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Opinion & Analysis

Jordan Spieth’s issues are mental and not technical

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On the face of it, it appears as if Jordan Spieth’s issues this season are entirely down to his trusty putter having turned cold in 2018. That has been the consensus, and up until a few weeks ago, it would have been difficult to argue otherwise. Since then, Spieth has suffered his worst run to date this year, with two missed cuts and a disappointing T42 at last week’s Travelers Championship. However, it’s within these past three weeks that have revealed the most about the state of Spieth’s game and mind at the moment.

Spieth, who ranks 179th for Strokes Gained-Putting this season, has had to deal with constant questioning from the media this year regarding his poor performance on the greens. The Texan’s most devastating club throughout his young career had always been the flat stick, and it has suddenly betrayed him. However, Spieth’s putting has been excellent in the past three weeks. The 24-year-old has gained strokes with the putter in all of his last three events with a deadly combined total of 8.4 strokes gained in this category. Spieth’s upturn in recent weeks with the putter has gone unnoticed, as his long game, which has been hailed all season long, has crumbled in the same period. Spieth sits 13th for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green this season, however, in the past three events he has lost a combined 9.6 strokes to the field.

Meanwhile, another man who has suffered similar volatile changing in fortunes with certain parts of his game this year is none other than Tiger Woods. First, it was his driver holding him back, then his putter, and then at Shinnecock Hills Woods’ irons didn’t fire. Despite the frustration, there is a confidence that borders on certainty among the minds of the golfing world that Woods is going to put all parts of his game together very soon. Despite Jordan Spieth suffering the same frustrations, there is no confidence that he is close to doing the same. The serene calmness that Woods has projected all year is the exact opposite of how Spieth has dealt with the issue. His irritation has been constantly evident.

Jordan Spieth’s frustrations have scrambled a mind that once appeared to be impenetrable on the golf course. Spieth has openly hinted toward this in recent weeks. Last week, he told the media at the Travelers that he had tried to do too much in Round 1 at Shinnecock Hills and it cost him dearly. After a miserable Friday in Connecticut, Spieth pinned the problem down to mental mistakes.

“Unfortunately didn’t stick with the game plan, and it cost me two or three strokes today,” Spieth said. “Just stuff I could control before I hit it. That’s the most frustrating part of today.”

His demeanor on the golf course has given truth to these admissions all year. An already very animated and talkative player on the golf course, Spieth has been more fractious than ever with both caddy, Michael Greller, and spectators alike. Nothing portrayed how the game had gotten well and truly under Spieth’s skin than when the camera panned to him by the side of the 18th green on Friday evening at Shinnecock Hills. Spieth stood with his shoulders slumped against the backdrop of the amber evening sun, shaking his head with a look of both bewilderment and anger knowing full well that he had just thrown away the opportunity of playing the weekend of the U.S. Open.

It was at this point of the year in 2017 that Spieth turned his season around, winning the Travelers before The Open Championship. This year, however, Spieth looks further away from saving his season than at any other point this year. He has played seven of the last eight weeks, which shows his envious single-mindedness and determination to turn his year around, and it feels unjust that this determination has gone unrewarded. The adage of trying too hard resonates very much in this case. Spieth ends this exhausting stretch of golf with more questions than answers than when he began it, and Golf Channel’s David Duval also believes that he is mentally suffering. 

“Listening to him talk about his golf right now, and how he’s feeling and what he’s doing on the golf course, he’s talking about mental mistakes,” Duval said. “He’s been trying to force the issue too much. I think he’s played a little bit too much. I think it’s time for a breather, a chance to regroup and get ready for the summer season.”

Spieth is currently not committed to play before he will defend the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in July, although he may opt to play the John Deere Classic, an event that he has played previously in preparation for The Open. The high expectations placed on Spieth by both the public and himself have led to mental exhaustion and frustration, with his patience tested to the extreme, and recharging his batteries looks the prudent play.

It’s worth remembering that Spieth is 24 years old, a three-time major championship winner and an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour. His impatience is unnecessary, as has been some of the intense scrutiny and criticism of Spieth’s game all year. He has become a victim of his success and a well earned mental reset before the years third major could make all the difference for Spieth’s 2018.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. SaiDaiOh

    Jul 1, 2018 at 3:05 am

    His woes are technical. Jordan’s bad swing just outrun his nerve and athletic talent.

  2. George

    Jun 30, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Desperate Democrats protest marching for open borders to import illegal dago voters… sooo obvious.

