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Heat Check: Jordan Spieth

Casey Kirchberg Opinion, Players Leave a Comment

Jordan Spieth’s win at the Travelers Championship sparked storylines galore, but it also reminded golf fans just how good Jordan can be.

His playoff hole out from the greenside bunker stole the show. He defeated the surging Daniel Berger, who had all of the momentum after finishing 3 under on the back nine en route to a final round 67. “Boog” is another member of the acclaimed Class of 2011, so it was especially exciting to watch two of the game’s young talents duel it out in a little #FREEGOLF.

Jordan’s victory also put him in good company by joining Tiger Woods as the only player in history to win 10 times on the PGA TOUR before the age of 24. There was plenty to write and talk about, but what may have been overlooked is how close Jordan is to bringing it all together this year.

 

Let’s start with what Jordan is doing extremely well – hitting irons. He has been absolutely deadly this year with his iron play. He currently ranks first in both Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and Fairway Proximity, meaning there is no one better after the tee shot this year than Jordan. At times it seems as if he is throwing darts at the pin.

Jordan’s putting has been pretty average at best this year. He currently ranks 38th in Strokes Gained: Putting, 61st in Total Putting, and 44th in One Putt Percentage. Last year, he finished 2nd/8th/2nd. In 2015, 9th/19th/1st. Needless to say, he’s having a down year with the flat stick. However, we all know it’s a matter of time before the putter heats up again.

Which leaves us with the driver. Jordan has never been known to hit fairways. Critics of his mechanics point to his unconventional golf grip as the culprit for his inaccurate tee shots. Whatever the case, since 2014, he has finished no better than 80th on tour in Driving Accuracy. This year, he ranks a dismal 114th.

 

Yet there’s hope. At the Travelers, Jordan demonstrated an increased reliance on a fade shot off the tee. I am of the opinion that this is directly correlated with his above average performance with the driver (62.5% of fairways hit, strongly weighted down by a poor performance on Sunday). Will we see more fade shots from Jordan? I think it can certainly solve the driving accuracy flaw in Jordan’s game. Perhaps it’s the one missing piece.

Jordan is a natural right to left player who likes to move the ball in both directions. However, a dedicated fade would seem like an ideal shot for him because fades are easier to control. Hogan, Nicklaus, and Woods have all said that golf can be made easier if a player eliminated one side of the course. For the three of these Hall of Fame (or soon to be) golfers, it was the left side of the course, meaning they preferred to fade the golf ball. Freddie Couples was also a profound fader. In today’s tour, Rory and DJ follow the same formula – eliminate the left side. Masters Champion Gay Brewer authored a very persuasive article in the August 7, 1967 edition of Sports Illustrated promoting the fade. If you have never read his article, “How to Hit Golf’s Best Shot”, then I would suggest doing so.

 

Finding fairways will be critical for Jordan if he wants to chip away at the career grand slam and win his second career FedExCup this year. Driving Accuracy seems to be the only thing that is holding him back at the moment. His iron play has been incredibly solid, and he is a natural talent on the greens.

After watching the Travelers, I think his overall game is very close to coming together, especially if he continues to master the fade. Jordan is setting up nicely for a very strong finish to 2017. Nobody is running away with the FedExCup. There isn’t a clear cut favorite for The Open. Now is his time to pounce.


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About Casey Kirchberg

Casey is a diehard golf fan residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up in Ohio, golf was always a family affair since he took up the game at the age of 5. He's a full-time compliance professional and a part-time golf geek. Casey is a member of the Northern California Golf Association, and student at the Edmunds Golf School.

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