Sobel: Fool Me Three Times? Shame on Spieth

Credit:

Ray Carlin – USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jordan Spieth.

The Highlights

  • Jordan Spieth insists he’s close to a breakthrough — and there’s reason to buy in.
  • Despite putting woes, Spieth still finished T-21 at the Byron Nelson.
  • Spieth is well-suited to Colonial and has a history of strong performances there.

Two weeks ago, Jordan Spieth was beyond frustration.

His best stuff had eluded him so much recently that he had to laugh to keep from crying — or at least to keep from chucking a club into the nearest lake.

It was late in the final round of The Players Championship, where Spieth was playing in the fifth-to-last pairing of the day with Tiger Woods, sort of in contention entering the round, but needing an extraordinarily low number to put a scare into Webb Simpson.

With an unremarkable two birdies and one bogey through 15 holes, Spieth decided to go for the green on the par-5 sixteenth hole and watched as it trickled into the nearby hazard.

He then turned to caddie Michael Greller and, without any other way to analyze his game, offered a little sarcasm.

“It’s a good thing I don’t like money,” he told him.

I’ll own it: I liked him to play well at TPC Sawgrass. Coming off three consecutive missed cuts at that venue, I figured the law of averages would catch up and he’d enjoy some positive regression. After all, the course actually suits his game and — if we were to believe the words coming out of Spieth’s mouth — he was close to putting everything together.

Instead, he had bookend rounds of 75 and 74 — the latter after a final-hole quadruple-bogey — and finished in a disappointing share of 41st place.

And so I did what any smart gambler would do in this situation: I doubled down.

In last week’s preview, I warned that Spieth might be the ultimate “trap game” at the AT&T Byron Nelson, the byproduct of his mysteriously balky putter and being the oddsmakers’ prohibitive favorite. I also admitted that I was going directly for the bait and diving right into the trap, picking him to win on a home track where he’d own a decided advantage.

Instead, he finished tied for 21st.

So, here’s hoping a smart gambler would triple down in this scenario. Or perhaps more telling: Here’s admitting that I’m not a very smart gambler.

That’s right — fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times and I might permanently remove myself from the Spiethwagon.

I’m still riding with Spieth at this week’s Fort Worth Invitational (again the favorite at +900), fully aware that his magic wand of a putter has more resembled a wet noodle this year. Just last week, on Trinity Forest greens that he knows better than anyone else in that field, he finished the tourney at -3.662 strokes gained putting, which ranked 72nd in the 75-man field that made the cut.

So, why am I still on him? Three reasons:

 

  1. As mentioned, despite those putting woes, he still finished 21st last week. It’s actually pretty damned difficult to putt that poorly and finish that high on the leaderboard, but that’s a testament to his current tee-to-green game. I’ve always been a big believer that swings need some time to come around, but putting can be fixed in a hurry. Spieth’s ball-striking is better now than it’s ever been.
  2. Colonial suits him perfectly. It’s always been a not-so-well-kept secret in Camp Spieth — even going back to the TPC Las Colinas days — that Colonial was the better event for his game. Of course, the Nelson was the tourney where Jordan and his father, Shawn, used to watch the likes of Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III, and the one that first gave him a PGA Tour start as a high school student. It holds a special place in his heart. But trust me: If Spieth had to pick only one North Texas-area event where he has the best chance to win, he’d pick this one, as evidenced by his victory here two years ago, which was sandwiched by runner-up finishes before and after.
  3. I tend to listen to Spieth when he insists he’s close, and he’s still maintaining that stance. Here’s what he had to say about Colonial after the final round of the Nelson on Sunday: “I’m very excited. My game is in really in good shape, tee to green been very solid this year, making progress. Had a lot of really good putts that week that somehow missed on a lot of them. I had trouble reading the greens. I don’t struggle reading the greens at Colonial.”

So yeah, I’m still drinking the Jordan Kool-Aid. Spieth’s track record at his event, his strong ball-striking stats, his continued insistence that his game is a lot closer than it may appear — I’m buying all of it.

I understand the fade. Spieth hasn’t won since Birkdale last summer and those putting stats are u-g-l-y. There’s just still too much going for Spieth this week.

One more ride on the Spiethwagon. If it blows a tire in the slow lane again, I’ll start hitchhiking.

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