‘Might be onto something’: Jordan Spieth leaves flagstick in for birdie putt

When it comes to putting with the flagstick in, you may be able to add Jordan Spieth’s name to the list of the converted. Chasing the cut line on Friday at the Sony Open, Spieth faced a short birdie putt at No. 15 — and left the pin in place.

Why is this significant? You’ve likely heard by now, but golf’s rules changes allow players to putt with the pin firmly in place this season. The choice has led to players experimenting with what they perceive as a slight advantage.

Bryson DeChambeau, citing his own research, announced his intentions to GOLF.com to putt pin-in weeks before the 2019 season began. He has continued to pioneer the movement, leaving the flagstick in on nearly every putt. Gary Woodland is among those who has used it selectively; when he was chasing the lead on Sunday at last week’s Tournament of Champions, he left the pin in its place for a slippery downhiller on the back nine.

That context brings us back to Friday at the Sony Open, and a Jordan Spieth six-footer. Chalk it up to the power of suggestion (his playing partners were DeChambeau and Woodland), situation (the putt ran straight downhill), or experimentation (he was unlikely to make the cut) and Spieth was ready to give it a try.

Test one was a success: Spieth’s putt found the center of the pin (and the bottom of the cup) for a birdie. As he fished the ball from the bottom of the cup, he grinned and shook his head. “Might be onto something,” he said as he walked off the green. You can see the putt partway through the video below.

It was the start of a near-heroic charge to make the cut. Needing to play the final four holes in four-under, Spieth birdied 15, 16, barely missed a birdie putt at 17 and just missed an eagle chip at 18 (where he tapped in with the pin in).

“I love the way we fought back there at the end. That was fun. I felt like I was trying to win a golf tournament just to make the cut, which is not really something I want to get used to,” he said afterwards.

“I’ve missed cuts before and gone on and won my next event; I’ve finished runner-up my next event. It’s not like an all-tell. I knew coming in that the game was off and needed to kind of start to fine tune. So I’m in a good space given what happened.”