Why Jordan Spieth has the golf world on the edge of its seat

Jordan Spieth is tied for the lead after 54 holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That’s a big deal for Jordan Spieth, for fans of Jordan Spieth, and for anyone who cares deeply about golf. But why? Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than it seems.

Why is Jordan Spieth contending a big deal?

Well, largely because we haven’t seen Jordan Spieth contend in a long time. It doesn’t feel like that long ago since Spieth held the golf world in the palm of his hand as an ascending pro with a flair for golf’s biggest stages, but it has been.

Spieth has been mired in a years-long slump that has confounded even the most sophisticated golf minds. Over the last three-plus years, he’s shown plenty of flashes of the player he used to be, but he’s struggled to put together four rounds of consistency.

Wait, has it really been THAT long?

Yes! Spieth’s last win dates back more than three years to the 2017 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Since that victory, Spieth hasn’t won, and he hasn’t gotten very close. His last top 10 was a year ago at Pebble Beach, while his last top-5 finish came at the 2019 PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth is looking to break through his slump at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Getty Images

So, what’s he been doing all this time?

In short, he’s been struggling. Spieth hasn’t made any major shakeups to the cast of characters who largely contributed to his success in the first place — retaining caddie Michael Greller and swing coach Cameron McCormick. That said, he’s tinkered with his swing for ages, and has been blunt about his confidence struggles.

“I’ve gotten just too inconsistent, too far off in the long game,” he said last year. “I know why my swing got off. I’ve started to figure out that next step of working it back the right way and then making it consistently up there as one of the best ball-strikers in the world like I have been in the past is the next step. I’ve done it with the putting. I know I can do it with the long game.”

But returning his swing to form has proven easier said than done, particularly as things have progressed further from that Open Championship win.

Why doesn’t he just change his coach?

Spieth and McCormick have been working together for a decade-and-a-half. They’re inseparable. If Spieth entertained the idea, we haven’t heard about it.

“I’ve worked with him since I was 12-and-a-half years old,” he told GOLF.com. “Other than my parents, he’s been the guy that’s been there every step of the way with me.”

Has he at least TRIED anything different?

Yes! On several occasions. Most recently, Spieth consulted legendary swing coach Butch Harmon about his swing changes — though the two insist they are not working together in any official capacity. Harmon is famous for having constructed Tiger Woods’ “Tiger Slam“-winning golf swing.

Why do people love him so much?

The short answer is because Jordan Spieth has shown the potential to be a historically great player, and golf is better when there are more historically great players than when there are fewer (you know the saying about a rising tide raising all ships?).

The longer answer is that Jordan Spieth is not only exceptionally talented, he’s also uniquely genuine. Spieth has a sterling reputation for acting with humility and respect toward fans and the media, and has always been exceedingly candid about his career (irrespective of success or failure). Plus, people love a comeback story, and Spieth certainly can provide that this weekend.

Great! How can I watch?

Golf Channel will air the early action of Sunday’s final round with two hours of coverage from 1-3 p.m. ET, with NBC taking over from 3-6 p.m. ET.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.