All aboard Jordan Spieth bandwagon? What a shot into the sand should tell you

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth lines up a putt during last week's Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

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Jordan Spieth, for some three minutes, as the players in front of him finished up, went over his tee shot on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, taking warm-up swings, checking his yardage and trying to get a feel for the wind off the Pacific Ocean. Before hitting, he then asked Michael Greller, his caddie, this question:

“Full commitment has got to be enough, right?”

Greller agreed, and Spieth hit. An 8-iron. With the fullest of commitments.  

“Dude, that was flushed,” Spieth said to Greller afterward. “That was the exact shot that I wanted to hit.”

It also got hung up in the wind, and the golf ball dropped like a bowling ball into the left greenside bunker. From there, Spieth bogeyed, the one-shot advantage he held entering the hole was gone, and he finished runner-up after Sunday’s final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

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But let’s back up. If you’re looking for signs of life from Spieth as the majors creep closer — only two months to the Masters! — and if you’re wanting to know if his latest swing tinkering is taking hold, just listen to the sound of that strike on 17 and know that, sometimes, golf happens. He hit the shot he wanted. And sometimes the wind blows. 

“It was my best swing of the week,” Spieth said afterward. “… I hit an 8, and I kind of today — it was really tricky because the wind kept going almost back to northeast and then it would go to northwest, and with a cold wind here, that makes such a massive difference, more than it does anywhere else that we play, I think. And I just was worried if I held it up against that breeze that it may not carry, but we were pretty confident in it, and when I struck it, I thought it was all over it. 

“I hit the dead center of the face, high, kind of, hold straight ball. The wind just took it a little. And it was on the line where it would have actually not only bounced towards the hole, it would have then fed left. I was — in the air, I was thinking this might lip out. And it hits the lip and goes in the bunker.”

That it did. And Spieth also failed to protect a two-shot lead with four holes to play, playing 15 through 18 at one-over as eventual champion Tom Hoge chased him down with a two-under effort over that same stretch.      

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But when asked about his week, Spieth looked more at the 72-hole picture. Notably, his Saturday 63 — which will likely always be remembered for his shot from the edge of a 70-foot cliff — featured over five strokes gained over the field from tee to green (5.191), and approach the green (5.309). 

“Yeah, I still feel like there’s some significant progression to get it to where I want it to go, and I feel that certain range sessions are like, wow, I feel, those are striped and every ball’s on a string,” Spieth said. “Transferring it to the course just keeps getting better and better. Tournaments like this where, on a Saturday, Sunday, as you’re towards the top of the leaderboard and you need to keep trusting things are where I really make progress.

“So all positives on that front. I think I was first in tee to green yesterday or maybe approach. That’s where I’ve felt I’ve been heading for rounds like that where I can ball-strike my way into really low rounds, and when the putter’s hot then, that’s when you win the golf tournament.

“… I was playing aggressive. I was hitting shots where I was thinking I needed to shoot five- or six-under today around Pebble to win this golf tournament. So even the ones that weren’t great were actually really good shots that just were a yard or two off. So you don’t normally have to be this precise elsewhere and so I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

Notably, too, Spieth’s play came one week after he said he was taken to the hospital after a bout with a bacterial infection in his stomach. During the Farmers Insurance Open, he shot a first-round 70, was checked, then shot a 78 in a round where his parents, while watching on TV, told him: “Yeah, you just did not look like yourself.”

And now?

“I feel almost 100 percent, but I still can’t really keep a whole lot down,” he said. “It’s about half of what it was. But I’m down some weight and all that stuff, but I didn’t feel it affected any performance whatsoever. Again, like just — look, scores are easy to look at, they don’t always tell the entire tale, and last week certainly I — once it started going sideways, I just needed to be done, because I’d never felt like that on the course. 

“But prior to that, and just progressively, I felt really good about my ball-striking and just really felt like I needed to heat the putter up. I felt like I burned a lot of edges my last few months, and yesterday they started to fall, so — and today I made some nice putts as well. So I think I’m in a lot better position, but I think still got a little ways to go.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.