Why one Jordan Spieth shot on a Friday could get you excited
Jordan Spieth has played the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am eight times, and he said each time he’s played the 325-yard, par-4 17th hole at Spyglass Hill, he’s hit 3-wood. There are three bunkers along the right side of the fairway, and one on the left, and five more circle the green. Accuracy is the play.
On Friday, during the second round of this year’s tournament, Spieth hit driver.
Spieth, who’s ranked 219th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee this season, who hit two of 14 fairways during a round last week, who’s in the midst of a three-year winless slide, and a three-year search to end it, was hitting the club that may be his biggest bugaboo.
He hit it well and just short of the traps in front of the green. Spieith pitched on from there and birdied the hole.
“So I hit 3-wood there every year, but it had warmed up and the wind was off the right and I had felt really comfortable hitting a draw with the driver today, so I thought with how it had warmed up, I thought I could get it up either into the greenside bunker or just short, which gives me the up slope,” Spieth said. “If I hit 3-wood, I end up with a 55-yard shot, and with that green, it’s just a really tough one to get close. It’s that awkward kind of range. If I overcook it, you’re fine.
“So it was, with that wind off the right, it was a more comfortable shot for me, and it got up to where it was on that upslope, and I was able to get it to where I had an uphill putt, which is hard to do on that hole.”
Comfortable. Spieth said it twice. Want to know how he feels about his swing? Want to know how he feels after shooting rounds of 67, 67 and 61 on his way to tying for fourth last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and seven-under 65 during Thursday’s first round? He hit driver. He’s comfortable. On Friday, he added five more birdies for a five-under 67 and a one-stroke lead at the halfway point at Pebble.
“It feels a little bit better,” Spieth said. “I’m trusting some shots that I probably would have held off on there, which is normal. So still a lot of progress for the feels to kind of match-up the exact timing. I get a little off with the timing as I go up the bag a little bit, but ultimately enough to where I can play shots that I need to play and certain, if I feel a little uncomfortable, to kind of stay in that hole, and then take advantage when it’s feeling good.”
Sounds good. Spieth birdied the 560-yard, par-5 14th on an 8-foot putt. He birdied the 17th for a two-under 34 on the front nine. He birdied the 370-yard, par-4 4th after hitting his approach to within about 6 feet, then birdied the 203-yard, par-3 5th after rolling in a 40-footer. Spieth would birdie back-to-back holes once more — he dropped a 25-foot putt on the 549-yard, par-5 7th and a 10-footer on the 399-yard, par-4 8th.
All good. But it’s not all good. Spieth’s hit 17 of 28 fairways over his two rounds, which is tied for 51st in the tournament, and he’s 42nd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. After his three rounds in the 60s last week, he shot a final-round 72. Five of his past six rounds have been in the 60s, but those are just five rounds.
Spieth hit driver.
“They feel like they’re progressions each day,” Spieth said. “Sunday was really good for me to just kind of be able to learn a little bit from the tendencies, especially as I go into the next two days. I’m just trying to kind of get more comfortable being towards the top of the leaderboard and kind of feeling those nerves. You start to get more comfortable the more often you’re there, and these two days playing with or around the lead for at least the back nine yesterday through most of the round today, I felt a lot more comfortable than I did last week, which is a good sign. So not to say that it won’t be a significant challenge the next two days, but I would say equal progressions each day.”