Jordan Spieth officially cannot replicate his incredible 2015. He's not going to win two majors this year, sitting 17 shots off the 54-hole lead of Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon.
Of course, it's hard not to compare the Spieth of this year against the Spieth that won the Masters in commanding fashion and gutted out a U.S. Open, while coming up four shots shy of winning the single-season grand slam. And, after remaining steadfast at Oakmont that he still could add multiple majors to his tally this year, reality has set in for the Texan. He's now bristling at the idea of living up to his unforgettable opening major act.
“It’s been tough given I think it’s been a solid year and I think had last year not happened I’d be having a lot of positive questions,” Spieth said Saturday after a third-round 72 at the Open Championship. “Instead, most of the questions I get are comparing to last year and, therefore, negative because it’s not to the same standard."
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Spieth's had a year most PGA Tour pros would consider more than solid -- they'd consider it a career year. He won by eight in the Tournament of Champions and dazzled his home-state crowd with a win at Colonial in the Dean & Deluca Invitational. That's not something to forget, though Spieth seems to lose sight of that success when he's asked about how he's not replicating the same wins in the majors.
“So that’s almost tough to then convince myself that you’re having a good year when nobody else really – even if you guys think it is, the questions I get make me feel like it’s not," he said.
“So I think that’s a bit unfair to me, but don’t feel sorry for me. I’ll still be OK. But I would appreciate if people would look at the positives over comparing to maybe hopefully what would happen to me a few times in my career, a year like last year.”
The positives are clear but so, too, are the negatives. Spieth hasn't broken par in the last 10 major rounds, since opening the Masters with 6-under 66. He's lost the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to Jason Day. He's struggled to keep up with the physicality and power of Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and the up-and-coming crop of challengers that have been squarely focused this year on beating him and taking his spot. Spieth has been working on changes with teacher Cam McCormick which he feels will help him catch up some and improve his tee-to-green game long-term. Those changes have started to pay dividends, including this week. Had Spieth's putter not let him down on the slow greens at Troon and he been on the lucky end of the tee sheet, this week may have gone better.
That part is rooted in reality. Then there's the gray area of perception. Some fans have turned on Spieth, calling him whiny, saying he takes too long to play and talks to his golf ball too much. He's vowed to make changes, but that's not the problem. This is the backlash that comes with not winning: the things that seemed great and endearing when hoisting trophies rub people the wrong way it goes sideways.
The quickest solution to all of Spieth's problems -- perceived and real -- comes in two weeks in New Jersey: winning the Wanamaker at the PGA Championship.