Take a deep breath, everyone. Just chill. It’s going to be OK. No need to throw around super hot takes on social media channels early Friday evening and irresponsibly declaring that the world no. 1 Jordan Spieth is in a “slump.” (I mean, the trolling was so bad on Thursday afternoon that Rory McIlroy even chimed in, coming to his fellow competitor’s defense).
Whenever people irrationally and abruptly start questioning the ability of young mega-stars, it’s always important to put things in perspective and ask yourself, “What were you doing at 22?”
Sure, five of Spieth’s last nine rounds he’s carded on the PGA Tour have been over par. And yes, he opened up his attempt to defend his title at the Valspar Championship with a very disappointing five-over 76.
“It wasn’t a very good round,” said Spieth on Thursday. “I got off to a poor start and I was behind the 8-ball with gusty winds on a tough golf course.”
But, great news! — it appears Spieth got a good night’s rest after hanging with the boys in the mansion a bunch of them are staying at this week (see Justin Thomas’ SnapChat for behind-the-scenes action). He also cooled down following some testy social media exchanges (take your own advice, Jordan, and stay away from that crap, especially after you shoot 76, but see below, via SBNation).
Yeah, shots were fired. However, we’ve seen that a feisty, pissed-off Spieth actually plays pretty well.
[Update: Following the second round, Spieth was asked about these exchanges and explained his reasoning — which he didn’t need to do — behind getting a little frustrated. I hear you, Jordan. I’ve been trolled A LOT and it gets old really fast and it’s extremely annoying when every Joe Shmoe has to weigh in with their two cents. I mean, how would you like it if someone was looking over your shoulder at work and telling you how you were doing your job every minute? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
“I don’t look at notifications anymore because there’s always positive and negative on there no matter what you’re doing,” said Spieth, following Friday’s round. “But when it’s something that pops up on the feed, I was a little upset at the PGA Tour’s (tweet) — it was a good article but it was tweeted the wrong way, the wrong quote was used and made it seem like I was okay with getting hurt and withdraw.
“I was frustrated at that. So, I just — yeah, it wasn’t — I feel like us and the PGA TOUR, the players and the Tour are supposed to work for each other and kind of make each other look good.
“I felt like that was uncalled for when I really composed myself well after the round and I just tweeted, ‘Really, is that the quote we’re going to take out of it considering all my quotes were published’ and I got a direct message saying, ‘We’re really sorry. We’ll take it down. Trying to see the humor in it but other people weren’t.’
“Then I just took (my reply tweet) away. I don’t ever really do that. It was a bit frustrating because it was on my feed and I felt like I was over it and trying to rebound and that made it kind of look bad.”
He was asked a follow-up question, referring specifically to his reply to a random user on Instagram.
“You’ll probably never see me do that again because obviously it was seen and known and — it’s just really frustrating,” said Spieth. “It’s frustrating when — there’s really not a point.
“I should never respond to any of that, just let it go and by the time the next tournament rolls around no one even remembers it anyways.
“There’s going to be plenty of people to have their own opinion and everyone has their own opinion. There’s going to be plenty of people that don’t like the way I play the game or handle things. I got to be confident in what I’m doing and know that many more do appreciate it.
“I was a bit bored yesterday afternoon and I was just looking at my feed and after a tough round not good things are popping up so you can imagine if someone was talking, you know, to you like that, be a bit frustrating.
“Anyway I got over it quickly.”
It was a much better day for golf’s golden boy during the second round and he posted a solid three-under 68 at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course for a two-over total at the halfway mark to sneak inside the cut line (which turned out to be +3). Spieth trails co-leaders Steve Stricker and Will Mackenzie — who both fired five-under through 36 holes — by seven shots, but on this track, the two-time major champion isn’t out of the hunt, though he obviously needs a low one tomorrow to get into contention.
It didn’t start out looking promising for Spieth, as he opened with a bogey on the par-5 1st. But he bounced back with birdies on nos. 3, 5, where he chipped in for the first time in the round, 7 and 9 on the front. He did bogey the par-3 8th, where he missed a six-footer — the ones that were like gimmes for him last year.
