Jordan Spieth. Ben Jared
All hail Jordan Spieth, who just gave every golf enthusiast a lifetime hall pass. It turns out, ladies and gentlemen, that a surefire way to play better golf is to play more golf. Who knew? If it’s good enough for a three-time major winner, then it’s good enough for the rest of us.
Spieth cobbled together a seven-under-par 63 on Thursday at TPC Southwind to forge a one-stroke lead in the FedEx St Jude Championship. It was a rather tidy round, too, notwithstanding the squishy turf from more than two inches of rain the previous 24 hours that provided a tell-tale sign who played well and who didn’t. Slacks with a minimum of mud stains generally indicated considerable time spent on fairways and greens. (Jon Rahm had mud splattered up to his knees; he shot three-over, so, there you go.)
Spieth was bogey-free with 15 greens hit in regulation and 24 putts the highlights of his day. He ranked second in strokes gained/tee to green. He chipped in for eagle at the par-5 16th. Clean round, clean card.
Coming off a T-23 finish at the Open Championship, where he struck the ball well but scored in rather mediocre fashion, Spieth retreated home to Dallas and decided that practice is overrated. In his case, he figured he just needed to play more.
“I tried to play a lot just to shoot scores,” said Spieth, who had outings with World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim, the latter who stands second alone one stroke behind Spieth. “I had kind of taken off playing a bunch, and I think that that helped a bit in the last couple weeks [to play more].
“I did that a ton in the spring, and then when I had kind of my wrist thing [prior to the PGA Championship], I was trying to rest,” he added. “I just found that I wasn’t playing a ton in that break between US Open and Scottish Open, and so I just got to the Scottish, and I felt like things were good, but I just wasn’t scoring, so it was pretty frustrating. Some of that just has to do with knocking putts in, and some of it has to do with actually getting out there and not just being on a driving range or a putting green. I felt like the more I’m playing at home and not having to work on a ton of stuff, the better it comes out to the course here.”
It’s worth noting that Spieth, 30, posted five top-six finishes in the spring, including T-4 at the Masters and a playoff loss the following week to Matt Fitzpatrick at the RBC Heritage.
His coach, Cameron McCormick, endorsed the idea to the extent that he suggested Spieth even travel outside Dallas to find some games. Fortunately, there’s plenty of competition at home.
“This isn’t new. I just hadn’t done a ton of it in the last month or so,” he said.
Spieth conceded that he had “a couple of nice rounds” at Maridoe, a testing Steve Smyers design in nearby Carrollton, Texas. They were nice enough, in fact, that he was smiling when he was asked how he made out financially — because to make it interesting and get the blood flowing a little, there has to be something on the line against “friends”.
“Just fine. Yeah, just fine,” he replied, grinning.
The payoff could be sweeter if he can maintain that form throughout the weekend.