For the first time as a professional, Jordan Spieth missed the cut in his year-dropping PGA Tour event. Despite a commendable fight back on Friday at Waialae Country Club, Spieth couldn’t get to 2-under 138 and make the weekend.
There were plenty of moments here and there Spieth no doubt would like to have back. There were some short putts. There were some poor drives. There were some approaches that rode the wind a little too much — or were stymied just enough to land short. That’s golf, yes, but at the PGA Tour level, the margin for making the cut is pretty thin after an over-par opening round.
Spieth has now missed the cut in back-to-back PGA Tour starts, dating back to his last pre-wedding start at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November in Mexico. He missed consecutive cuts at Memorial and the US Open last year. He did so once in May 2017 and in the first two playoff events of 2015. However, those missed cuts happened with Spieth at the forefront and much less noise in the background.
Coming off the worst year of his professional career, Spieth has gotten off to an inauspicious start to begin perhaps a crossroads year in his career. He’s been passed by young players like Brooks Kopeka, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Scahuffele and even Patrick Reed in the Official World Golf Ranking. In the space of 14 months, Koepka caught him to tie for second for most majors among players under 30. (Rory McIlroy has four majors and is 29 until May.)
Spieth isn’t getting any longer, but he’s long enough for now, even if Cameron Champ already has a PGA Tour trophy and a deep bench of Web.com Tour and collegiate bombers are waiting for their turn. When he’s playing his best, he takes a steady driving game and converts with best-in-class ballstriking. However, the putter is seen as his greatest weapon, along with a choice short game, which also dipped significantly — though not as precipitously — last season. He lost strokes putting last year, completing a four-season turn from 9th to 2nd to 39th to 123rd in the mark.
The putter failed him miserably on Thursday, and, while he made up most of the strokes lost putting on Friday, he missed some key putts in a bid to get to the weekend.
“I put a really bad stroke on a par putt on 6 today,” Spieth said Friday.
The good news is there may have been the long-awaited eureka moment as Spieth tries to right the ship inside 6 feet, where he has become statistically one of the worst putters on the PGA Tour.
He explained, “I had been thinking about my stroke on every putt I had hit from yesterday until that hole, and I just told myself, ‘Just point, aim, and shoot and stop thinking.’ Because I’ve been working on my stroke so much that I’m thinking about doing the path of the stroke.”
Perhaps that can quell those, like Hank Haney, who says Spieth has visible signs of the yips on short putts. However, Spieth walked away Friday most concerned that the longest clubs in his bag held him back.
“Really if my 3-iron and driver were where they should be, it’s a different story,” he said after his second round.
Spieth is working on a downswing move he says is “impossible” to execute right now with the longer clubs. It leads him to overcompensate or, worse, return to a familiar feeling he can’t really feel now.
“I had three or four different golf swings throughout the week on the golf course,” he said. “That’s unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever played with more than one kind of swing feel.”
Knowing he’s been working on some changes, coming off the biggest change to his personal life, he seemed willing to accept no pay for the long flight.
“I knew coming in that the game was off and needed to kind of start to fine tune,” Spieth said.
Consider this a starting point, then. He said before the Sony Open that he knows he’s arriving on the first tee without his best game. Spieth could go up from here, and in a hurry. While his last season in totality was poor, he has flourishes in big moments: nearly closing with 63 at the Masters to apply pressure to Patrick Reed and carrying a share of the 54-hole lead at the British Open Championship. It’s not like those chances won’t be there if Spieth doesn’t get too discouraged by the inevitable disappointments that come with taking what’s he doing well on the range inside the ropes.
But that’s going to be the rub for the three-time major winner. He wants to get better, and the journey there is paved with failure, frustration and a bit of fear. How long will it take? Will he ever get there? How many times will he have to come up short before it all clicks?
While he’s as patient of a player as they come, at the moment Spieth seems frustrated with the process.
“It’s a learning experience,” Spieth said of missing the cut, “but I’m tired of learning experiences.”