With each passing week in this new season, the two-time major winner has looked more like the dominant golfer from 2015 who captivated the world.
Saying Jordan Spieth is back is like saying Aaron Rodgers was back late in the 2016 NFL season. He was never really gone. Spieth was still an elite golfer last season, racking up two victories, eight top-10 finishes, and over $5 million in prize money. But compared to his legendary 2015 season in which the young golfer won three majors, the 2016 campaign displayed some unimpressive statistics.
The major winner has averaged a driving distance of around 295 yards over his last two full seasons. That’s good enough for 78th and 51st on tour each year, respectively. What Spieth may have been wary about following the 2016 season was his dip in driving accuracy percentage. Spieth’s accuracy off the tee in 2015 (63.52%), dropped nearly five percent in 2016. That small decline in driving production led to some tricky situations on approach shots.
SB Nation (@SBNation) July 29, 2016
Perhaps the greatest statistical anomaly following a triumphant 2015 season was Spieth’s decline in scrambling efficiency. The scrambling statistic is defined by the PGA Tour as “a chip shot or putt from less than 50 yards off the green with an additional one putt on the green resulting in par or better on a hole” (gamegolf.com). To be able to scramble in golf is often the ability to problem solve, approach the shot from a different angle, or even make it up as one goes along. As Tiger Woods so often demonstrated, a wayward drive is not always the end of the world.
Just as Woods proved to have ice in his veins time and again, Spieth contributed his own montage of scramble saves in pressure situations. In that major-winning 2015 campaign, Spieth’s scrambling percentage was among the best on tour. From the rough, Spieth was successful in at least saving par 63% of the time, fifth best on tour. When scrambling from 20 to 30 yards away, his success rate hovered around 65%, good enough for fourth on tour. Furthermore, Spieth’s sand save percentage held at an above-average 58%.
Spieth’s ability to produce in less-than-stellar conditions kept him around in tournaments to the tune of five wins, four second place finishes, and fifteen top-10s. If not for a lackluster first round and the sheer dominance of Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship, this scramble at the 17th hole on Sunday could have led to another Spieth victory.
The following season, Spieth’s scramble percentages dipped. His scramble percentage from the rough fell to 59%. Spieth’s sand-save percentage declined by just under four percent. But most astonishing of all, the major-winning golfer’s success rate on scrambles from 20 to 30 yards away dropped from 65.5% in 2015 to 50% in 2016.
I would be remiss to brush past this shot that essentially won last year’s Dean & Deluca Invitational.
Spieth voiced his disappointment in his 2016 season in an interview with ESPN:
I got myself into position early on this year, I mean Hawaii was a better performance than any of the ones in . And then the Masters, I got myself into position there, a couple of swings away from another major… So it was just the second half of the year where I would say I maybe tried just a bit too hard, didn’t let it come to me, was getting a little frustrated with the lack of first-place finishes; I guess, even though if you win five times a year from the amount of time I expect to be on tour, I’ll have more than Tiger [Woods]. So it’s unrealistic. (foxsports.com)
Recharged from a disappointing 2016, Spieth has come back looking like his 2015 self. He already has one win on tour, half of his win total from last season, and already half of the total top-10 finishes he had all of last year. While Spieth’s scoring average remains virtually the same as the 69 he averaged last season, his scramble percentage overall has increased by a few percentage points.
At this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship in Mexico City, Spieth broke the scoring record at Club de Golf Chapultepec, tallying two chip-ins on his way to a 63.
PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 3, 2017
PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 3, 2017
I’m convinced that ball has a magnet in it.
As Jordan referenced to ESPN, if him at his worst was 2016, then the elite golfer has many winning years ahead of him. While the statistics point to a dip in driving accuracy, scrambling, and a slight decline in scoring average in 2016, Spieth was still a viable threat in nearly every tournament he played. Now that the young golfer has seemingly found his old form, what other records can he break before the final putt at this year’s Tour Championship?
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