Southampton, N.Y. — Lots of folks have become accustomed to seeing Jordan Spieth’s name atop leaderboards, particularly at golf’s majors. So has Spieth.
Yet since winning the British Open last July, Spieth barely has been a factor on the weekends. He believed third-place finishes in Houston and at the Masters had indicated a turnaround heading into this week’s U.S. Open. But since Augusta, his best showing in five tournaments is a tie for 21st at the Byron Nelson, and he twice missed cuts, including most recently at the Memorial.
Not quite the stuff that rocketed Spieth to the top of golf, with Masters and U.S. Open wins in 2015, and his third major last summer at Royal Birkdale.
“Yeah, I think my patience has been tested, just not going into Saturday or Sunday with a legitimate chance to win but maybe once,” Spieth said Tuesday at Shinnecock Hills. “Technically the Masters, I didn’t really have a chance. The back nine, I ended up giving myself a chance.
“Yeah, just the limited number compared to previous years of chances I’ve had on the weekends has been frustrating.”
Spieth, 24, always has been mature as a competitor and person. When he went after the career Grand Slam for the first time last year at the PGA Championship, he wound up 10 shots back. No one contemplated he wouldn’t have won another PGA Tour title since, missing two cuts before the Masters and two more after.
While exasperated, Spieth, as always, believes he is close to the way out of this mini-slump — for him, at least.
“Over the last, since probably in between Austin (a first-round elimination by Patrick Reed in match play) and Houston was a really big weekend for me of settling down and getting back on the right track with things,” he said.
“And recognizing that it’s a long career, and, you know, results aren’t going to come by wanting them to come. They’re going to come by being obsessed with the process, getting back to the basics, being an athlete, figuring out within the swing, the intricacies of the game. Kind of the stuff — the reason I love to practice — that’s what’s going to kind of bring it back, and results aren’t everything.”
Maybe not, except that when the results have been so spectacular so quickly, they become how you are measured by the public.
Spieth has won 11 times in his first five full seasons, including those three major championships. His putting skills are envied by many of his peers. So are his analytical breakdowns of shots, holes, his swing.
His optimism that all will be right again is praise-worthy — and probably accurate.
“I feel like my game is in the best shape it’s been in a long time, including last year,” he said. “And my results don’t necessarily speak towards that, but I feel that way, and so I’ll stick with the process, and they’ll surely come at some point.”
If that point is this week, Spieth must outshoot not only the sentimental fan choices (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) but all of those young guns who have begun to grab majors: Reed, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka.
“It almost feels like I’m back in high school and college,” Spieth joked. “These are the same guys we used to battle it out with then, and I’d win one, then they would win one. It’s just blown up now because there was no coverage; no one really cared to watch us back then, and now people do.
“But it’s nothing different than what we’ve kind of been doing with each other for a number of years. It’s really cool to be out here doing it, but I don’t think we … think of it as a totally different experience than anything we’ve always kind of done.”
Where: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y., 7,445 yards, par 35-35-70
Purse: $12 million
TV: Thursday and Friday — 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (FS1), 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Fox); Saturday — 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Fox); Sunday — 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Fox)
U.S. Open champions at Shinnecock Hills: James Foulis (1896), Raymond Floyd (1986), Corey Pavin (1995), Retief Goosen (2004)