Jordan Spieth’s ‘weird’ season has him unsure about state of his game

Jordan Spieth reacts to a putt on the tenth green during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship

Jordan Spieth at the Players Championship last week.

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On paper, Jordan Spieth’s season has appeared unremarkable: two top-10s in six starts, 33rd in the FedEx Cup standings, shaky into the greens (118th in SG: Approaches) but stellar on them (9th in SG: Putting). Of course, statistics only tell you so much, and this is especially true in the case of Spieth’s 2024, which upon closer inspection reveals a high frequency of unusual happenings, even by Spieth’s exceedingly high unusual-happenings standards.

He began his season at The Sentry, in Maui, where it didn’t take long for the weirdness to ensue. In the Wednesday pro-am, Spieth cracked his gamer driver, leaving him scrambling to find a replacement. After hitting just 17 of 30 of Kapulua’s generous fairways in the first two rounds, Spieth was still tinkering with substitute drivers. But his accuracy that week did not improve — all in, he hit just half the fairways, which ranked nearly last in the field. Still, in classic Spieth fashion, the rest of his game was sound enough that he found himself in the mix on Sunday, which is when things got screwy again. On 15, after his drive nestled up to partner Harris English’s ball, Spieth was required to move his ball, watch English play and then place his ball back in English’s divot hole. Then came a fried-egg lie on 16, followed on 17 by another drive into a divot hole. Spieth ultimately finished two back of winner Chris Kirk.

Spieth didn’t play again until early February when he tied for 39th in the rain-shortened, 54-hole AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (a strange week for everyone!), and a week later tied for sixth at a chaotic WM Phoenix Open. The TPC Scottsdale event has long drawn huge and rowdy galleries but this year the environment was especially charged, with several players, Spieth among them, having to police the crowds. On Sunday, after a fan yelled in Spieth’s backswing on the 18th hole, Spieth tossed his iron and mouthed, “What the f—.”     

Then, a week later, came the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Spieth opened with a sensational five-under 66. On Friday, fighting reported flu-like symptoms, he cooled off with a 73, a round that would be wiped from the record books because Spieth had signed for a par on the par-3 4th when, in fact, he had made bogey. The scorecard gaffe resulted in disqualification. “Rules are rules, and I take full responsibility,” Spieth tweeted afterward. “…It hurts to not have a run at the weekend.”

At his next start, at Bay Hill, in mid-March, Spieth did play four rounds, in a blessedly uneventful week in which he shot one over and tied for 30th. Then, a week later: yep, more bizarreness, when Spieth found himself smack in the middle of Rory McIlroy’s drop controversy at the Players Championship. After McIlroy twice splashed tee shots — at 18 and 7 — in the opening round, his playing partners, Spieth and Viktor Hovland, in both instances helped adjudicate whether McIlroy was dropping properly. Playing partners weighing in on rules decisions isn’t all that unusual, but given the high-wattage names in the group and Spieth and Hovland’s assertiveness, the episode became the story of the day. The mood at 7 grew particularly testy when Spieth said to McIlroy, “Everyone that I’m hearing that had eyes on it … is saying they’re 100 percent certain it landed below the line.”

“Who’s everybody, Jordan?” McIlroy shot back. “Who are you talking about?”

Spieth didn’t speak to the media after that round but did after his second round. He was asked seven questions, five of which related to McIlroy’s drops.

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The other two questions were about a reported scheduled meeting between PGA Tour Policy Board player directors — of which Spieth is one — and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which funds LIV Golf. In his press scrum, Spieth didn’t provide much color on the purpose of the meeting, but it was another reminder that trying to make birdies and avoid bogeys aren’t the only thing on Spieth’s mind in what has been a challenging — and, yes, some might say, weird — stretch for the PGA Tour’s shapers. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job in balancing everything,” Spieth said this week. “But it doesn’t mean that anything’s getting full attention. So that’s okay right now, it’s just a blip in time.”

Did the distractions at Sawgrass hurt Spieth’s performance? He didn’t say, but he undoubtedly wasn’t his sharpest. After rounds of 74-72 in what were perfect scoring conditions, Spieth missed the cut by three.

And at the Valspar Championship this week? Spieth appears destined to sit out another weekend. Sitting at one over through two rounds (69-74) at Innisbrook, he’s one off the projected cut line.    

“It’s been a weird year,” Spieth said after his first round. “I’ve played well. I’ve had some weird circumstances that have kind of thrown some results out the window. I had the flu and a cracked driver, just random stuff that’s, like — so I’m kind of a little uncertain of where things are.”

That certainly was the case for Spieth on the par-4 2nd at Innisbrook on Friday, when after a tugged tee shot his ball nestled up against the base of a pine tree. After weighing his options with caddie Michael Greller for a couple of minutes — and not sounding thrilled by any of them — Spieth played an apt shot for this odd year.

He turned and faced the tree, swung left-handed and chopped his ball back to the rough.

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