The Misconception about Jordan Spieth

July 31, 2019
Justin Ray

Ranked 37th in the world and 67th in the FedExCup standings, Jordan Spieth is in the field at the Wyndham Championship this week.

It’s the first time Spieth has played in this event since 2013, when he lost in a playoff to fellow future Masters champion Patrick Reed. That week, Jordan came incredibly close to becoming the youngest two-time PGA Tour winner since 1900, at just 20 years, 23 days old.

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His relative struggles have been much-discussed in recent months, but there’s a common misconception when it comes to what’s bothering the three-time major champion. In 2015, fans, broadcasters and writers all seemed to walk away with the perception that Jordan’s success was fueled by magical putting performance, and that the wizardry has left him this season. The numbers say something different.

Jordan Spieth is putting better this season than he did in 2015. Really. He is.

Spieth averaged 0.57 strokes gained putting per round in 2015, when he won PGA Tour Player of the Year. This season, he’s averaging 0.74 strokes gained per round.

If you’re not a total strokes gained convert by now, how about this: in 2019, Spieth is making more feet of putts per round, more putts from four to eight feet, more putts from ten to fifteen feet, and more putts from 25 feet or farther.

This misconception about Spieth’s game discredits how great he was tee-to-green in past seasons, as well. In 2015, Jordan ranked better in strokes gained tee-to-green (fourth) than he did in strokes gained putting (ninth).

In 2017, he was second on the Tour in strokes gained approach and strokes gained tee-to-green. When Spieth is at his best, it’s not because he’s making everything in sight – it’s because he’s flagging irons from all over the golf course.

That’s not something Spieth has been doing much of in 2019. He’s down to 147th on Tour in strokes gained approach, 183rd in strokes gained off-the-tee, and 189th in greens in regulation. Only five qualified players on Tour this season are hitting fewer fairways than Jordan is. In 2015, he led the Tour in approach shot proximity from the rough. This season, he’s tied for 80th.

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It’s not all negative, though: Spieth is coming off a tie for 12th last week in Memphis, where he shot 70 or lower in all four rounds – the first time he’s done that in a PGA Tour event in nearly eleven months.

NOTES ON KEY PLAYERS IN THE FIELD

– This will be the 12th consecutive year that this event has been held at Sedgefield Country Club. Of the 58 players with at least 20 rounds played on this course in that span, Webb Simpson has the best scoring average at 67.0. Simpson finished runner-up last week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude after firing a final round 64.

– The next players on that list after Webb – among those in the field this week – are Brandt Snedeker (67.5), Bill Haas (67.6) and Harris English (67.6). Snedeker, who shot 59 in the first round here last year then went on to win, will try to become the first player to successfully defend his title in Greensboro since Sam Snead in 1956.

– Not surprisingly, Simpson (-65) and Snedeker (-57) lead all players in cumulative score to par in this tournament over the last five years. Haas (-49) is third.

– Distance is almost never as irrelevant on the PGA Tour as it is this week in Greensboro. There have been 25 players to finish in the top-five (and ties) at this event since 2015. Of those 25, none have ranked in the top-20 that season in driving distance (all drives) on the Tour. More than half of those players (14) were outside the top-100 in that statistic for the season, including each of the top-five finishers in 2018.

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– Of all players with 12 or more rounds on this course since 2013, the players with the most birdies/eagles per round are Snedeker (5.0) and Sangmoon Bae (also 5.0).

– Fresh off his win at the Barracuda Championship, Collin Morikawa is in the field. In his small sample size of twenty stroke play rounds on the PGA Tour, Morikawa has averaged 1.28 strokes gained approach per round – that would lead the Tour if he had enough rounds to officially qualify. The former number one amateur in the world is 58th in official money this season despite only playing in six tournaments.