Saturday afternoon Jordan Spieth walked off the 18th green at the RBC Heritage Classic mystified by what he had just done, and angry about it. 24 hours later Spieth once again walked off the 18th green mystified about what he had just done, and he couldn’t have been happier. Golf, contextualized. One day removed from at classic blunder that could have ruined his weekend Spieth instead found one of the most unique ways to win a golf event, by being an absolutely awful putter.
The missed 18 inch tap in on Saturday’s 18th green was enigmatic of the entire 4 rounds for Spieth, who summed it up perfectly in his post round interview by saying “ I won this golf tournament without a putter”. He wasn’t exaggerating. In Saturdays 3rd round Spieth finished 71st out of 71 players in strokes gained from putting. For all four rounds Spieth was 60th out of 71. That’s like trying to win a Formula One race using only three tires. It’s POSSIBLE, but not highly recommended. Drive for show and putt for dough has nothing on Spieth.
So how did Jordan claim his 13th PGA Tour title? A combination of a hot start, hanging around,watching the field come back to him and some well timed magic when he had to have it. Spieth eagled the two par 5s on the front side including holing out from a bunker. But when his putter went cold again, so did the field. Shane Lowry saw his lead vanish after he chipped it into the water on a par 3. The leader heading into Sunday, Harold Varner III, closed with 9 straight pars when one birdie would have gotten him into the playoff. And after missing some great birdie chances on the back 9, Spieth got a measure of revenge with a birdie on 18 Sunday which secured his spot in the playoff with Patrick Cantlay. Luck? yeah that matters too. On the first playoff hole Cantlay got a horrible lie in a bunker that allowed Spieth to tap in for par and claim the crown. Fittingly a missed tap in on 18 almost cost him the title, and a tap in on 18 sealed it.
But this sums up Jordan Speith on tour these days, you’re going to see everything: good shots, bad shots, miracle shots and a constant conversation. Watching Spieth over 18 holes is like watching a reality TV show: there’s going to be lots of communication and you have absolutely no idea what it means. Spieth vs. Spieth is as entertaining as anything else on tour. There’s the talking, the pre shot routine and the constant post shot analysis. Think of it as a pay per view therapy event: eventually something good will come out of this.
And that’s where Spieth’s career is right now. He’s no longer the wunderkind that almost won all four majors in 2015. He’s a soon to be 29 year old who’s a new Dad trying to begin the great work/life balancing act.
What happens next isn’t a given but it does promise to be entertaining. Spieth won the RBC one week after missing the cut at The Masters, his favorite tournament. But behold, I am the bearer of good news. Last year on Easter Sunday Spieth won the Texas Valero Open. This year on Easter Sunday Spieth won the RBC. Next year’s Easter Sunday? That just happens to be the final round of the 2023 Masters. Now THAT one he’ll need to use a putter for.