Easter weekend may have passed, but the resurrection of Jordan Spieth's career continues. Spieth capped a two-month heater with a victory at the Texas Open on Sunday over Charley Hoffman and Matt Wallace, and, improbably, the 27-year-old former wunderkind has now stumbled into life within the group of.
This was an almost unfathomable scenario as recently as Jan. 1. Spieth, affectionately known as "the lost boy" in golf podcasting circles, could be spotted on every event's driving range for the last few years trying to find that evasive glory he captured as a 20-year-old that made him the best golfer on the planet. Since the start of 2018, he had missed more cuts than he'd had top 10s. He missed the cut again at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, to the surprise of nobody, and dropped to No. 92 in the world heading into the Phoenix Open.
The calendar turned to a new year, but it was the same Spieth.
On the Saturday at TPC Scottsdale, however, he seemed to at least momentarily grasp the magic that once defined him. Spieth shot a 61, which doubled as the most thrilling non-major round of the last several years. Though it fell apart on Sunday because he was still lost with the driver, it still felt like something concrete. He went on to rack up three top-10s in his next five events, and began to talk like a man who could at least see the oasis on the edge of the desert through which he'd been wandering.
This past Sunday at TPC San Antonio, Spieth broke through for the first time in over 1,300 days. He shot a final-round 66 to beat Texas Open stalwart Hoffman and send himself off to Augusta with not only a newfound trajectory, but also the confidence that comes when only three golfers are within seven of you at the end of a PGA Tour week.
Just before Masters week commenced, William Hill Sportsbook made Spieth the brief 15/2 favorite to win his second green jacket. If you're wondering how on Earth Jordan Spieth only has one green jacket, join the club. In his first five Masters, he lost to 14 total golfers -- 10 of those coming in 2017 when he finished T11 behind Sergio Garcia. That favorite status might feel like an absurd overreaction to one week in which Spieth defeated a bunch of players outside the top 100 in the world. But it's not, for a couple of reasons. The first is how exactly he won the Texas Open (see below) and what he said afterward.
"I really didn't have great control of the ball this weekend at all," said Spieth. "When I would have really maybe started to freak out and change swing feels, instead I stuck to my guns and said, 'What I'm doing is the right thing, let's just try and figure out what we've got.'"
Jordan Spieth gained 12.89 strokes on the field tee-to-green this week, his most over 72 holes in any of his 12 PGA Tour victories.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) April 4, 2021
The second is that, despite not winning, Spieth has been trending more than folks have realized since Feb. 1. He's been the third-best iron player in the world in that period of time, behind only the two best iron players in the world: Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. The driver has improved enough that it can play Augusta, and now the field this week has a very real Jordan Spieth problem. Spieth is a bit like his Under Armour-wearing counterpart, Steph Curry, in that you watch him for a bit -- especially in the driver-is-everything world of today -- compared to other fitter, faster-swinging, bigger-hitting counterparts and think, "Wait this guy?" But when it's clicking like it has been, it changes to, "Oh, this guy!"
"For me, it's been about throwing out results and instead work on freedom," said Spieth. "If I'm feeling freedom out there, I'm loving what I do. And if I love what I do, I'm going to do it well."
Augusta outings for Spieth have played out in sync with how he's been hitting it coming in. He didn't win Augusta in 2015 with his putter. He won Augusta -- and nearly three other times -- because he was inconceivably good from tee to green. This is a seven-year trend, and it's unlikely it will stop in 2021, just because it's hard to wrap your mind around somebody who has been so lost for such a long time contending in the biggest week in the golf world.
"'In form' is probably the most important kind of phrase in our professional sport," said Spieth on Sunday. "I felt in form for a little while now. I felt that that form needs to improve in certain ways, and I know how to do it.
"Really, for me going into the Masters, I miss the cut this week or I won the golf tournament, there would be very little difference in my mindset going into Thursday at Augusta. But certainly there is still a bit of difference, and that is that I had to hit shots under pressure and see where things were on and where things were off and make these just minor adjustments as we go into these practice days."
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Not only is Spieth flirting with being tabbed as the favorite this week, but he's earned that distinction. Because of his history here. Because of how he's putting his rounds together right now. Because, as he noted, Augusta is his world.
"Almost like regardless of form, regardless of if you just won or if you've missed the previous cut, it really makes no difference to me in my confidence level when I pull into Magnolia Lane," Spieth said on Wednesday before winning at TPC San Antonio. "It's just such a unique golf course in that it's a lot of shot-making versus what you get in a lot of other places. And then the greens require just so much imagination, it almost just feels like a totally different game sometimes there."
Two images stick out from the last three years' worth of Spieth, and they're both from the same tournament.
Before the 2020 PGA Championship in August, a photo of Spieth trying to find literally anything with his coach Cameron McCormick emerged. It did not engender a ton of optimism going into the first major championship of the year. The second came later that week. Spieth was filmed pounding balls by himself on the range at Harding Park -- searching, trying to will his body or the earth or both to give him some sort of positive affirmation his brain could use. It almost felt like he was going to stand out there until he was re-armed with those weapons that took down 11 tournaments in his first five years on the PGA Tour. As if simply standing out there long enough would pull it from the ether and into existence.
He wouldn't find it for several more months, of course, but with it came the confidence it takes to win major championships. Spieth climbed the mountain again. And in the same way he stared his swing down and bent it back to his will, he did the same with all the music you have to face when you've won three majors before you can rent a car.
Spieth answered every question, remained vigilant in his rhetoric, if not his belief. Those thirsty years where there was little to see other than sand were surely formative. Spieth is a more complete person than he was at 22 or 24 (and he was pretty complete then), which could also translate to him being -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- a more complete player than before.
The end result of his sometimes-maniacal steadfastness is not the Texas Open. That, like the 61 at the Phoenix Open and the final pairing at Pebble Beach, is a mile marker along the way. Because players like Jordan Spieth don't revive their careers to win Texas Opens. They do it because Augusta must be won by somebody, and right now, it seems there's nobody more prepared to do it.