Regression Watch: Will Jordan Spieth’s Weekend Woes Continue at Northern Trust?

Regression Watch: Will Jordan Spieth’s Weekend Woes Continue at Northern Trust? article feature image

Rob Kinnan, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jordan Spieth

  • Jordan Spieth shot 7-under par on Friday to climb up the Northern Trust leaderboard.
  • Spieth has struggled in the final rounds of tournaments this season, will that trend continue at Liberty National?

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – There’s a famous line that applies to the stock market, one which offers a warning to anyone trying to follow the trends: Past performance is not indicative of future results.

It’s a handy mantra for gamblers to keep in mind, too.

Jordan Spieth might want to whisper these words to himself a few times on the way to the first tee Saturday afternoon.

Following rounds of 67-64 at The Northern Trust, Spieth finds himself in an all-too-familiar situation this season: In contention through two rounds with melancholy thoughts of weekend struggles dancing through his head.

They are the most talked-about splits in golf since, well, this.

Forget the analytics and strokes gained statistics, all we need are scoring averages to understand that Spieth’s weekdays have far exceeded his weekends this season. Here’s the proof, entering this week:

  • Round 1: 69.35 (10th)
  • Round 2: 68.40 (2nd)
  • Round 3: 71.19 (172nd)
  • Round 4: 73.00 (195th)

This isn’t some slight pattern, it’s a resounding trend.

Last week’s Wyndham Championship served as a microcosm for his season. Spieth opened 64-67 – the same 131 total he’s sitting at right now – only to post a third-round 77 and miss the secondary cut.

Most statistical trends in golf are less egregious. A player might make 10 percent more birdies when missing fairways to the right than the left, or he might somehow have a better made-putt percentage from 15 feet away than 12.

Spieth’s stat is a punch-you-in-the-face number. It’s a concept that even the most casual fan can comprehend.

And it’s one he recognizes all too well.

When asked after his eight-birdie, one-bogey performance Friday if he needs a strong weekend to erase some recent scar tissue, Spieth dismissed the idea.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m just going for consistency. I don’t need anything, [but] certainly would be nice.”

The law of averages states that Spieth’s weekend struggles will turn around. After all, it’s not as if he isn’t capable of playing great golf – we see it from him nearly every Thursday and Friday. And it’s not as if he’s never played well on a weekend – for the first five years of his professional career, he won 14 titles, often showing a killer instinct during the final two rounds.

All of which suggests a reversal of fortune – at some point.

It’s gonna happen. It’s gotta happen.

The question now is this: Can it happen this weekend?

There are hints that, yes, this might finally be the final 36-hole stretch where Spieth carries his weekday performance into the weekend.

In previous tournaments, he was largely in contention on the strength of his uniquely torrid putting, a talent some insist is unsustainable at such a high level, but one he consistently sustains.

This week, though, he ranks in the top-40 in strokes gained off the tee, top-20 in strokes gained approach shots, top-30 in strokes gained around the green and – yes, again – top-10 in strokes gained putting.

He already understands what maintaining those numbers through the weekend would do for his confidence level.

“It’s about limiting the mistakes,” he said. “You know, one bogey over 36 holes is somewhat unrealistic week-to-week. But if I can hold it close to that for the next 36, again, that firepower is still there. And it would certainly shoot my confidence up.”

He needs it, as much as any elite-level player needs a shot in the arm right now.

At 69th on the FedEx Cup points list entering this week, he was on the verge of failing to advance to the second playoff event – a checkpoint that he’s now passed.

There’s plenty more to play for, though: After reaching the Tour Championship each of those first five years as a pro, he failed to make last year’s field and is attempting to stop the bleeding there. He’s also on the outside looking in for this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team, though captain Tiger Woods has insisted that candidates can still play their way onto the roster.

In contention entering the weekend, this should all be familiar territory for Spieth. The next step is ensuring the rest of the tournament is less familiar, as he tries to bring those Thursday-Friday scores to Saturday-Sunday this time.

There’s an obvious trend here, but the law of averages suggests that it has to end.

As we all know and as Spieth should be whispering to himself Saturday, past performance is not indicative of future results. We’ll soon find out whether that holds true this weekend.

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