FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – As Jordan Spieth heads into his third opportunity to round out the career Grand Slam, he’s got one word on his mind: consistency.
The former world No. 1 is down to 39th in the rankings, an eye-popping indictment of his recent lack of results. Spieth has made 13 starts this season but has yet to crack the top 20 in any of them, topping out with a T-21 finish at the Masters. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish since Carnoustie, and he hasn’t won since leaving Royal Birkdale with the claret jug nearly two years ago.
For Spieth, the issue is not so much creating birdies as it is eliminating bogeys. Often times this year he has cobbled together one strong round, or even two, only to be undone by a costly afternoon or nine-hole stretch. At last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, Spieth carded three straight rounds of 68 or better but ballooned to a final-round 71, undone by an attempt to incorporate a sweeping draw off the tee that instead turned into a hook.
“I was trying something on Sunday that was kind of a test, and it was kind of a bad decision,” Spieth said. “I was just making kind of a dumb decision to start the round to try and bring in a couple more shots, but not going about it the right way.”
The situation serves as a microcosm for a surprisingly lean year, as Spieth arrived at Bethpage ranked 150th in the season-long FedExCup points race. But this week’s prize offers some historical significance, since it’s a chance for him to become just the sixth player to win each of the four majors.
Spieth finished T-28 and T-12 in his first two cracks at the final leg, and he remains optimistic that he’ll eventually snag the trophy that has eluded him – even if it’s not this week on a soggy Black Course.
“I think I’d be the sixth person, which would be a pretty unique fraternity to be in there. That would be a dream come true for me,” Spieth said. “But I also recognize that if I continue to stay healthy and play well, I’ll have, I don’t know, 30 chances at it. One of them is bound to go my way, right?”
While Spieth’s torrid 2015 was largely rooted in his putter, he admits it’s been the driver that has most let him down this year. A limit on “foul balls” will be paramount this week for a player who doesn’t have the length off the tee to keep up with the likes of Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.
But Spieth believes that he has become somewhat of a victim of his own prior success, with a solid but unspectacular season painted in a dimmer light only when compared with his previous highs. It’s a tendency he knows is out there, and one he realizes can only be countered by getting back to the results and performances that separated him earlier this decade.
He’ll have another opportunity to do just that this week on Long Island, where a turnaround could bring with it a piece of history.
“The questioning and the wording that’s used to describe me by media or whatever over the past year has only come up because of the amount of success that I’ve had,” Spieth said. “It’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to block out the noise and stay the course and believe in yourself.”