Jordan Spieth makes his way to the Sony Open in Hawaii for the first time since 2019.
It’s his fifth overall appearance at Waialae. The Texan missed the cut by two (71-70) as a 20-year-old in 2014. Spieth took third (65-67-66-63) in 2017 and T-18th (69-68-66-66) in 2018. Three years ago, he nearly overcame a death sentence that is an opening 73 at this birdie fest of an event by carding a Friday 66 to MC by one.
In ‘17, Spieth was just one shot off second place but eight behind winner Justin Thomas, who opened with a 59 that year. Fortunately for Spieth, he isn’t in the field this week.
"“I really enjoy this golf course,” Spieth was transcribed by ASAP Sports in 2018. “The first year I played it, I didn’t — you actually have to learn quite a bit of how to map yourself around this place, and the ball rolls a lot more here than it did any place else, and I tried to do a little too much. I remember hitting driver, 3-wood a lot the first year I played it and missed the cut. Then last year played pretty smart, didn’t putt very well.”"
Spieth is coming off a T-13th at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. It’s virtually impossible to shoot a round in the 70s at Kapalua and contend.
That was the case for Spieth, whose Saturday 71 doomed his title chances after being in contention with an opening 67-66. He closed in 69 at 19-under.
He attributed poor shot choices and club selections as detriments. For a usually smart, cerebral player, that seems like something he can get dialed in.
Whether the driver is going straight is another thing. Fortunately for Spieth, he can keep it in the bag for most of the round.
His driver cracked last week, giving him little time to get used to a new head in play after more than a year. Subsequently, Spieth was T-35th out of 38 in the field in driving accuracy (51.67%).
What will be interesting to keep an eye on besides that will be Spieth’s putting. He was 155th in strokes gained putting per round (-.207), posting poor numbers on the greens for the second time in three seasons after being a stalwart since coming on the PGA Tour as a teenager.
Whether or not he returns to the status of one of the game’s best putters is one thing, but just by sheer willpower, he should be able to steer it back inside the top 100, right?
That’s all it will take to bump him back to winning multiple events a year. Spieth’s added distance in recent years and his iron play is at the level it was when he was in his heyday.
Spieth won last year at the RBC Heritage and picked up runner-up finishes at Pebble Beach and the Byron Nelson.
The Tournament of Champions was just his second official start of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season. He took T-52nd at the CJ Cup in October.
I wouldn’t burn Spieth in a one-and-done week this early in the season as he tends to start peaking in February and March. However, I like him to be near the top of the leaderboard and be a good daily fantasy play.