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What’s eating Jordan Spieth?

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Jordan Spieth

Former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez spoke to Tony about Jordan Spieth's final-round struggles at last week's Genesis Open:  

'Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime in which you may exhaust yourself but never your subject.
It is a contest, a duel or a melee, calling for courage, skill, strategy and self-control.
It is a test of temper, a trial of honour, a revealer of character.
It affords a chance to play the man and act the gentlemen.'

Those words come from a marvellous speech in 1899 by David Forgan, author of A Golfer's Creed, and are as true today as they were way back then.

To me, it sums up the game of golf. This is a complex business, it's not all about going out and batting a ball around. There is a helluva lot more to it than that, especially at the elite level. If you want to stay at the top you need a tremendous amount of discipline and hard work.

Forgan's speech comes to mind from time to time and it did again on Sunday when Jordan ballooned to an 81 in the final round at Riviera.

Unfortunately for him, it's getting to become a bit of a habit. He's right there in contention to win and suddenly starts throwing big numbers at his card and goes into meltdown. There's a track record of it now and that's got to be worrying for him, particularly when in the early part of last week's tournament it appeared as if he was back to his best, looking comfortable out on the golf course and holing putts.

I find it so fascinating to observe it all from a distance these days. It's the mental approach to the game that's always going to be the most difficult aspect to control. There are always guys struggling with that side of things. Hunter Mahan is an example. A fine player, a Ryder Cup player, but he's gone completely off the boil. Sometimes these top guys get derailed and that's why you look at Jordan, a guy who's won three majors, and you realise nobody is immune to falling off the horse.

There is such a fine line getting the mental and physical sides balanced, getting your family life balanced too. Life's forever changing and you've got to be forever changing to accommodate these issues. You've got to be inspired to play this game at the highest level. That's why the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are quite unique. It's a jungle out there and you've got to hack your way through the best way you can.

But you need that inspiration to be special and to have longevity. I watch golf on TV all the time and, apart from who wins every week, much of my interest derives from sitting there and wondering, 'Is that player going to fall by the wayside?'. Maybe because he's trying too hard, whatever the reason, he's searching for that elusive balance that seems so easy when you are at the top of your game but can be very hard to find when you're not.

There have been examples in the past like Ian Baker-Finch, David Duval and Anthony Kim, guys who ran into problems that were beyond physical and became mental blocks, and it derailed them big time. It'll be really interesting now to see if Jordan can brush his problems aside, fight back and overcome his weaknesses.