Jordan Spieth has dazzled us with his play — nine top-10s in 2013, a win at the John Deere Classic, and one arm in the green jacket — and charmed us with his demeanor. When he was paired with 35-year-old Bubba Watson in the final group at the Masters, the 20-year-old called his elder "Mr. Watson." Despite his youth, and in only his second year on Tour, Spieth already boasts a mature, finely tuned game. In 2013, he was 1.65 strokes per round better than the field, placing him 12th on the PGA Tour.
When you look at Spieth's traditional stats, nothing stands out as spectacular. Yet his performance in the four main Strokes Gained categories in his singular rookie season reveals how he did it.
JORDAN SPIETH'S STROKES GAINED PROFILE
2013 PGA TOUR SEASON
His success was achieved because he gained at least 0.2 strokes per round against the field in each of the four main parts of the game: driving (tee shots on par 4s and par 5s), approach shots (starting outside 100 yards from the hole, excluding drives), shot-game shots (starting inside 100 yards from the hole, excluding putts), and putting (shots on the green, not including from the fringe).
Spieth doesn't have that one scary weapon, like Bubba's length or Phil's flashy wedge play. What's scary is how balanced his game is. He has no real weaknesses. He's like a five-tool baseball player who can run, throw, field and hit for power and average. Many pros excel in just two or three areas. In 2013, for example, Bubba Watson dominated with his driver and approach shots but lost strokes with his short game and putting. Of the top dozen players in 2013 in Total Strokes Gained, only Spieth and Sergio Garcia gained 0.2 strokes or more per round on the field in all four areas.
Spieth's strength is that he has no weakness.Like a five-tool baseball player, he excels in all key areas.
Of course, nobody's perfect. Spieth's Strokes Gained putting profile reveals that on putts from inside six feet, he loses strokes to the field. Aha! Room to improve! Spieth is addressing this issue by looking at the hole, not the ball, on some knee-knockers. When he starts pouring in the short ones, his rivals will have to watch their backs.
Your takeaway? Split practice time among the four main shot categories. How you divide the time is less important than making sure no area is ignored. Luke Donald, for example, uses a schedule to track his practice time in each facet of the game. For weekend players with limited time, a practice schedule that balances time in the four areas is critical. Resist the temptation to work on only shots you already hit well. Learn from the pros. One reason that they score better than you and me is that they practice better.
In the box at the bottom of the page, Cameron McCormick — Spieth's coach since Jordan was 12 — offers three more stroke-saving tips.
3 WAYS TO BE LIKE SPIETH
1) Split the Uprights
"We do target training," explains Cameron McCormick, Spieth's longtime swing coach. "Jordan's go-to range drill is to pick a left and right boundary — say, a bush and a flag — and envision a football goal post. He tries to land a percentage of his shots between the 'posts.' To mirror playing conditions, the goal-post width grows as he goes from his wedges — say, 10 yards wide — up to his driver."
2) Know How to Miss
"At the Masters, our plan was to attack the course while knowing where not to miss," McCormick says. "On No. 3, a 350-yard par 4, Jordan hit hybrid off the tee to set up a full, spinning wedge from 100 to 115 yards out. That way, he could be precise with his approach and avoid the deep trap and the false front — two places you just don't want to go."
3) Debrief Post-Round
"Jordan is great at post-round reflection. He detaches himself from the emotion of the day and asks, 'What did I do well? What do I need to work on?' This gives him an unbiased look at his performance, so he can keep improving."
Mark Broadie's new book Every Shot Counts is now available in bookstores and on Amazon.com.