Jordan Spieth: In the Zone on the Way to Greatness

Some interesting stuff came out of Jordan Spieth’s media session prior to playing in this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. That’s Tiger’s tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, featuring eighteen of the highest ranked players in the world. Spieth was outside the initial field, but got in when Brandt Snedeker withdrew as a precaution after a Segway accident in Shanghai.

They asked him to look back at how he went from rags to riches over the last season; was there a way to explain it?

Yeah, honestly, I got really lucky.  Looking back it was pretty funny because the key shots that kind of got me to each stage or level to where I got my status [on the PGA Tour] and then getting over the hump to winning were all holed-out shots.  You don’t expect that to happen. 

Whether it was a hole in one in Puerto Rico at a time I really needed it.  You don’t expect that to happen.  Then Tampa, 17, my 71st hole, I had to go 1-under on the last two, and I hit a flop shot that happened to release right into the hole.  Then obviously the John Deere bunker shot to get into the playoff [and win].

It’s funny that it came down to that.  When I was looking back, I wasn’t focused on necessarily certain putts or different shots I hit.  It was funny looking back and noticing how many times I holed out where it was really important.  A lot of it required luck, so sometimes it’s better to be lucky.

I was quite a transformation going from a college kid who played 10 or 12 tournaments a year to a Tour pro with a drumbeat of a schedule.

Yeah, throughout last year, I had never played — before last year I had never played more than two weeks in a row.  Last year I saw what it was like to play four in a row a couple of different stretches.

It’s amazing my best golf was always played the second, third or fourth week in a row.  Even more so, the third and fourth week in a row is when I was hitting the ball best and making the best decisions.

I would have never known that before this year.  So, yeah, I will be planning my schedule to definitely be playing and peaking at those tournaments which looks like it would be playing in a week or two or both of them prior to the majors.

It’s amazing what a difference there is between almost any other form of golf and PGA Tour golf and there is definitely a learning curve.

Two major things, well, one, putting.  My putting the second half of the year strokes gained versus the first half of the year was significantly different getting used to the greens and I putted a lot better.

And by playing on the Tour, you have access to just about any meaningful stats about your game, more than you can probably process. But Spieth took full advantage of them to identify two pretty esoteric skills.

But the two things that I really need to focus on this year are my long-iron play, and I just need to hit some more pitches around the greens.  Par-5s, I would get around the green in two and even in smart places.  That 20- to 40-yard range, pitching the ball, it just wasn’t getting it close enough.

So luckily that’s something that is based on how many reps you hit and just getting the feel of the grass each week.  So I think if I had the same kind of routine and put a little extra time into those two departments, I’d just improve from last year.

And he’s finally allowed himself to look back on his amazing year. During the year he said that he was too focused on what he was doing in the moment to risk uncoupling the keys to his success.

Yeah, a little bit.  I have recently.  I figured I would after everything kind of stopped.  But, all in all, back to what I was saying, I’ve reflected briefly and then just tried to look forward.  I mean, it’s cool.  I think maybe later in life I’ll look back at the year more than I am right now.

I don’t think that really dwelling on this past year, as great as it was, is the best way to have success in this next season.  I think that what I did throughout last season was adjust goals and set new goals that would be based on the tournaments I was getting into, and I think that that just needs to continue.  I don’t think that a break for a couple months needs to stop any momentum or the way I was thinking.

So I’m just going to try to adjust my goals and see what happens the first half of the year and see what goes from there.

There was the one instance where he almost couldn’t help but look back. One minute, he was a non-winner on the PGA Tour, a kid really, and the next he was the winner of the John Deere Classic having holed that improbable bunker shot on 18 to get into the five-hole playoff with an unrelenting Zach Johnson and Canadian David Hearn. And the next minute he’s on his most important payoff for that win, a charter jet flight with all the other players heading over to the British Open. Did he even know what hit him?

Not really.  I didn’t sleep on that plane as much as I wanted to.  There was no chance.  I just kind of sat there.  It went by very fast.  I was sitting, replaying everything.  I was still nervous, even though it was a couple hours later [Oh, how the adrenaline seeps once it gets going].

Yeah, I didn’t really — it almost — I didn’t want to sleep, because I didn’t want to wake up.  I didn’t want it to be a dream.  So that was a really cool experience.  Your first win you’re always going to remember, and that was a cool one to have to getting into the British.

And at that point he had no way of knowing that he was going to end up on the American Presidents Cup team at the end of the year. Could it have been any better?

The one thing that seems to be consistent with Spieth is the same thoughtful levelheadedness he exhibited all year long. And since that’s a pretty important ingredient for a successful year, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t just keep it rolling.

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