Jordan Spieth on Rickie Fowler: ‘It’s impossible to struggle in silence’

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler have been close friends for years.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler have been close friends for many years.

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Just three places in the golf’s world ranking separate Jordan Spieth from his good friend Rickie Fowler. But Spieth, the world No. 62, has two things that Fowler, No. 65, does not. The first is an invitation to the Masters. The second is positive momentum. Fowler is hoping to pick up both this week at Bay Hill.

Spieth hasn’t returned to the peak form he reached in his early 20s, but he’s contended in his last three starts, finishing T4-T3-T15. These days, when he talks about his progress, he has evidence to point to on his results page. When he refers to the “dip” in his career, he’s beginning to use the past tense.

As a result, Spieth is well-qualified to speak on the feelings that Fowler is experiencing. For years, both American Ryder Cup stars had cemented themselves as top-10 players in the world — but Fowler hasn’t logged a top 10 in more than a year.

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Spieth told reporters on Wednesday that he sees similarities when looking at his close friend — particularly trying to make changes under big-time scrutiny.

“The most difficult thing about struggling is when you’ve had a lot of success and therefore it’s almost impossible to struggle in silence, in darkness, and get your work done in the dark,” Spieth said. “There’s just going to be so much noise around and so much emphasis on results versus the true understanding of what your end goal is — and how much time that can take in golf.”

Spieth certainly hasn’t struggled in darkness. For better or worse, every one of his swing changes and substandard performances has come with media coverage, exhaustive analysis and armchair coaching. Golf fans don’t necessarily have patience for long-term changes. They’re skeptical of trusting the process. Spieth attributes some of that impatience to this generation’s greatest player.

“We saw a nonhuman in Tiger Woods be able to make massive changes quicker than what is probably realistic for just about anybody else,” Spieth said. “I think that that can sometimes hurt the quickness of jumping to conclusions to people, and so I think publicly, struggling publicly when you’re somebody like Rickie, it makes it hard, so blocking out the noise is so important and sticking to what you’re doing is so important and having a team around you that can tell you that.”

Spieth added that Fowler’s seemingly slow adaptation to swing changes should be expected.

“This is not abnormal, this is not something that other players don’t go through when they’re trying to make changes,” he said. “It’s reality, and he’s trying to make changes with an end goal to be more consistent and better than he ever was. And they’re significant changes. So it’s not going to be easy. These guys are too good out here. You can’t just continue to compete and win while you’re trying to make big changes.”

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There’s one more intriguing similarity between Spieth and Fowler: They’re two of golf’s most popular figures. Large swaths of golf fans are invested in their performance. That only adds to the scrutiny — but it can be nice to have some people on your side, too.

“I think he’s sticking to it,” Spieth concluded. “He’s a very, very, very positive person and I think that’s going to serve him well. He also treats people better than just about anyone I’ve met. So all in all he’s got a lot more people in his corner than are not and that believe in him, and he believes in himself. And as long as he continues down that path he’s going to be very successful.”

Fowler is coming off a T20 at the Genesis Invitational, his best result since last summer. He’ll look to improve on that this week at Bay Hill. He knows Jordan Spieth won’t be the only one watching.

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Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.