In trying to help Jordan Spieth fix his game, former World Number One and now Golf Channel commentator David Duval came up with what he calls “reactionary golf.” In my thinking, it’s quite wise. Duval says, in referring to Jordan, he and all golfers need to go out and just pick a target, react to what needs to be done, and swing. In other words, just play the game, not think too much about how to play the game in all its dizzying detail. He says that Jordan has been trying too hard to add distance to his game, bringing too much thought into it. He cites Sergio and his incessant re-gripping a few years ago as another example. And I remember Kevin Na and his freezing over his driver swing for seemingly countless moments as another.
When Spieth burst onto the scene in 2013 , I thought that chicken wing left elbow at impact would not serve him well over the years. But he proved me wrong by winning three majors in his first four years, mostly in the service of his amazing putter and his proficiency at consistently sinking birdies from 20 to 25 feet. No one could even come close to matching that, second, perhaps, to Young Tom Morris. But after his British Open win in 2017, Jordan went dry, and none of us who were following this likable young man could believe it. Golf can be a cruel game, but it couldn’t take down Spieth, not a putter of his caliber. Could it? Well, it seems, yes it could.
So is Duval correct? Chasing distance got worse and worse, Duval noted, and “He’s been trying to straighten it out ever since, but that’s causing him to get too technical with his golf swing. He just needs to figure it out himself.”
Duval added in a discussion on Golf Channel during the U.S. Open, where Spieth failed to make the cut, “I sometimes wish he would just go hit balls alone. He’s playing golf swing right now. He needs to go out and play golf.”
Is it that simple? Perhaps, but there’s value in knowing fundamentally what you’re doing wrong, correcting it with the aid of a trained eye, and testing it out. The golf swing is a complicated series of movements, along with the sequence and timing of those movements. There are also physical, emotional, and cognitive elements to consider. I’ve discovered this personally lately as I try to reconstruct a golf swing that changed drastically since going through a round of very strong chemo that, yes, saved my life, but, among many things, changed the way I swung a golf club. I’m struggling, which is partly due to being grounded due to the pandemic, along with the recent fires and smoke. I’m realizing I can no longer avoid seeing a pro to help right the ship.
Back to Jordan, I feel bad for the guy, and can definitely relate to that lost feeling concerning golf. “There’s a lot that’s off,” he said. “I’m not really sure. If I knew, I’d fix it.” When asked how he feels over his shot, Spieth, once again, offered a brutally honest self-assessment. “Standing on a tee at the U.S. Open and not exactly knowing where the ball is going to go is not a great feeling,” Spieth said to the reporters gathered. “I know you guys probably haven’t experienced that before, but it’s not incredibly enjoyable.”
No sugarcoating, which endears me to Jordan. Whenever I can’t sleep well and get up at 2 or so, I remind myself to “reset,” get up, read a bit, until sleepy, then return to bed. I am, in a sense, starting over. And that’s what I’d recommend to Spieth. Jordan probably knows enough about the swing to do this on his own, but a trusted trained eye could help. I suggest he focus on driving first. He’s got to hit more fairways. That may mean, as Duval says, he needs to dial back on distance and make sure that ball is landing where he’s aiming. That’ll build confidence, which is good advice for any of us. Before my illness, I’d had stretches of good, consistent driving that affected my entire game. One I remember vividly, and fondly, was at Pacific Dunes when I was using a caddie for the first time ever. He’d point to the proper line off the tee, and I’d hit that line every time. What a feeling! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the game as much.
Jordan will make a comeback. He needs to stay healthy and build confidence gradually. He’s already won more majors than most have ever. There were years Nicklaus did not win a major. Spieth needs to set realistic goals and keep his mental attitude positive and hopeful. Golf is a tough sport. It will expose even the smallest flaw, physical, mental, or emotional. It requires constant examination, adjustment, adaptation, and the willingness to admit the need for help and support as the years continue. It requires faith, not so much in a religious sense, but in oneself–a faith to stick with it come hell or high water.
Matt Wolff lost the U.S. Open to Bryson DeChambeau, a man with a few more skills that final day. Matt at 21 and Bryson at 25 represent a new generation of professional golfers. They both have Tiger’s will to win, along with all the skills Tiger possessed. They both play the game with passion, with determination, with respect–they play it their way, caring little for what others think about them. They are individuals, exactly what this game needs. As Tiger and Phil fade, the game is in good hands with these two, along with Schauffele, DJ, JT, Rors, Rahmbo, Rose, Sneds, Bugs, Kooch, Hovland, Henrik, Morikawa, Simpson, Louie, Scottie, Shane, Zach, among other highly skilled players and good people.
Congratulations to Bryson DeChambeau, 2020 U.S Open Champion for a well-earned victory on Winged Foot, as tough a layout in all of golf. Of Bryson’s prodigious length, Paul Azinger quipped, “It’s a different game. He’s got more loft on his putter than his driver.” His 365 yard drive on the 16th at Winged Foot on the final day was the longest of the day, and perhaps the entire tournament. As Bobby Jones once said of Jack Nicklaus (and that he might say of Bryson), “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.”
The Masters is next in November, followed by the U.S. Women’s Open in Houston in December.