As he made the turn, the cut line was basically the only thing that was on his mind.
“Today it was all about the cut,” said Spieth. “I looked at the board and at the turn and I thought you know what, Michael, let’s get to even for the tournament. Let’s shoot 3-under on the back. We can do that, we’ll have plenty of looks. If we’re at even, we’re only five back on a tough golf course that I enjoy playing, I think is a good golf course for me.”
Spieth missed some scoring opportunities early in the back nine, but he made up for it by chipping in (again) for birdie from just off the back of the green on the par-3 15th.
“I fell a little short of that goal on the back,” he continued. “Had my opportunities but, you know, 11 really kind of shot me in the foot a little and then not birdieing 12, 13, 14…
“But at that point I still thought the cut was going to be 3-over and that’s what I was at. My focus was still on the cut line and all of a sudden I’m over the green on 15 kind of sitting down in the bluegrass rough just trying to hope to chip that one to tap-in range.”
Spieth made a great up-and-down from the bunker on the par-3 17th. Then, on the finishing par-4 18th, Spieth drove it into the intermediate rough, but took dead aim at the pin, which was tucked behind a greenside bunker. His ball landed *just* in the short grass and rolled up to about 15 feet from the hole. Though you could tell he really wanted that one to fall, Spieth settled with par.
“I was walking across (17) green and said, ‘All right, Michael, let’s get one up and down and hit a good tee shot the next hole we’re in the clear for the cut.’
“Then all in all, we get finished and we’re back in the tournament.”
Though Spieth improved from T117 to to T43, soaring 74 spots up the leaderboard, he feels like he still left a few shots out there and hopes to get them back over the weekend. In other words, there’s room for even more improvement.
“(It) was just much more solid today,” said Spieth. “I still thought it was a slightly better than average round, but I mean still felt pretty average for what I wanted to do.
“(I’m) still hitting some pretty wayward shots with my long clubs but if I can start to tighten the that gap and get the mid range putts, we’ve got a chance to win the tournament.”
I’d bet that Spieth doesn’t necessarily play himself into contention, but I could definitely see a backdoor top 10 finish, which would be a decent accomplishment after a rough start. He needs to make those mid-range length putts that were nearly automatic for him last year, though.
“I can get there (to the leaders at 5-under),” he said. “I’m only 2-over. That takes couple of solid rounds. Maybe 6-under par. So it’s not going to be easy but if I can finally get those putts from 4 to about 15 feet that are normally a strength of mine, to fall instead of lip out, then we’ve got a good opportunity.”
Here’s the deal, which others around the internets have also pointed out: Spieth might need a bit of a break. He’s young, but even 22 year olds get tired, eventually. He’s had a whirlwind of a year, traveling around the world and winning tournaments, which actually takes a huge toll out of you physically and mentally, with not much time off — save for two weeks in December before heading to Maui to play in the Tournament of Champions, which he went on to not only win but also lapped the field.
Spieth’s biggest strength in his breakout year was his putting — he seemed to make the majority of putts from 8-12 feet, which is hard to sustain. And well, guess what, he’s not holing as many of them this year. It happens, but I’m sure he’ll get his stroke back on track. At the same time, it should and does bring some concern to question a player’s ability to put that much pressure on his short game for prolonged period of time.
We can go on forever, making conjectures about “what’s wrong with Spieth?”, but here’s the reality, which McIlroy deftly pointed out: He’s not Tiger Woods. The problem with this young generation of rising stars that has been ushered in by being inspired as junior golfers by Woods is that they’re unfairly compared to the 14-time major champion.
Look, let’s be real, what Tiger did in his peak was uncanny and absurd. He simply dominated. He was just so much better than everyone else. Well, the thing is, there’s just more parity now than there ever was before, not to mention we probably won’t see another TW in our lifetimes, so let’s get over it and stop the annoying, tired comparisons.
That’s all for now. Here’s to a big weekend for Spieth and all of you out there — whatever it is you may be doing or not doing!