SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There were plenty of reasons to be encouraged.
For one thing, Jordan Spieth shot a second straight 67 to reach 8 under halfway through the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was just three shots behind early leaders Keegan Bradley (65) and 53-year-old U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker (66).
Specifically, though, Spieth was bolstered by his accuracy off the tee. One day after hitting just two of 14 fairways but saving himself on the greens (+3.811 Strokes Gained: Putting), he hit 10 fairways and tallied an uncharacteristically high 33 putts.
“Yeah, I felt like I played three, four shots better than yesterday and shot the same score,” said Spieth, who is 92nd in the world and 179th in the FedExCup.
As for the driving accuracy, he added, “That was the first time I’ve done that in a while.”
Spieth’s swoon has been a long-running story, and it goes back to his long game. He comes into this week 232nd in driving accuracy (47.81%). That’s in the neighborhood of where he was last season (181st at 52.14%), when he had just three top-10 finishes in 17 starts.
It’s not that he has been unable to score, or even to put two good rounds together. He shot 65-65 to open the Charles Schwab Challenge in June. Alas, he faded on the weekend for a T10.
Being in double digits in fairways found, though, could be a positive step.
“I can take a lot of confidence off that,” Spieth said. “I know exactly what I did to produce those. I know the difference in the bad ones yesterday to the good ones today. It’s just about repping it in, continuing to trust it and just being OK with the fact that it’s going to take time for it to be fully integrated with the stuff I’ve been working on.”
Plenty of fans are hoping he makes it back. He was asked whether he could feel their energy, and whether it makes the climb back easier or harder. Not necessarily, he said.
“It’s really just – I love the game,” Spieth said. “I want to play with freedom. I want to win golf tournaments and I want to get myself back. I’ve put in the hours. It’s just a matter of kind of working really smart, working on the right things, and then again, trusting it and just being okay with that patience of not having to see results right away.
“It’s a new thing for me,” he continued. “I went through 10 years plus of every single year I actually got better at golf and had better results, too, and then at some point that can’t continue to happen and then (a player must) go through adversity, and for me that’s taken longer to overcome than I certainly want it to, but I feel confident in my road ahead for sure.”