News & Opinion

Jordan Spieth ‘moves needle in right direction’

Jordan Spieth final round 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Jordan Spieth comes up short Sunday at the Phoenix Open, but the fact that he was in contention in the final round of a PGA Tour event rates as a positive development for the former world No. 1 golfer.

Sure, he hasn’t won in 3½ years, but for 54 holes at the Phoenix Open, Spieth shows flashes of his major-championship form

Is Jordan Spieth back? If not quite all the way, he sure appears to be close.

Spieth, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in 3½ years, let a potential 12th career victory slip away Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. As the 54-hole co-leader, Spieth struggled with a 1-over 72 at TPC Scottsdale to finish tied for fourth, two strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka (scores).

“I was comfortable in the position I was in, and that's a very new position for me, because it's been a little while,” Spieth said. “So, I like to compare it to how I was in 2014 a number of times in the final group. The putts didn't go in on Sunday. You’ve got to relearn what tendencies you have and then just keep on getting there, keep on getting in position. Then, they go your way sometimes.”

Sunday at TPC Scottsdale was no such day.

After a bogey-free, 10-under 61 on Saturday, Spieth was tied with final-round playing competitor Xander Schauffele, three strokes ahead of the field to begin play. But Spieth made three bogeys against no birdies through 11 holes to fade from the lead. He drove two balls into water on the back nine – at the par-5 15th and the par-4 17th – though he saved par on both holes. Two birdies in the final six holes weren’t nearly enough.

Spieth, 27, who ascended to the top of the game with four major championships in a 2½-year span and 26 weeks at No. 1 in the world ranking in 2015-16, hasn’t won anything since claiming the 2017 British Open title. In fact, dating to his missed cut in last year’s Phoenix Open, he had registered only two top-10 results in 20 starts: T-9 last year at Pebble Beach and a T-10 at Colonial. He missed the cut in his only previous 2021 start, one week earlier at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The past week in the desert felt a lot like old times for him, though.

“Swing-wise, it felt the same as the last couple days,” Spieth said, “so I’m progressing, but clearly not an ‘A’ game. But enough to be able to stay in and hit some greens and give myself some chances.

“So, that's the goal. I'm really excited about the progress that has been made in the first two weeks.”

Spieth entered the week at No. 92 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is worst position since his rookie season, 2013.

“I believe in what I'm doing,” he said. “A result like this just helps confirm what I was already feeling, and that just moves the needle in the right direction.”

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