News & Opinion

Oh, where have you gone Jordan Spieth?

The mind-boggling story in golf right now has nothing to do with the breadth of Dustin Johnson’s talent, or the bunker shot Tiger Woods hit in Mexico City, or even the Green Book

No, the real head scratcher is Jordan Spieth, as in where did he go and is he ever coming back? 

The “Mean Joe” Greene Spieth opened the WGC-Mexico Championship with last week might be explained. The father of Michael Greller - his caddie and good friend - passed away, which is plenty upsetting in itself. Thus, Jordan’s father Shawn Spieth was on the bag in Mexico.

“Father Knows Best” was a semi-popular TV show back in the 1950s; actor Robert Young had all the answers. But if Shawn Spieth knows best, his son wasn’t listening. Regardless, given the circumstances, the opening 75 was understandable. But Spieth shot another 75 on Saturday, his third 75 of the season. He also has an 81 to his credit, in the final round of the Genesis Open, as well as a 74, 73 and four 72s.

Spieth’s 2019 scoring average of 71.260 is 106th on the hit parade, and nearly three strokes north of his PGA Tour leading 68.846 of 2017. Many of his other categories are stunningly inflated. He is 184th in Greens In Regulation, 61st in Birdies, 219th in Driving Accuracy and, perhaps most pornographic, 116th in Putting. He — Jordan Spieth — has three-putted 17 times.

Hard to believe that 10 months ago Spieth put that smokin’ 64 on Augusta National and nearly fleeced a second green jacket. Turns out it was a tease, the swagger wasn’t back. Since that sizzling Sunday, Spieth has had other singularly impressive rounds, suggesting he’s still in there somewhere. But in a subsequent 19 starts worldwide, he has one top-10 finish, a T9 at the British Open last July. His best this season is T35 at the Farmer’s Insurance. 

Meanwhile, he has gone from No. 3 in the World Rankings to No. 25. He is close to falling out of the top 25 for the first time since 2013 and is just a Matt Kuchar tip away from showing up on milk cartons.

“Your career’s not defined by a couple of bad years,” Spieth said a few weeks ago. “I could have really poor years the rest of my career and still have a pretty fantastic career. So if I just think about it that way, it kind of, certainly frees me up a it.”

He’s right, of course. It’s easy to forget Spieth is still only 25 years old. He’s won three majors, 11 PGA Tour events and 14 championships worldwide. If this was the LPGA, he’d already be a Hall of Famer. And if he can win a PGA Championship sometime over the next 20 years, he will have something only five others in history have - a grand slam. He should have that perspective.

But for the rest of us, when a player achieves like that at a young age, the bar gets set in a different position than it occupies for the average PGA Tour Joe. Just ask Tiger Woods. When Spieth turned the golf universe on its ear in 2015, winning two majors and nearly winning all four, he revived a sport floundering under the weight of Woods’ decline. It wasn’t just that Spieth won, it was the substance with which he did. His honesty, intelligence and steely resolve were intoxicating. He was cocky and reverent at the same time, a disarming and rare quality. 

We believed Jordan Spieth was the one — different, special and perennial, the one to rise above the sea of parity. But it’s tough out there, loaded with long hitters, dart throwers and high rollers. And Spieth seems to be getting lost in the crowd. Golf was a better place when he was a prominent part of it. Who knows where he is, but let’s hope he finds his way back. 

TAP INS

  • Doctors treating insomnia are now recommending patients watch replays of Dustin Johnson fist pumps before bed.
  • Bernhard Langer withdrew from this week's PGA Tour Champions event, citing an injury to his rib and stomach area that he described as an "open wound.” For the love of God, somebody get some pressure on that!
  • Joanne and Len Sadowsky were competing in a couples golf competition at the Bonita National Golf Club in Bonita Springs Florida last week when - Joanne claims - a gator “jumped up and caught” her wayward ball. Startling, yes, but a hole in-one and a free game every day of the week.

STAT SCAN
Tiger Woods, who used to three-putt a green about every leap year, now has 12 three-putts over his last two tournaments. 

JOINTS IN REGULATION
Sometime in the coming few weeks, Rolling Greens in Smith Falls, Ontario will become Canada’s first cannabis-friendly golf course, according to weedmaps.com.

Formerly known as Lombard Glen, the facility plans to partner with licensed producers and allow them to “theme out their own hole,” according to Gordon Weiske, a partner in the joint. Weiske said Rolling Greens will not only permit the use cannabis, it will make it part of the course's identity. 

Perhaps “bogeys” will be called “bogarts,” “strokes” will be counted in “tokes” and “a good roll” will have a whole new meaning. Not sure of any plans for a “pitch and puff” executive course.

POP QUIZ
The word ”backstopping” is used to describe …

A. Frank Costanza’s favorite move
B. Fundraising efforts for families of fallen police and fire fighters
C. A surgical procedure to alleviate pain from sciatica 
D. A USGA rule 

The correct answer is D. The term became familiar to all when Amy Olson was accused of “backstopping” during the second round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. Olson banked a difficult pitch shot off Ariya Jutanugarn’s golf ball after asking Jutanugarn to leave her ball unmarked on the green. Olson then cleared the boards by making an easy follow-up putt for birdie. The golf community has been hyperventilating ever since. Former NBA bank-shot master Jerry West thought it was great.

QUOTEWORTHY
"When the phone call came for this opportunity to play in three events, I was like a little kid who just got one of the best Christmas gifts.” 
— John Smoltz, a baseball Hall of Famer and television analyst who will make the first of his three PGA Tour Champions starts as a sponsor exemption at the Cologuard Classic. 


Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine.

Email: dan13153@gmail.com
Twitter: @WWDOD