Jordan Spieth shot 79 on Thursday in the first round of the Northern Trust Open. Let that sink in for a minute.
I’ll blow your mind even further. Spieth trails Day 1 leader Camilo Villegas by 16 shots.
Spieth’s last hole capped off his worst start in his short PGA Tour career. After Spieth missed the 18th green at Riviera Country Club, he chipped up to about 8 feet for par. From there, he three-putted for a double-bogey 6. Spieth didn’t look angry. He looked stunned.
At the end of the day, Spieth found himself tied for next to last in the 144-player field. Only Steven Bowditch was worse on Thursday. He shot 81.
“It’s just a day to forget,” Spieth said. “It’s one in, hopefully, every couple years. I’ve shot 80 before — I’ve shot in the 80s a couple times on tour. I think I shot 79 today. In the course of a career, I imagine it’s going to happen. Just unfortunate when it actually does.”
Taken in its entirety, Spieth’s day was horrible. However, it was his finish which raised eyebrows. He played the final seven holes in 6 over par, turning what what on pace to be a disappointing round in soft conditions into a total head-scratcher.
Spieth said last week in Pebble Beach that, in his last three tournaments, he has waltzed in expecting to win and not preparing with the same vigor since kicking off 2016 with an eight-shot win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He had mistakenly started to believe every week could be that easy. Wrong.
The 22-year-old has demonstrated through his brief pro career that he learns quickly from his mistakes. So, it seemed a somewhat safe assumption that he could quickly steer the ship in the right direction this week. The problem is that Spieth also has a tendency to be especially hard on himself when he doesn’t live up to his standards. The trap he fell into, believing he could win going away most every week, raised the bar in his own mind. He’s the victim of his own success.
Perhaps he can be the beneficiary of his own failure. Spieth wasn’t visibly angry with himself on Thursday. He was talking with playing competitor and buddy Justin Thomas, chatting it up with caddie Michael Greller. No club slamming. If Spieth can avoid knocking himself down a peg when he’s struggling, then he focus energy on smaller, short-term goals that can help him turn bad rounds into modest ones.
“I felt like there was a couple rounds last week where I shot 2 under and I was more miserable than I was today,” Spieth said. “It’s amazing. I feel really confident about where my game is, and had a great range session.”
A modest round on Friday isn’t going to get Spieth to the weekend, which the two-time 2015 major winner still has eyes on making. He’s eight back of the cut line right now, so he’s going to need a round darn near 60 on Friday to do it.
“I’m not throwing this tournament away,” Spieth said. “I believe that I can shoot 10-under par on this golf course. … I’m not packing it in by any means.”