SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The fact that he was the lone American Ryder Cup player absent from last week’s Tour Championship says plenty about the kind of season Jordan Spieth endured, but the three-time major champion feels that he can still salvage it by contributing to a victory this week at Le Golf National.
Just 25 years old but already making his third Ryder Cup start, Spieth went winless in 2018, though he did have his moments – most notably a final-round 64 at the Masters to leap into a season-best third place. He slipped to No. 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking but still earned one of the eight automatic berths on the U.S. team.
Despite his sub-par form, Spieth will likely be called upon to carry a healthy load this week, owing to a 4-1-2 record in team play paired with Patrick Reed. At this point, he’d welcome a win, regardless of the venue or format.
“I think if I came out and played really solid golf this week, I would feel like I accomplished a lot this year,” Spieth said Wednesday at Le Golf National. “I would feel like I went to places where I needed to build back up and learn a lot from my own game, and Ryder Cup is a situation where you're playing almost every hole with the same feel as you get on a major championship Sunday in contention.
“So to be able to put those to the test, and if I can do so successfully, I'll feel like I gained a lot out of it. The years after I've played in Ryder Cups have been phenomenal years for me. I look at this week as very important going forward for next season.”
Spieth debuted in 2014 at Gleneagles and went on to win the first two majors of 2015, the Masters and U.S. Open. His gritty performance in winning the Claret Jug in 2017 followed America’s six-point Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine National. If there is a correlation between the matches and his prospects the following year, then a lot is riding on his play this week beyond keeping the cup.
At least he’ll be fresh.
Missing the Tour Championship for the first time in his young career wasn’t part of the equation – and he could be assessed a fine because it kept him from playing in the PGA Tour-mandated minimum of 25 starts – but it did give him a chance to recharge and also avoid whatever creeping crud made its way through the field at East Lake. Bubba Watson clearly is battling some kind of sinus malady or virus, and he said at least half of the attendees at the Tour Championship were ill.
And, of course, most are tired.
Spieth would be among them if he didn’t get the week off. He admittedly overworked himself during the FedEx Cup playoffs, and fatigue caught up with him at the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia. He ended up T-55 and missed the Tour Championship by one spot.
“I took the in-between week off completely, and then I took the Tour Championship week to slowly kind of progress each day, do a little bit more, and I was progressing nicely through the playoffs,” Spieth said. “My game was in the best state that it had been in until BMW, and I kind of just ran out of gas there. I should have taken more breaks in the playoffs this year, and I went something like 26 or 28 days from before New York through that Saturday afternoon of BMW, of at least six-hour days on the course and gym, and I just -- I kind of got real quick with the swing and just didn't play well at BMW.”
A blessing in disguise then to have a week off? Nope. No disguise.
“I was able to get that rest, look back on the progression that was being made and continue that going forward,” he said. “I don't wish that it happened considering it was the end of season. If it was the middle of the season, I would have looked at it like a blessing in disguise. But I certainly wish I was at East Lake, no question. If anything, I will not take that week for granted and work that much harder not to miss it again.”
At least he isn’t missing the Ryder Cup. Which gives him a chance for a redemptive win. It’s been 25 years since the U.S. triumphed in Europe. Spieth was two months old.