New season, new Jordan Spieth? We might find out this weekend

October 18, 2019
Jordan Spieth watches a tee shot during the second round of the CJ Cup on Friday.

Jordan Spieth is in contention in South Korea, but now is where it gets tough.

Spieth followed up an opening-round 70 with a 65 on Friday at the CJ Cup — a score bested by only 36-hole leader Justin Thomas’ 63 — and enters the weekend tied for fourth and four back of Thomas.

He’s making his season debut this week after two months off. He last played at the BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but he failed to quality for the Tour Championship. Still winless since his 2017 Open Championship victory, Spieth’s 2018-19 season wasn’t as bad as often advertised. He made 19 of 23 cuts and had eight top 25s and four top 10s as he battled through shaky ball-striking but was saved by his putter (2nd in Strokes Gained: Putting). In his first six full seasons on Tour he averaged 16 top 25s a season, making him somewhat a victim of his own success.

Spieth, 26, said he spent the last two months taking some vacation time, playing loose rounds of golf and escaping the grind of late last season.

“I wasn’t playing great golf and just wanted to kind of have fun playing again,” he said on Friday. “Took a few trips and then started to get to work really the last week, week and a half before coming here. It was nice to kind of get away from it, also to have those fun rounds. Then I was really excited to put the work in and then to come over here to Asia and try it out. I’m excited about what the weekend holds here and obviously next week.”

But the weekend has been his wildcard.

Last season, his 69.27 scoring average in Round 1 ranked 9th, and his 68.32 scoring average in Round 2 was the best on Tour. But it was on Saturday and Sunday where he hit snags, with scoring averages of 71.28 (170th) in Round 3 and 72.47 (187th) in Round 4. His 72.47 final-round average was the second-worst on Tour.

Now he’s going off in the penultimate group on Saturday, a 9:35 a.m. local tee time alongside Emiliano Grillo and Cameron Smith. Will Spieth be able to put his weekend woes behind him? We might get our first clue on Saturday.

“You just go out tomorrow and try and hit as many greens as possible,” Spieth said. “Keep rolling it the way I’ve been rolling it.”