Bad putting by Spi­eth dif­fi­cult to fathom

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Steve Hum­mer

SOUTHAMP­TON, N.Y. — Liv­ing in a world in which Jor­dan Spi­eth can’t putt just seems wrong.

It is as if, sud­denly, Gor­don Ram­say couldn’t boil wa­ter or Leonardo Di­Caprio couldn’t get a date. There are laws of na­ture be­ing tri­fled with here.

Yet, it’s right there in one of the PGA Tour’s mys­te­ri­ous yet handy sta­tis­ti­cal tools — en­ter­ing this week’s U.S. Open, Spi­eth ranks 190th in strokes gained putting. Down from 186th the week be­fore.

The sun rises. The tides ebb and flow. And Spi­eth makes putts like the cup is big­ger around than a pro wrestler’s head. These are sup­posed to be the sim­ple truths of life.

If it’s any com­fort, Spi­eth keeps in­sist­ing he’s get­ting the feel back and is ready to take off as he did last sea­son (two vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing the British Open, and two sec­onds fol­low­ing the 2017 U.S. Open).

The missed cut two weeks ago at the Memo­rial wasn’t his put­ter’s fault, he said.

“I putted well and am trending in the right di­rec­tion,” Spi­eth said Tues­day. “The game feels like it’s in re­ally good shape right now, as good as it has this year. I’ve got a good chance at a

strong sec­ond half of the year. Any­thing sim­i­lar to the sec­ond half of last year would make 2018 an amaz­ing year.”

Spi­eth’s putting prob­lems be­gan show­ing them­selves last year and have been mag­ni­fied over the course of a 2018 sea­son that, save for a last-round 64 that made him a fac­tor at the Masters, has been un-Spi­ethly and un­spec­tac­u­lar. In five events since the Masters, for in­stance, Spi­eth has two missed cuts and has no top-20 fin­ishes.

He ad­dressed that is­sue quite force­fully in Fe­bru­ary, telling the me­dia: “I still be­lieve that with most (Tour pros), you ask them who do they want putting on your team in a Ry­der Cup, I be­lieve they would say my name. So, I have no doubt in my abil­i­ties. Just go­ing through a mi­nor slump that is set-up re­lated.” De­cline only tem­po­rary

The mi­nor slump has deep­ened, which is baf­fling for a cou­ple of rea­sons. First, he’s only 24, hardly sus­cep­ti­ble to the jan­gling nerves that af­flict the golfer in the twi­light of his ca­reer. And, if there is a sig­na­ture in­stru­ment to Spi­eth’s ge­nius, it is the put­ter. In his hands, it has been a sur­gi­cal tool. He made the act of rolling a small ball into a slightly larger hole seem wholly nat­u­ral and al­most easy.

With the short stick, Spi­eth was the truth, like Kevin Du­rant pulling up from 20 feet. With this Biz­zaro World Spi­eth, the viewer gets the yips watching him.

Dur­ing his tran­scen­dent run to two ma­jor ti­tles and a FedEx Cup cham­pi­onship in 2015, Spi­eth ranked first in fewest putts per round, and no one made more putts from out­side 20 feet than he did. Those rank­ings are 127th and 192nd to­day.

One noted ex­pert on the short game, how­ever, said such a dip is just as ex­pected as it is tem­po­rary.

“I would say that Jor­dan is a great put­ter that will have oc­ca­sional mo­ments of poor putting, and those will go away quickly, and he’ll be back to a great put­ter,” Phil Mick­el­son said. “Many guys out on Tour are poor put­ters and have a few mo­ments of great putting. He’s just one of those guys that it will click overnight. These mo­ments of putting not to his level of ex­pec­ta­tion will go away quickly. He’s just too good of a put­ter not to get it back.”

Bad putting can re­lease the chip­munks in one’s brain. And, as with any chain­saw jug­gling act, you just don’t want to bring anx­i­ety or un­steadi­ness to the putting green. Trust­ing the process Spi­eth said he re­mains con­fi­dent, just as he re­mains pa­tient.

“Re­sults aren’t go­ing to come by want­ing them to come,” he said. “They’re go­ing to come by be­ing ob­sessed with the process.

“I feel like my game is in the best shape it’s been in a long time, in­clud­ing last year. My re­sults don’t nec­es­sar­ily speak to­wards that, but … I’ll stick with the process. They’ll surely come at some point.”

Just make a putt. And we can be­come more ac­quainted with what passes for nor­mal again.

Tom Pennington / Getty Im­ages

Jor­dan Spi­eth’s putting, once a strength, has con­sis­tently let him down in 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.