  3. jo

    Jun 30, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    “He has become a victim of his success”

    murican’s hoped he’d erase Tiger’s records. A lot to live up to, even for a Texan…/s

  4. Tom54

    Jun 29, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    To me it definitely looks like there’s no confidence in his stroke lately. Lots of fidgeting before and during his stroke. Looks like when he was putting lights out he made a nice stroke pretty much knowing it was going in or scare the hole anyway. I’m sure he will get it back just needs to see em start dropping. Maybe he needs to give his Scotty a rest too, who knows after all that’s golf ain’t it?

  5. Man

    Jun 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Didn’t need this article to tell us this. Why state the obvious? We can see and hear it. He’s human.

    • Commoner

      Jul 1, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      They come and they go…more so now than ever. Both talent and money are in huge supply, so changes in the top tier will be more frequent than previous eras.

  6. dlygrisse

    Jun 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Didn’t JS get really ill early during the season? I just don’t think he ever rebounded, now is pressing, and golf is REALLY hard when you aren’t organized mentally and physically. Best recipe is some time off, regroup and things will be fine.

  7. The Dude

    Jun 28, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Gianni…do you golf?

    • Gmatt

      Jun 29, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Somehow I think not, it’s so hard to blog and actually play the sport they write about. Maybe he should give it a try someday

  8. Tom

    Jun 28, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Golf is a very difficult and fickle game, even the best players are not immune from riding the ebbs and flows.

    • gif

      Jun 29, 2018 at 12:01 am

      “feel” golfers are inconsistent because their feel turns into “feeeelings” when their feel fails them emotionally. It happens so many times to all pro golfers.

  9. faq

    Jun 28, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Putting is a mental game. Perhaps he should change his putter like Tiger did. Ardmore?

  10. Mike C

    Jun 28, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I had no idea he putted so well the last 3 events. I’d say that’s a good sign.

  11. Mike C

    Jun 28, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I had no idea he putted so well the last 3 events. I’d say they’d a good sign.

  12. 2putttom

    Jun 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I like the photo. Looked like me after Wednesday Mens league.

  13. Jamie

    Jun 28, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    The obsessive need to fix his hair immediately after taking his hat off is the tell of what a nutjob he is. Glad he’s young enough to get this fixed.

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger Woods completes arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history

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Sports have an uncanny way of teaching us about life. And there’s no greater life lesson than the athlete and the man who goes by Tiger Woods.

I first fell in love with golf while watching Tiger play the 1997 Masters with my father. Tiger is the reason that I, like millions of golfers throughout the world, including some of his professional contemporaries today, started playing and loving the game.

For basically his entire life, from the moment he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at 2-years-old, until his world came infamously crashing down on Thanksgiving 2009, he was “perfect.” He was dominant, impactful, charismatic and invincible — what the world uncovered, however, was that his persona was a carefully crafted facade.

While he continued to play great golf despite injuries and surgeries through 2014, his Superman cape was tarnished, and his respect as a man was all but diminished.

From 2014 until 2017, the world watched Tiger Woods the athlete decay. He’d make minor comebacks after major back surgeries, but the letters “WD” replaced the number “1” next to Tiger’s name on leaderboards for years. And he also developed what was either the chipping yips, or an utter breakdown in his once-superior chipping technique. To all observers, aside from Tiger apologists, it seemed his golf career was likely over.

What was tragic for Tiger the athlete looked as though it’d turn into a tragedy for Tiger the man after his very public DUI in 2017 following his spine fusion surgery earlier that year. Tiger was completely vulnerable, and seemingly, completely broken. He was whatever the opposite is of his former self. Had he faded into oblivion after that, it would have been understandable, if not recommended.

But that’s not what happened. Despite every talking head in sports media saying Tiger was done (not that I didn’t agree at the time), Tiger waited for his back to heal upon doctors orders, then began his comeback to golf. It started with videos on social media of him chipping, then hitting irons, then his patented stinger.

In December of 2017, Tiger finished T9 in the 18-player field at his Hero World Challenge… a respectable finish considering what he had been through. As the season continued, he pieced together 4 consecutive rounds on many occasions, actually giving himself a few chances to win tournaments (the Valspar, Arnold Palmer, Quicken Loans and the Open come to mind). But his late-tournament confidence was clearly shaken; he was struggling to close the deal.

At the 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger had the attention of the entire sporting world when it looked that he had a serious chance to win his 15th major. But ultimately, he finished runner-up to a superior golfer that week in Brooks Koepka. All things considered, the week was a win for Tiger and his confidence… but it wasn’t a win.

The questions changed after the PGA Championship from “Can Tiger win again?” to “When will Tiger win again?”

