The highest ranked player in this week’s field is World No. 4 Jordan Spieth, who trails only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Jon Rahm in the OWGR. Aside from Tiger, he is also the biggest name in the field, and will likely be more in the spotlight than he has in recent weeks.
An 11-time Tour winner and 3-time major champion at just 24 years of age, Spieth has been a mild disappointment in the early parts of his 2018 season.
While five of his six starts have resulted in a finish inside the top 20, he has nothing better than a T9, which is a step back for a guy who is used to contending week in and week out, especially coming off a season where he won three times.
The culprit of Spieth’s pedestrian early season has been his putter. One of the best putters on Tour over the past five seasons, his confidence on the greens has plummeted in 2018.
The man who ranked No. 2 on Tour in strokes gained: putting just two years ago now sits at No 163 in that same stat this season. It was especially abysmal early on, but has gotten better by the start.
“It’s just been kind of simple things, alignment stuff that typically had been done in the off-season but I was pretty sick and then therefore I had to kind of learn on the go during the season to start and I’ve just been trying to get comfortable with the short game, kind of just in my stance, just seeing my lines and when you can’t really see your lines it’s difficult to commit,” said Spieth, explaining his struggles.
“Ball-striking is all there to win golf tournaments. Just a matter of seeing a couple putts go in and getting comfortable early in a tournament and gaining that confidence.
“The first rounds set me back this year.”
In last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, in which Spieth finished T14 in the 65-man field, his putting was again an issue on Thursday and Friday, but was much better on the weekend as he gained a stroke-and-a-half to the field in round 3, and was just barely a negative in round 4 (-0.096).
Spieth still looks like himself everywhere else on the course. He is hitting greens, chipping well, and driving reasonably well, he just needs to get his putting mojo the rest of the way back.
Innisbrook might be a good place for that as Spieth has a positive history at the Valspar Championship. He won the tournament in 2015 in a playoff, and was T7 in 2013 as a 19-year old. While he did not play this event last year, he was T18 in 2016 despite a first-round 76.
Spieth agreed, “This tournament is bringing really good vibes… being here can do a lot for me going forward for the rest of the season.”