Jordan Spieth after T3 at PGA Championship: ‘This is the best I’ve felt in quite a while’

May 20, 2019

Around 6 p.m. on Sunday at Bethpage, with Brooks Koepka’s lead whittled to one and Dustin Johnson charging on the back nine, attention diverted away from the 18th green. That was where, amid the fray behind him, Jordan Spieth tapped in to finish off a 71, good for two under on the week.

Perhaps on the surface it seemed inconsequential. In terms of challenging Koepka for the title it certainly was. But for Spieth, it marked his best performance of the season — by far — and, he hopes, a sign of things to come.

“This is the best I’ve felt in quite a while,” Spieth said after the round. “I’m very happy.”

The 25-year-old, three-time major winner tied for third in this week’s PGA Championship, marking his first top-20 performance of the season. It was his best finish in a major championship since his third-place finish at the Masters last year.

Coming into the week, few expected Spieth to find his name near the top of the leaderboard. Not only was his game in flux, but the length and treachery of the course was blatantly ill-suited for him. In his words: “I can’t pick a course that’s probably further away from it being for me.”

But it’s for all these reasons Spieth leaves New York encouraged.

“I knew coming into the week that it was unlikely on this golf course that I was going to have a chance to win, and that’s a humbling feeling for me,” Spieth said. “But I knew that if I played the course the right way, had the right mentality, kept putting the way I’ve been putting, that I would be in it; that I would be, you know, in and having a chance to make some noise.”

Any “noise” was largely confined to Friday’s second round, when he carded a 66 — including a blistering 31 on the front nine — and maneuvered his way into the Saturday’s final pairing with Koepka.

Spieth’s weekend performances (72 and 71, respectively) speak to both the inconsistencies in his game and his efforts to fight through them. He tied for 126th in driving accuracy (48.2 percent) and was 61st in strokes gained tee-to-green (1.8). All the while, though, Spieth’s 10.6 strokes gained putting kept him afloat at a place that swallowed many golfers whole.

Now, he turns to the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, just over 30 miles west of his hometown of Dallas. He’s eager to build on an encouraging week — and the U.S. Open is looming next month.

“I have full belief in my process, my mentality, my selfishness and my work ethic,” he said. “I put in more hours over the last five months than I’ve ever put in my game in a five-month stretch, just trying to get to where I can be out here on a major championship Sunday making par saves, making birdie putts, and contending even without having my best stuff. That’s like 2015, 2016, 2017, that’s how I felt then.”