Jordan Spieth labored his way around TPC Harding Park on Saturday, falling to the bottom page of the 2020 PGA Championship leaderboard after shooting a 6-over 76 in the third round. Spieth rallied to make the cut on Friday with a hope-filled 68, sneaking into the weekend action on the cut line.
However, paired with Justin Thomas in an early tee time on Saturday, the two American stars and familiar friends went in opposite directions as Spieth started with four bogeys in his first six holes and J.T. jumped on a birdie train that saw him jump up the leaderboard, at one point sitting just four strokes off the lead.
The bad only got worse for Spieth, who flashed for brief moments with a birdie at No. 7 and a solid drive, approach and two-putt par at 12 and then a birdie on the final hole of the day. But those were lonely bright spots with bogeys at No. 11, No. 13, No. 14 and No. 15, putting him in dead last place among players who missed the cut near the end of his round.
Spieth got so frustrated at one point that he slammed his club into the ground after a tee shot, and after missing the green long (and badly) on an approach after a good drive, that anger had morphed into a incredulous sense of humor. Spieth seemed to have found something off the tee and put himself in a great spot on No. 14, but the approach was so bad all he could do was offer a sarcastic thumbs up.
When Spieth spent much of Thursday afternoon grinding on the range following his first round 73, it seemed as though the response could go one of two ways. Either the three-time major winner was going to find something out there or again realize the state of his game is so far from form it's unlikely we'll see him regain his major championship contendership anytime soon.
Friday's round wasn't overwhelmingly convincing, thought it had some bright spots, but then Saturday's collapse was confirmation of the most pessimistic read on Spieth. With no wins since taking the Open Championship in 2017, Spieth is not close to climbing out of this hole.
Spieth dominated golf from 2015-17, but the early success came thanks to a craftiness that would become his reputation. What's less discussed is how Spieth was one of the best iron players on the world in 2017, and the numbers behind his tee-to-green struggles match what we're seeing with our eyes: He's a player who can't find any kind of consistency with his swing.
On Saturday, Spieth lost more than four strokes to the field from tee-to-green and more than three strokes on approach shots. When we see his practice swings and work on the range, it looks like every aspect of the mechanics of the swing is under inspection. That's not a confidence-inspiring position in the midst of a major championship against the best players in the world.
So while Spieth's pursuit of the career grand slam was a minor storyline heading into the week, it was still worth noting. Spieth has said on several occasions that he feels like his game is close, but nothing from Saturday's round at TPC Harding Park suggests that major championship form is near.