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Opinion & Analysis

Is Jordan Spieth’s “slump” actually his new standard?

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With every lackluster finish from Jordan Spieth, his dominant 2015 season and stellar ’16 and ’17 seasons feel more and more like ancient history. During post-round interviews, Spieth is increasingly sounding like a 15-handicapper who continuously assures everyone that they are a mere swing tweak away from single digits. Week after week, Spieth insists that he and his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, are well on their way to putting the pieces of that once-unstoppable swing back together, but The Open at Portrush marked two years since Spieth’s last victory, and after a season where he has more missed cuts than top 10s, his winless drought has no end in sight.

The young prodigy who emphatically announced his presence on the PGA Tour in 2013 with a dramatic win at the John Deere Classic has recently taken a nosedive in just about every statistical category measuring tee to green performance. While the numbers don’t lie, it also doesn’t take a statistician to see the deterioration of Spieth’s game. As of late, Jordan relies heavily on his scrambling, where he is undoubtedly still elite, ranking inside the top 25 in strokes gained (SG) around the green and 6th in SG putting, but a game that puts so much pressure on making par from treacherous spots inevitably leads to inconsistency, and he has struggled to put four rounds of solid golf together. While his tee to green stats dipped in 2018, they have completely plummeted this year, where he ranks 152nd in SG tee to green, and even worse off the tee. His irons have been poor, but his driver has been even worse, where he consistently struggles to find even 50 percent of fairways, which is particularly penal for Spieth because of his lack of any considerable length.

Perhaps there isn’t a fickler game than golf, and surely even the best in the world get a pass on a few months of poor play, but after two years of a substantial drop off in form, is there a chance that this Jordan we have been seeing lately is the Jordan we should expect to see in the coming decade?

The peculiar problem in analyzing Spieth’s young career is that it really is becoming a tale of two careers. For argument’s sake, 2013 can be called his arrival year, when he won for the first time and gained status on tour. In 2014, his first full year on tour, while he was without a win, he notched a second-place finish the Masters and leaped into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, solidifying that his 2013 win was no fluke. Of course, that led to his five-win 2015 season, including the Masters and U.S. Open, followed by two wins in 2016 and three wins in 2017, one of those the Open at Royal Birkdale. That Open added his major tally to three at the age of 23, and given the head on his shoulders and his track record of success at every level, anyone with even a slight pulse on golf would say Spieth could be capable of ten or more major victories and there were even whispers of comparisons of Tiger Woods. Since that evening in England, though, Spieth is winless and clearly searching for answers specifically surrounding his swing. Anyone who has played golf knows how quickly a golfer can lose “it,” whatever that might be, but for Jordan, it seems this slump has officially turned into his new normal.

This is absolutely not to say that Spieth cannot or will not return to former glory, but it is clear now that something is wrong with his game and the time to press a metaphorical panic button may be sooner than later. The questions following Spieth in the last couple years have all revolved around when and how he will get his game back, but at some point, it may have to be asked if the Jordan Spieth of old will ever be seen again.

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Providence College Class of 2017. English Major, avid golfer and reader.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Bobbigboy

    Aug 3, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Do not like the man when he was winning and now he is just a whinny little brat. The way he treat s his caddy is disgraceful, his conduct on course is not professional. He should shut up, find a real swing coach and play golf.

  2. John

    Aug 2, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Spieth’s problems began, and has progressively gotten worse, when he switched from Project X 6.0 to 6.5. He now over swings to accommodate the stronger flex, and accuracy has suffered greatly.

    • Drew

      Aug 3, 2019 at 9:05 am

      No, August 27, 2017 is why. The day he lost to DJ in the playoff at the Northern Trust.

  3. Justin

    Aug 2, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I said the same thing to my wife! Once Jordan tied knot his game has slumped.

    • Mike Marconi

      Aug 2, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      My sentiments exactly. But I think he should get a new swing coach and help straighten out that awful driver swing. Maybe learn how to fade the ball.

  4. Bobarino

    Aug 2, 2019 at 7:03 am

    I’m sure many other people had the same opinion of Spieth as I did when he was flying high a few years ago – he’s wound so tight that there was bound to be a time he came unravelled. Well, he’s been unravelled for a couple years now. That’s not to say that he won’t find his way again, but someone who’s wound so tight and constantly refers to relying on his “team” (a graceful thought, but perhaps overly solicitous), is bound to decompensate at some point and not now how to get it back wtihout relying on others. He will never be able to rely on others to prop up his anxiety prone personality as he once did. He’s gotta find it himself at this point. Who’s betting he will?

  5. Shallowface

    Aug 1, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    People miss the same thing with Spieth that they consistently missed with Tiger. That is, their dominance came when they were making every putt they saw. When that stopped, they were each just another one of many.

    Spieth had the putting year of a lifetime in 2015, and was still pretty good in 2016 and 2017. Since then, not so much. Unlike Tiger, he’s still young, so it is possible it could come back to that level. But if it doesn’t, he’ll not have another run like 2015-17 again. He’s not the level of ball striker to knock enough iron shots close that he can’t help shaking a few in.

    • Prime21

      Aug 2, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      So……..Tiger made EVERY putt for 15+ years? Don’t ever compare Jordan and Tiger, Jordan is nowhere in the vicinity. Whether you like it or not, Tiger is the greatest of all time, Jordan not so much. Tiger was an ELITE ball striker, Jordan was never that. His approach numbers from 150 in were solid and his short game is elite, but he will never be the ballstriker Tiger was/is. Agreed that Tiger was a great putter but that is not what held his game together, as it was with Jordan. Tiger did it for too long to be considered streaky, Jordan flamed out quickly. Love him or hate him Tiger and his record command respect and to put Jordan in his league or calling Tiger just one of many is ridiculous and proves you know very little about the game.

  6. Ben

    Aug 1, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    I can attest to what Spieth is going through. It happens to me often. I will be a scratch golfer for several months, then all the sudden lose it. Then I’m searching, searching to figure what changed. Sometimes it will be as simple as the feeling of the grip in my hands.

    FYI, I did get married recently, and it has happened more often since then..

  7. Nate

    Aug 1, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    David Duval part II

  8. Doug McManus

    Aug 1, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Give Jordan a rest, very tired of the news coverage on Jordan. Lets here stories on other Tour players?

  9. Sydney

    Aug 1, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Can anyone calculate Jordan’s SG before and after marriage? I know this particular event has caused many of my golfing buddies to lose “it”

    • TeddyRux

      Aug 1, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      ^^This person has figured out the true answer.
      MANY a pro players “lost it” due to a women (or womens in Tigers case)
      Heck look at how far off the deep end Sregio cant stand that guy Garcia went after tying the knot

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Urban Golf Performance owner Mac Todd

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny chats again with his old pal Mac Todd Owner and Operator of Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles. They cover the growth of the business, what the new Club member experience may look like and much much more.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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