Farmers Insurance Open: Jordan Spieth Going From Rags to Riches

Last year, Jordan Spieth set out to play in his first professional golf tournament by Thursday qualifying to Monday qualify for the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, California. He made it through…and then missed the cut.

Yeah, it seems like a long time ago I was playing the Thursday qualifier to get into Monday here and then the Monday qualifier and eventually into the tournament.

The first round just because it was my first pro round and I knew it and maybe that was what held me back that day versus playing it like a normal round you do at home. I don’t know, I don’t know why.

I played eight tournaments before as an amateur, but when you say that you’re a pro and you don’t have the A next to your name, it’s a different feeling teeing off for the first time. I just remember trying to fight hard, my emotions were up and down. Michael, my caddie, will tell you it was the hardest week to caddie for me all year. 

We all know what happened from there. He went on to win his first tournament in July, the John Deere Classic, by September he was finishing T2 in the Tour Championship and amassed $3.9 million for the year. And in October he was a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup.

This year so far, he finished 2nd in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Maui and proving that he’s mortal, missed the cut in Honolulu. And now, here he is back where he started, not only making the cut, but taking the 36-hole lead.

This week I haven’t shown much emotion, if any, so far and that’s how I need to stay, very patient and keep everything in check. The South course is going to — I’m going to make bogies on the South course and I’m going to make birdies on the South course. I’m going to need to stay level-headed because it is so difficult, which is rare to find on the PGA Tour now, a course where 2-under, 3-under’s a good score.

This is significant because he was paired with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds and played better than him in both rounds: 1-under to even par on the South and 9-under to 1-under in Friday’s North round.

That gave Spieth a 1-shot lead over Thursday’s leader, Stewart Cink, who as a measure of the difficulty of the South course, went from 8-under to 1-under. He explained why:

Yeah, it was really solid tee to green again today, but the South course just doesn’t yield it. You can hit it great all day long and you’re still looking at a lot of 30-footers out there. I had a lot of those and I was really proud of the way I hung in there today and kept on doing my thing.

I didn’t really putt well the second half, but I think that’s natural. Got a little tight on the putting greens and left a few putts short, so not very surprising, but looking forward to getting after it.

And then, reiterating what he said yesterday — which I repeat because I think it’s so important — he explained how he did it:

Just continued what I’ve been doing for the last year really with my coach. We’ve been working on really getting my setup a lot better and my grip a lot better. Basics, you know.

It’s really started to feel much more comfortable out there and I feel like I’m in command most of the time with my ball striking. When I can get the putter sort of unlocked, I have a good round like I did yesterday. So maybe one of those type of rounds will come back tomorrow.

Spieth found something in his fundamental putting setup that helped him make a ton of putts. When you putt, you want to make sure that your body isn’t moving. One of the ways that you do that is to anchor your weight by putting slightly more over your left foot. That way, when you make your backstroke, you body doesn’t go with it introducing variability in how the putter face returns to the ball.

Found something that I needed to work on and I got a little more stable in my address and I felt comfortable over my putter the whole day, so just off the get-go made a good putt slider from 15 feet or whatever on 10 and I was off from there.

And his year of solid experience has taught him a little about himself in terms of his aggressiveness; he learned that he naturally is aggressive and needs to tone that down when the heat is on. And that’s what he’ll be doing Saturday:

Yeah, yeah, I definitely have a tendency to, if anything, whenever I change my game plan it’s never to fire at more pins, it’s always to calm down and shoot away from it a little bit. And on the South course, with how firm the greens are, you can’t do that.

Yesterday, if I could play the round tee to green like I did yesterday, I’ll be very happy. I fired at — I worked the ball into pins where I could and certain pins where you couldn’t I stayed away and put it in a safe spot. I had two three-putts yesterday. Other than that, I only had one bogey on that golf course. So tee to green I would like to do the same thing.

As for Tiger Woods, he found the day to be fairly frustrating because he didn’t think that he played that badly. But he could only manage 1-under on the North course. It was a pretty anemic affair:

Pretty much all around. I was a yard off, foot off all day and it was one of those frustrating rounds because balls were landing in the fairway, running a foot in the rough and then I couldn’t be aggressive, couldn’t get after some of these flags and consequently my score reflected that.

The thing that makes the great ones great is that they are able to forget the shots that just couldn’t be classified any other way than poor. And Tiger had his share on Friday of shots that were more than “a yard or a foot off.”

Those shots — and we all make them — bad as they are, are treated as aberrations. Shots so far off that while your swing clearly produced them, it wasn’t any kind of reflection of the quality of the swing. It was just golf and you merely go about minimizing them with a higher or new level of consciousness.

That’s the essence of learning.

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