On Thursday morning, as the Waste Management Phoenix Open began in earnest, Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee was kind enough to sit for a Q&A on a wide-range of topics. We’ll post that soon, but it seems especially timely to post an excerpt of that discussion that focused on Jordan Spieth, the three-time major champion who has fallen on hard times.
When asked about Spieth, Chamblee said he was “headed for oblivion.” Strong words and worthy of further conversation after Jordan started doing things like the Jordan of old.
Here’s the initial conversation before Spieth shot 67-67-61.
GW: Which former World No. 1 gets back into the winner’s circle first: Justin Rose, Jason Day, or Jordan Spieth?
BC: That’s a good question. I don’t mean any ill will towards Justin Rose and Jason Day but I hope it’s Jordan Spieth. It probably will be Jason Day. But good question all three.
I see Jason Day winning again. Rose is a little older, he left Sean Foley, didn’t hit it particularly well last year, changed equipment. Victories are hard fought at his age when you’re not hitting on all cylinders.
Spieth is headed into oblivion. That’s hard to turn that ship around.
Day is the more logical answer. Still has a great short game, still a great putter. Still has plenty of speed. He just needs to have a week where his body isn’t banged up or he isn’t sick. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Short, violent, restrictive golf swings are injuries waiting to happen, especially when a guy is spending that much time amping up in the gym.
Q: You just said Jordan is “on his way to oblivion.” I take that to mean you see him getting worse rather than better.
BC: If you go back and look at Ian Baker-Finch and David Duval’s ascent and descent in the game of golf, they track a similar path to Jordan Spieth. When they get to a point where they are really searching and they get desperate there’s not only the insecurity of whether or not you’re ever going to find it again, there’s also that psychological scar tissue. It’s like a physical wound and some of them will heal up and some of them will kill you.
Ian Baker-Finch or David Duval, no disrespect to them, but the only reason I picked them out is they made the game look so easy for a period of time as did Jordan Spieth. Their descent is a reminder to all of us that it is ephemeral. You can lose it in the blink of an eye. He seems to be searching every single week, spending lots of practice swings, over the ball a long time.
Several hours later, Spieth teed off and fired the first of consecutive 4-under 67’s. When Spieth tied his lowest score on the PGA Tour with 10-under 61 in the third round, I reached out to Chamblee since his take didn’t seem to be aging well. He was highly complimentary of Spieth’s magical round but didn’t exactly walk his comments back. Here’s what Chamblee had to say after Spieth shot 18-under 195 to grab a share of the 54-hole lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
GW: Do you want to walk back any of your comments about Jordan since we talked the other day?
BC: What did I say? I can’t even remember. I wasn’t probably sanguine about his comeback.
He did something today I don’t think I’ve seen. I’ll go look it up. I can’t remember a person being in the lead position in a golf tournament being dead last in fairways hit and next-to-last in distance from the edge of the fairway. That’s unprecedented. I don’t know how you do that. I guess you can in a place like the desert where there is a lot of luck involved in the lies you get and then you hit your irons like a God. He still has the ability to stun us with his short game and putter.
As I chewed on it today, there are a handful of people who lost their edge. Sam Snead in 1947-48 he won only one time because he had the putting yips and then he won 17 times when he sorted that out the next two years in 1949-50.
Henrik Stenson was No. 4 in the world after winning the Players in 2009 and he fell down to No. 230 when he got the driver yips. I’m not saying Jordan Spieth has the driver yips but on your way to them you miss by wide margins in every direction. Stenson worked his way out of it. Steve Stricker was sort of the same thing. There are some notable players fairly recently and well in the past that have come out of these slumps fairly nicely.
It’s cool to see Jordan Spieth give some hope for a comeback. As inaccurate as he was in 2016-17, he was just a little wobbly off the tee, but he’s become hugely inaccurate, which is usually a prelude to an irrecoverable slump, at least for a period of time. It was the preamble for Ian Baker-Finch’s slump, it was the preamble to David Duval’s slump, it was the preamble to Ralph Guldahl’s slump. Those are slumps that players never recovered from.
He hasn’t solved his big misses but to see him step up on 15 and hit that draw with the water left after missing it to the left so often and at times by wide margins that speaks to his commitment. He said in his post-round remarks that he’s committed to being committed. That was a helluva quote. There’s no other place for him to go. If he loses his attitude, there’s no way back. I’ve never seen him slump his shoulders, I’ve never seen him throw clubs, I’ve never seen him use profanity, I’ve never seen him give the Heisman to people asking him tough-to-answer questions. I said today on our show that I’ve never seen anybody, except for maybe Chip Beck, handle really poor play with more class. It’s easy to pull for somebody like that.
I guess I would say I’m a little more optimistic than the last time we talked. I still need to see him drive it better than he does. I don’t see how he can come back and play anywhere near the type of golf he used to play unless he drives it better. There’s a difference between driving it poorly and driving it terribly. There’s generally not much hope to contend when you’re driving it terrible.
If you think about it, it’s as exciting as anything watching a player of his caliber work his way out of a slump. Tiger has given us two comebacks on an epic scale. This isn’t on the same scale because he’s not dealing with a broken leg or a broken reputation or a darn-near busted back, but he’s dealing with a broken game. It’s as compelling as his good golf was, almost.
GW: Do you think shooting 61 validates what he’s working on?
BC: To some extent. Look, you have to have selective memory in this game. If I had driven it like him and I was leading I would be thinking all I have to do is hit it a little better and I can really make a move. He’s almost dead last in Strokes Gained: off the tee and dead last in driving accuracy. Only Brendan Steele is worse than him in distance from the edge of the fairway. He’s not just missing fairways, he’s missing them by a wide margin. For him to play as well as he has the first three rounds speaks volumes about his mental strength. Outside of Tiger, you’re hard-pressed to find another player more exciting to watch than Jordan Spieth.
The only thing I’ll say is when you see someone drive it as inaccurately as he did, it’s a trip to oblivion. Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker came back from there. If I’m Jordan Spieth I’d look at what they did and use that as positive reinforcement that he can dig his way out of this hole.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/02/07/jordan-spieth-61-brandel-chamblee-oblivion/