Jordan Spieth has been searching for his best form going on two years now, rummaging through an assortment of ailments and painstakingly working on possible remedies to put an end to a winless streak stretching to 2017.
The latest leg of his journey has landed the three-time major champion in Jeju Island in South Korea for this week’s CJ Cup, the first of three consecutive weeks in Asia during the heart of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule.
Spieth’s latest fresh start – two months have passed since her last played in the BMW Championship, the second of three events in the FedExCup Playoffs – begins with him at No. 38 in the official world rankings.
That’s unfamiliar territory for the former No. 1, who used to hang in the top 5 back in the day with he won four times in 2015, three more time in 2017, and captured the 2015 Masters, 2015 U.S. Open and 2017 British Open, as well as the FedEx Cup in 2015.
But his victory at Royal Birkdale in 2017 was the most recent of his 11 victories on the PGA Tour. Shortly after winning the Open, Spieth didn’t go into freefall – he has had chances to win, but not nearly enough to what he was accustomed to. No, the downward was as surprising as it was relentless.
Spieth was elite – and then he wasn’t. At times his putting, especially from short distance, was his nemesis. Other times his driver was awry, or his iron play was amiss, or his setup no matter what club was in hand was askew.
One thing, however, remained constant – his steadfast manner to fix the problem.
“I know what I need to take care of, what parts of my game I need to take care of, to have those opportunities to contend each week and I’ve been trying to address those,” Spieth said. “Each part of my game at different points in my career has been towards the top of the PGA Tour at different times and sometimes at the same time. I know that I’m capable of doing it, it’s just a matter of the normal ups and downs of the game and addressing them and quickly turning the downs to ups and then maintaining when those parts of the game are on top.”
Last season, one puzzling scoring indicator stood out. On Thursdays, he finished ninth in scoring average on the PGA Tour. On Fridays, no one was better. Then came the weekend and he was Spieth in name only as he was 170th in scoring on Saturdays and 187th on Sundays.
“My goals are pretty personal right now,” he said. “I certainly want to get back in the winner’s circle, it’s been a little while, and I would like to be more consistent this year, being able to tee it up on Sundays with chances to win more consistently and that comes from better ball-striking.
“I’ve been working hard on my tee-to-green game to get it back on track where it’s been before, and when that gets cleared up, which it feels like it’s close to being done, that should present some more weekend opportunities with chances to win golf tournaments.”
While he’s playing in Asia for the first time since 2016, Spieth wouldn’t mind heading to Australia in December for the Presidents Cup. But for the first time since 2013, Spieth likely won’t be playing for the U.S. in international team play.
He has this week and in next week’s Zozo Championship in Japan to impress captain Tiger Woods enough to be one of his four discretionary picks.
For now, however, Spieth’s full attention is on his first tee shot in the first round. And Jeju Island, a pearl in the Korea Strait, could just be the destination where he begins his upward march toward the top of the golf world again.
“With the way the schedule worked this year, it was perfect timing for me to start my season here,” he said. “The golf course is immaculate, it’s really fun. I like the imagination that’s needed on it, hitting shots in the wind, and then obviously the very undulating and difficult greens. I think it fits my game well.”