PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Jordan Spieth hasn’t stopped pinching himself, all these years later.
“I remember vaguely the 2000 U.S. Open, watching it, and 2010 when Graeme [McDowell] won,” said Spieth, who was born in 1993. “And then having played the AT&T here, the last six or seven years, it's just one of the most amazing pieces of property in the world.
“The fact that we get to play golf on it is pretty amazing, and to have a major championship on it is even more special.”
He’s still there – honest and unassuming Jordan Spieth, who captured hearts and minds in 2015 when he won two majors and nearly won the other two – the fresh face who pulled golf from its tainted-Tiger doldrums.
Spieth never has departed. While those around him rise and rescind with the tides of professional golf, he never has lost perspective. He knows that things haven’t been the same. He has been off, but he knows he can be on. And he knows it’s not as simple as reaching for the switch. He is in it for the long haul, not the short sell.
Spieth has not won a major championship since the 2017 British Open. But he is 25 years old, wise beyond his years, and time is with him.
“Everybody gets off at some point in their career,” Spieth said. “If this is the last year or so results-wise of off for me, then I can use these kind of blueprints of how I've gotten back as kind of my set places to go to. Then things should stay in place a lot easier and not get as far off.
“And that's all I'm looking to do. I felt like I was able to put myself in position to win tournaments without really having much. So, when I get it back, it's just more consistent. I don't shoot 5 or 6 under and then 3 over and 3 over and then 5 under. I shoot 2 under on the bad days and 6 or 7 under on the good days … That's the difference in winning and not.”
So, is he close?
After being third at the Masters in 2018, Spieth counted a British Open tie for ninth as his best finish over his next 26 PGA Tour starts. Six missed cuts were sprinkled in for bad measure. For a player who ranked No. 1 in the world in 2015, started No. 2 in 2018 and now comes to the 2019 U.S. Open ranked No. 28, that’s a definite “off.”
But there has been a shift in recent weeks. Spieth tied for third at the PGA Championship, tied for eighth at Charles Schwab and most recently finished T-7 at Memorial. Eight of those 12 rounds were par or better. He is a more Spieth-like on the greens, ranking third in strokes gained putting and second from inside 25 feet.
That said, getting to the green is not a given. His right arm still gets a little stiff on occasion, his body jumps the shark and he flies open at impact. He remains a swollen 187th in strokes gained off-the-tee. “When I was swinging at my best, it was real nice and around my body, something that a lot of guys just take for granted,” Spieth said. “That needs to be a constant reminder for me.”
But the question begs to be asked. As he comes to Pebble Beach, where he won the AT&T Pro-Am in 2017, as he searches for “on” in a major championship setting … is he close?
“I think tee to green I'm still trying to find the consistency that I want,” he said. “But it's better than it's been in a while. And then putting and chipping has been right where I want it to be. I normally grade myself after a tournament, so I don't give myself the grade ahead of time.
“It's getting there. It's getting there.”
Jordan Spieth is still here, and there could be no better time for him to come out.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @WWDOD