Jordan Spieth was good, very good, bad and relentless. It all added up to a 6-under 64 in the opening round of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club.
The 2015 FedExCup champion and former world No. 1 went 5-under-par in a five-hole stretch on the back nine, salvaged bogeys after wide-right tee shots at the 12th and 18th holes and sits just two behind co-leaders Byeong Hun An and Sungjae Im.
“It’s trending in the right direction,” Spieth said. “I think it’s still a week or two away as far as the control, full control off the tee and into the greens.”
In a sense, Spieth’s opening round was a microcosm of his season. He ranked 108th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, but second in Strokes Gained: Putting (121 feet of made putts).
No putts were bigger, emotionally, than his 15-foot bogey save at the par-3 12th and 21-footer to save bogey at the par-4 18th. These came after wild tee shots that missed way right of his target, the one at the 12th coming to rest on a fluffy downslope, the one on 18 going out of bounds.
“What you got to see today as a fan was heart and soul and grit,” David Duval said on the Golf Channel. “Somebody that’s fighting.”
Spieth came into this week at 67th in the FedExCup, meaning he’s good for THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National next week, but on the bubble for the (top-70) BMW Championship. The problem for the 11-time PGA TOUR winner has been his inability to keep big numbers off the scorecard, and that results from his inability to fully tame his long game.
Simply put, he still has the big miss, he knows it, and this results in what he calls “scar tissue.” Although he has worked his way back on the greens and was sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting coming into the Wyndham, he was a distant 183rd on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, which is odd for a guy who was at the absolute pinnacle of the game four years ago.
The pundits continue to debate what happened. After Spieth tied his lowest round this season, Brandel Chamblee said on Golf Channel that he could be “on the edge of oblivion.” Or, history might show, he’s on the edge of finally figuring this out. Spieth thinks the latter.
When he misses, he says, he gets quick. At the 18th hole, he dropped his club after blocking his first drive into someone’s backyard so far right of the fairway, he didn’t bother looking for the ball. Part of the problem, he said, was tactical.
“I should have just played that, you know, that fade off the left side of the tee instead of trying to go to that draw with a driver, trying to be the hero,” he said after making birdie with his second ball. “It’s hard to cut it enough to get into trouble if you line up left there, so that’s certainly the plan the next few days.”
Meanwhile, he’s looking on the bright side, and that starts with his putting.
“I went from like 200th last year to the top 10,” he said. “That’s a pretty massive turnaround, and I needed it.”
Whether he can get the big miss out of his bag and tighten up his tee-to-green game remains to be seen.