Jordan Spieth continues to look for an older version of himself.
The search shows moments of success. He shot 2-under-par 70 on a gusty Friday afternoon at the Valero Texas Open. He enters the third round with share of second place at 7 under par, two shots behind the leader, Cameron Tringale.
Winless since 2017, the 27-year-old Spieth will again be a factor on the weekend in 2021.
He often has been since early February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That was the week his work toward finding his older self — the golf swing of his youth — took a beneficial turn. He started rehearsing a move on the practice range at TPC Scottsdale in an effort to shallow the plane of his downswing. He wanted to swing like he was that freshman in 2012 at the University of Texas, beating Justin Thomas in the final match of the NCAA National Championship.
“A swing feel that's kind of like an artistic motion,” is how he explained Friday, “like I almost can see it happening from behind me as I'm feeling it.”
The Valero Texas Open is his seventh start since embracing the drill. He’s had three Top 5 finishes, a tie for 15th and two wins last week at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he lost in the Round of 16. For those anticipating a return to form for the 11-time winner from Dallas, the trend inspires hope.
He is trying, he said, “to go back in time.” He wants to find his swing of his 15-year-old self, or at least the one that brough him so much acclaim so soon. Spieth wants to reverse “essentially everything,” he said, “all the bad habits I got into.” He said his attack on the ball got too steep after 2017, when he won three tournaments, including The Open Championship. Then came all the questions and doubts.
“I could sit here and tell you six different things I’m thinking about,” he said. “I want it to be one or two.”
He appears, at times, to have achieved that simplicity and purity. He shot 5-under 67 on Thursday at TPC San Antonio, seven birdies against two bogeys. He birdied his first two holes Friday. He was 2 under after nine.
He expected stress and it came. Texas in the springtime is a windy place. He made bogey at the 11th and the 13th. But he followed those with birdies at the next two, which included an approach on the 459-yard par-four 15th to 4 feet. Spieth coasted through the last three holes, wind and all, with straight pars.
“I'm really pleased with where things are at, but they're not where I want them to be at,” he said. “I'm trying to kind of take it slowly and patiently and reward myself, be excited about the good ones and not get too down about the bad ones.”
So on goes the search.
“I'm really just trying to go back in time structurally to a place that I've been,” he said.
“Trying to work backwards.”