felt like a 6- or 7-under day, and this is one of the first times I've almost been disappointed shooting 4 under in a round in long time, and that's a good sign,” said Spieth, who a day earlier found just two fairways and 11 greens but “putted out of my mind.”
“Yesterday it was one of those, like, all right, I shot 4 [under] but I got away with murder.”
So, is Spieth back? Fielding much of the same questions he’s fielded since his last win (2017 Open Championship), Spieth reckoned his confidence was “probably higher than it's been in a long time.” That being said, Spieth conceded that he’s still not where he wants to be. He is “certainly” not 100-percent confident. He doesn’t feel like he has his “A-game.”
“But…,” Spieth added, “I feel like it's trending that direction.”
Trending. Spieth fans have been hearing that word on repeat for a while now. A couple of years back at Pebble Beach, Spieth said something similar: “I feel like my game's trending the right direction and sometimes that means results are coming soon, sometimes it means they're coming later, but they're coming.”
There have been a few teases in recent years, albeit no true close calls. Among his nine top-10s since the start of the 2017-18 Tour season, Spieth has three third-place finishes. However, his T-3 at the 2018 Houston Open came after a closing 66 left him three out of a playoff. A week later he placed third at the Masters, but only after a final-round 64 got him to within two of winner Patrick Reed. His most recent T-3, at the 2019 PGA, landed him six behind champion Brooks Koepka and four shy of runner-up Dustin Johnson.
Even Spieth’s T-3 at the 2017 Hero World Challenge had him six short of winner Rickie Fowler.
There have also been several starts like this week’s in Phoenix. Since the beginning of 2017-18, Spieth ranks 20th on Tour in combined first- and second-round scoring average but is 148th in weekend scoring, that according to Justin Ray of 15th Club.
Remember when Spieth shared the lead through 54 holes of the 2018 Open? He shot 76 and tied for ninth.
Or when he was T-2 with one round to play in each of the past two years at Colonial? He tied for eighth after a closing 72 in 2019 and shared 10th after a final-round 71 last year.
Or when he was T-4 to begin Sunday at the 2019 Genesis? He shot, gulp, 81 and ended up T-51.
Which brings us back to Friday: Will this week finally be the week? Amidst a flurry of all too familiar questions, Spieth did get one fairly new one Friday: You're a really popular player and there are a lot of people who are cheering for you to come back. Do you feel that, and does it make it easier or harder?
Spieth, clearly not aware of Golf Twitter’s Spieth fandom, had this to say, provided in full: “I think I don't necessarily feel it. I think I've kind of – I'm as hard on myself as anybody is on me and I'm as confident in myself as anybody is in me at different stages. It's really just – I love the game. I want to play with freedom. I want to win golf tournaments and I want to get myself back. I've put in the hours. It's just a matter of kind of working really smart, working on the right things, and then again, trusting it and just being okay with that patience of not having to see results right away. It's a new thing for me.
“I went through 10 years plus of every single year I actually got better at golf and had better results, too, and then at some point that can't continue to happen and then go through adversity, and for me that's taken longer to overcome than I certainly want it to, but I feel confident in my road ahead for sure.”