Jordan Spieth made the trip to Honolulu for this week’s Sony Open for the fourth consecutive year.
However, for the first time it wasn’t a short hop over from Oahu, where the annual Tournament of Champions kicks off the PGA Tour’s calendar year. Spieth, who hasn’t hoisted a trophy since the 2017 Open Championship, failed to qualify for the winners-only event.
The former top-ranked player in the world also failed to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship, and then added a few fall events as part of an agreement with the Tour for failing to reach his tournament quota last season.
Instead of chewing up softer fields, Spieth tied for 55th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and missed the cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
The Sony Open marks the first event in two months for Spieth, who got married in between and admits he has been able to put in very little work on his golf game. He arrived in Hawaii admittedly looking to “at least knock some rust off and gather some information about where I am at.”
Spieth enters 2019 with as many questions to answer as any marquee player in the world.
The three-time major champion has slipped to 17th in the world rankings.
He finished third at last year’s Masters and tied for ninth at The Open, but those are his most recent top-10 finishes and in both events the putting woes Spieth experienced over the past year and a half cost him opportunities to win.
After winning multiple events for four consecutive years, Spieth didn’t so much as earn a runner-up in 24 events in 2018, finishing the year with as many missed cuts (five) as top-10s.
Instead of being seen on television paling around on kayaks in the Pacific Ocean with buddy Justin Thomas after rounds this week, expect to see Spieth trying to work out the kinks in his game.
“I think (the time off) was beneficial, but kind of puts me a little bit behind, which I can play catch up I think pretty easily,” Spieth told reporters on Wednesday. “Just going to be more like a brain training thing than anything. Figure out exactly where everything is. … I had a great off-season. Just kind of got my mind right, reset, and get ready for ’19.”
Normal “off year” or long-term decline?
Spieth said his problems in 2018 began with putting issues and that by the time he began to fix those, his swing got out of whack. He then found himself pressing to move up leaderboards in an attempt to qualify for the Tour championship.
While admitting a lot of frustration with how the season went, Spieth is chalking it up to an “inevitable” off year that every professional golfer must cope with at some point during their career.
“I have lesser amount of certainty of that than I’ve had in a while,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me right now. I don’t feel anxious, like I have to do anything.
“I feel pretty patient with what’s coming because I know I’m working on the right things. Took me a while to figure out what that was. Now I know I’m working on the right things in the game to get back on track and get to where I’m as a consistent as I’ve been before.”
Spieth reeled off a lot of buzz words — including the itch to find the winner’s circle again, working with technology to identify his problem areas and rediscovering consistency throughout his game. He declined to go into the specifics on the maintenance he’s going through to regain his form, but said he is “embracing” the challenge and not worrying about what his critics are saying.
“The thing for us is not to get caught up in today’s news,” Spieth said. “It’s easy to sometimes when you’re not used to it. I haven’t seen, read, or heard anything on it. I learned that lesson already because I know what’s wrong with Jordan Spieth, and I know what’s right with Jordan Spieth.
“I know how to get where I want to go with my golf game and have fun doing it. I think it’s taken a bit of maturing to do that. Like I kind of get credited with being mature from when I got out here, but in reality there was quite a bit of maturing to do as far as what you pay attention to, how other people’s opinion affects you and that kind of stuff.
“I think I do a better job of that now.”
–Field Level Media