Well, that question has been answered. Tiger Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship. Is it a major? No, it’s not. Some say the event itself is essentially just a money grab for the best 30 players of the season. But that’s the thing; the tournament hosts the best 30 players of the season all competing for big money. And you can bet it matters to the players on top of the leaderboard.

Tiger’s Tour Championship victory doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Jack’s record. Because he probably won’t. And maybe he won’t even win another major, although he’ll surely be the betting favorite at the 2019 Masters now. But, to me at least, his win marks the completion of the greatest comeback story in all of sports. And not only that, the conclusion to an important life lesson — don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all — a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.

Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.

Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska

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There are so many fantastic golf courses throughout the world, and it’s all of the incredibly varied fields of play that make the game so great to me. The most random places in the world can be home to some of the best golf courses. When deciding which course to write about next, it seemed natural to write about my personal favorite course in the world., which happens to be in a very unexpected place.

If you told me I could go anywhere in the world for a round of golf tomorrow, I would be blazing a trail to the area just south of Mullen, Nebraska and playing Sand Hills Golf Club. Sand Hills opened for play on June 23, 1995 and is one of the most natural golf courses you can find anywhere in the world. There was very little dirt moved and most of the money spent building the course was spent on installing irrigation. The course is built entirely on sand, and was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Bill Coore speaks on the design here.

For a bit more background, here’s an old CBS Sunday Morning segment on Sand Hills…

The course lies in the middle of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which makes up about one-third of the state. The area has huge, natural dunes everywhere that are much more reminiscent of Scotland or Ireland than the flat part of Nebraska along I-80 that most people associate with the state. Because of the firm, mostly fescue, sand-based fairways at Sand Hills, and the ever-present wind, the course plays like a links course though the bent grass greens rival any top country club for speed and purity. In fact, the fastest greens I have ever seen in person were at Sand Hills in late September.

The course has a tasteful amount of variety and challenge. The three par 5s are of the best sets in the world and include 1) a fantastic mid-length par 5 starting hole that is one of the best starting holes in golf, 2) a very reachable but exacting hole in the 14th, and 3) in my opinion, the best long par 5 in golf, the 613 yard 16th.

The par 4s vary from the long uphill 485-yard monster 18th, to the 7th, which at less than 300 yards still sees a lot more 5s and 6s than 3s. The par 3s are masterful starting with the 3rd playing a little over 200 yards downhill to a sprawling side hill green where you can hit driver one day and 7 iron the next. The 6th is 185 yards slightly downhill to maybe my favorite green on the course with definitely my favorite hole location in the front left of the green to a semi-blind spot in a little bowl.  The 13th is a 215-yard uphill monster that can be the hardest hole in relation to par on the course. Lastly the 17th is a 150-yard work of art to a little triangle shaped green and is definitely in the discussion for best short par 3 in the world.

Aside from a great variety in distance of the holes, the topography also presents an amazing amount of variety on the ground. Due to the random nature of the bounce of the ball, the undulating and random fairway contours, and the wind that can blow in literally any direction, the course never plays the same twice. There are just so many great holes out there that I really wouldn’t argue with any of the 18 holes being someone’s favorite. Personally, I can’t name a favorite as it seems to change every time I think about it. The routing is fantastic with both 9s returning to Ben’s Porch, which serves as the home base for the course where people eat lunch, have a post-round drink and generally enjoy one of the best views in all of golf. The course has a good amount of elevation change but is a dream to walk with very short green to tee transitions. It simply is as close to perfect as you can get in my mind.

While the focus of my reviews are on the golf course and not the amenities, I would be remiss if I did not mention the down-to-earth, welcoming people that make up the staff at Sand Hills. Any time I’ve been lucky enough to be at the club I have felt more like I was visiting family and friends than a golf club. When you combine the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the club, some of the best food in the world and my personal favorite golf course to play anywhere in the world, you have an experience so special its hard to put into words.

Enjoy the collection of photos below from Dan Moore, and make sure to check out my other reviews in the links at the bottom of the page!

Hole No. 1

Hole No. 2

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

Hole No. 13

Hole No. 14

Hole No. 16

Hole No. 18

Ari’s Other Course Reviews

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep. 51): Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella on why Phil shoots guns to improve his golf game

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Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella joins host Michael Williams to talk about Phil Mickelson using shooting sports to prepare for the Ryder Cup, and the crop of golf destinations that include 5-star golf and outdoor sports facilities. Also featured are Jason Gilbertson of Winchester and Justin Jones of Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA).

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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