Jordan Spieth has his work cut out for him at East Lake. Can he rally on Sunday and win his second FedEx Cup?
When Jordan Spieth arrived at the Tour Championship number one in FedEx Cup points and a former champ at the course, much was expected of him. However, sometime after the first round, things went south.
In his pre-tournament press conference, he indicated that he brought his coach Cameron McCormack to Atlanta to make sure everything was on target in his swing. He tried to get as much rest as possible, since playing golf week after week in the blazing heat of August and early September followed by the Tour Championship in Atlanta is draining for anyone, even the world’s best. Spieth’s just had a hard time delivering the way he wanted to, and the stats show the problem, but not the solution.
Maybe we should have listened closer when he almost predicted that there was a chance he’d be sitting in the clubhouse waiting to see if someone overtook him in points.
"“I think there’s a likelihood that I’ll be in that situation this year,” he said when asked to comment about Dustin Johnson’s position last year, losing the FedEx Cup to Rory McIlroy and watching the finish from the locker room. “I hope I can go out there and control it myself. That’s obviously the goal, but if not, it sounds kind of fun.”"
It’s probably not fun if you are on the losing end.
Our eyes, as well as Shotlink, showed that Spieth just has not played well in Atlanta this year. Through three rounds, he had eight bogeys, four of them in round two and three in round three. His accuracy off the tee, often a problem, was only 57 percent fairways hit in round two, and worse again in round three with 50 percent, versus round one with 64 percent.
(Most, but not all of the stats are available at PGATour.com by clicking on a player’s name, or by opening up the PGA Tour app and going to the leaderboard page. Ours are directly from the PGA Tour’s computers.)
Spieth is long enough to get to the holes he needs to reach without any problem, so driving distance isn’t really an issue. He had drives over 320 in each of the first three rounds.
His greens in regulation were a big problem in the second and third rounds, with 55 percent hit, 10 of 18 greens. The first round was 72 percent with 13 of 18 greens hit in regulation.
Then there was his putting. In the first round, Spieth had 27 putts, 22 per 13 greens in regulation. In round two, he had 29 putts, 18 per 10 greens in regulation, and in the third round he had just 25 putts, 16 per 10 greens in regulation.
Instead of being plus in strokes gained putting compared to the field, he was actually minus in round two while he gained about a third of a stroke in rounds one and three. In other words, he probably did a heck of a job to post even par in round two and a 1-under score in round three, given those stats.
To win the Tour Championship, he has to make up eight shots and pass ten players. It’s unlikely that will happen, but Spieth is known for taking the positive approach.
"“I’ve just made some pretty, you know, just some bad mistakes trying to do too much, and I’ve really gotten a lot of putts lipping out. It’s been one of those weeks,” he said after the third round. “I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to adjust but certainly minor tweaks.”"
He said his putting had let him down this week, and he thinks he still has some good golf left.
"“I know that I’m capable of going low on this golf course,” he added. “It’s a matter of hitting fairways, it’s a matter of getting the ball in the hole on the putting green and neither one of those has been a strength this week unfortunately but one day to go.”"
He noted that he shot 6-under par in the final round last week.
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“It’s more difficult to do on this course, but I’ve just got to get off to a better start,” he concluded.
What makes it possible for Spieth to still win the FedEx Cup is that Justin Thomas is not leading the tournament, nor is Dustin Johnson, and the points drop precipitously from first to 10th place, from 2000 points for a victory to 300 points for 10th, according to the PGA Tour. Thomas is 200 points behind Spieth. Johnson is 400 points back of the top spot.
With the third round in the books, Spieth’s chances for the FedExCup hinge on the play of others as well as on himself. While he is probably too far back, given the field and the difficulty of the golf course, to win the tournament, that does not mean he is 100 percent out of the Cup. In fact, he still has a good chance.
Top Scenarios for the FedEx Cup
According to the PGA Tour, here’s what has to happen for Spieth to claim the FedEx Cup on Sunday:
If Spieth comes in 13th in a two-way tie and Justin Thomas is 5th or worse, Dustin Johnson is in a three-way tie for 3rd or worse, Marc Leishman is 3rd or worse, Jon Rahm is in a three-way tie for 2nd or worse and Rickie Fowler is in a two-way tie for 2nd or worse, or if Paul Casey, who is leading, finishes second or worse, and Thomas finishes in a two-way tie for 5th or worse, Spieth can claim the FedEx Cup.
Paul Casey can take the Cup away from Spieth with a victory as can Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman or Rickie Fowler.
As of round three, Spieth is T-12, Thomas is T-4, Johnson is T-13, Leishman is T-22, Rahm is T-7, Fowler is T-28 and Casey is leading.
Justin Thomas can win the FedEx Cup if the following things happen: If he finishes with a two-way tie for 4th and if Spieth finishes 9th or worse and Johnson finishes in a two-way tie for 4th or worse, Marc Leishman finished in 3rd or worse, Jon Rahm finishes in a two-way tie for 2nd or worse and Rickie Fowler finishes 2nd or worse. Thomas can also win if Paul Casey finishes 2nd or worse.
As they like to say in Indianapolis, gentlemen, start your engines. This is going to be a crazy race to the finish.
Sunday at East Lake is sure to be a fantastic experience, no matter who comes out on top. Who will bring home the season’s top prize?