Jordan Spieth will kick off his 2019 PGA Tour campaign on Thursday at the Sony Open in Hawaii with a 1 p.m. ET tee time alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Gary Woodland.
While DeChambeau’s knack for putting with the flagstick in the hole was a big topic of conversation last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui, this week in Honolulu, a much bigger early-week narrative was Spieth’s absence from the winner’s-only event (he didn’t qualify) as well as how his stroke is on the green.
Those expecting a bounce-back year for Spieth after a disappointing 2017-18 season may have further cause for concern following the comments renowned instructor and SwingU Master Faculty member Hank Haney had about Spieth’s once-golden touch on the greens.
“He’s got to get his putting figured out,” Haney told ESPN.com’s Bob Harig. “I think he will. But he has to. And I think that spilled into the rest of his game.
“When I watch him putt, he visibly has the yips. You watch his hands on short putts and there is a tremor in there. I don’t care if the putt goes in or doesn’t. He was center cut on his first putt at the Ryder Cup. But his hands were shaking. He had to miss more short putts than anybody on Tour.”
Harig also quoted an anonymous “prominent player” who described Spieth’s stroke as “yippy,” blaming his inability to get into a consistent setup position to make a repeatable stroke.
While Spieth came no where near describing his struggles on the green as the yips, he did acknowledge that it was a part of his game that was lacking in 2018.
“(Putting) wasn’t the strong suit of my game,” Spieth told ESPN.com. “I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. A lot of it was mechanical. A bit of mental because of the mechanical, but when I’m kind of back into the same position, the same look, the same timing, same stroke feel that I’ve had for the last five, 10 years, minus a bit of last season, then my confidence is probably as high as anybody’s on the greens.”
Spieth’s ranking among his peers on the greens in 2018 fell to a career-worst 136th in strokes-gained: putting, a measure of a player’s ability to pick up or lose strokes against the field average each week. That mark was nearly 100 spots worse than his 39th-place finish in 2017 and well down from his ninth-place finish in the statistical category in his career-defining year of 2015.
As he gets his season started this week, Spieth is once again talking the talk, it’s now a matter of if he can walk the walk.
“I know what’s wrong with Jordan Spieth, and I know what’s right with Jordan Spieth,” he said. “I know how to get where I want to go with my golf game and have fun doing it.”