Jordan Pulls His Putter from Michael

2024 Sentry Tournament of Champions

Jordan Spieth Showed Enough of Who He Once Was to Inspire Hope of What He Could Be Again

You see it on his shoulders, the expectations, even when things are going well but especially when they’re not, his head down against the “Let’s go Jordan!” and “C’mon, Golden Child!” calls. It’s an ill-fitting nickname, Golden Child. For one, Jordan Spieth is a man now, 30, married with children and beginning his 12th year as a professional. As for the golden part, all shiny objects, eventually, don’t shine as bright as they once did, dimmed by the patina that comes with the weathering of time.

Spieth did not win The Sentry. That honor belongs to Chris Kirk, who authored a final-round 65 to beat Spieth, Sahith Theegala and the PGA Tour’s best at the season-opening event at the Plantation Course. However, Maui is not so much an event in itself as a table-setter for the year ahead, and what we saw at Kapalua portends an interesting year for Spieth. Not because no one vacillates between world-beater and looking beat by the world like Spieth, for that is nothing new. Spieth is the one to watch in 2024 because he showed just enough of what he once was to inspire the belief of what he could do again.

“If you told me eight under at the beginning of the day, I would have thought Chris probably betters six under, but playing with the lead in the last group, maybe 8 was in a playoff, was kind of where my head was at,” Spieth said Sunday after a third-place finish. “There was just some phenomenal golf played everywhere.”

There’s no need to relitigate Spieth’s meteoric rise and fall and return from the wilderness. What has been mostly left unsaid, however, has been Spieth’s performance since he was declared as officially “back.” He’s been good since winning the 2021 Valero Texas Open: a runner-up at the Open later that summer, winning the RBC Heritage in 2022, a couple of top-five Masters finishes and three U.S. team appearances. Conversely, Spieth has not been great, by his standards or the standards of stardom, putting him in an odd purgatory where he’s treated like one of the best with a performance that doesn’t live up to the billing. He hasn’t stalled out … but he hasn’t been moving, either.

This week, however, looked like the Spieth of old. He admittedly came in with low expectations, not getting the chance to put in the offseason preparation he wanted. That outlook changed, though, earlier in the week, as Spieth was surprised with how well he was swinging and more importantly how good he felt. He overcame a double bogey on his third hole of the week to work himself into the penultimate group, and overcame a slow Sunday start thanks to five straight birdies starting at the seventh to be nipping at Kirk’s heels.