“We may as well pack our bags.”
That’s what Jordan Spieth said to his caddie on his final hole of Friday’s second round of the Safeway Open in Napa, California. Instead of staying in Wine Country for two more rounds, Spieth knew he had to decide whether to head home to Texas for a couple days of rest or head to New York for some extra prep time at Winged Foot ahead of next week’s U.S. Open.
And it all happened in an instant. Looking for mini-victories as he tries to emerge from a slump lasting more than two years, Spieth was on the cutline and on the ninth hole of the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa when his travel itinerary changed as quickly as his second shot on the par-5 banged off a tree limb and headed straight into a hazard.
Thinking he needed to make birdie to feel comfortable about making the cut, Spieth had to take a drop and made double-bogey 7 and packed his bags after rounds of 73-70.
He declined to speak to the media following the round but then again, the story hasn’t changed. Spieth’s struggles continue, whether he’s fighting an uncooperative driver, dealing with sluggish iron play or clashing with his putter.
And momentum? He can’t find any.
The former world No. 1 has dropped to 67th in the official world rankings and he hasn’t won since capturing the Claret Jug in the 2017 Open Championship. The three-time major champion, with 11 PGA Tour titles on his resume, has played 54 events since finishing in a tie for third in the 2018 Masters and has more missed cuts – 10 – than top-10 finishes – 8.
Since golf returned in June following a 13-week break due to COVID-19, Spieth has one top-10 and three MCs. His latest trunk slammer came Friday when, after starting on the 10th hole, he was piecing together a good round despite not having his best form. There was Spieth magic – he knocked in a flop shot for birdie on 17 after his errant approach clanked off a camera tripod. He also knocked a long iron from 222 yards to two feet for a birdie on the seventh and had four other birdies.
He was grinding toward the weekend before it all ended on the ninth hole.
But Spieth will continue to grind. He won’t sulk, won’t get lazy, won’t quit. He’s confident his best form will return along with his status as one of the game’s best.
“I almost feel at times like the game is testing me a little bit right now because I feel really good about the progress I’ve been making, and then it seems like I’ll really have one (good round) brewing, and then I’ll get where I used to hit a tree and go in the fairway, it’ll hit a tree and go off the cart path out-of-bounds,” Spieth said ahead of the 102nd PGA Championship last month.
“It just feels like I kind of here or there am taking some punches right now.”
The latest haymaker came on the ninth hole in Napa, where his ball hit a tree but didn’t go into the fairway.
“I’m in no hurry,” Spieth said at the PGA Championship. “I’ve got a lot of years in front of me and hopefully the best years in front of me. I just stay the course. I keep my head down, focus on what our team is trying to accomplish and work each day really, really hard. I’ve worked my butt off over the last year mentally, physically and mechanically.
“Things will start to come together.”
Since those words, Spieth has tied for 71st in the PGA Championship, tied for 72nd in the Wyndham Championship and missed the cut in the Northern Trust and the Safeway Open. And now he heads to Winged Foot, a rugged course that is not kind to anyone trying to emerge from an abyss of poor play.
But Spieth will continue his search for lost form no matter where his travels take him.