For all sorts of reasons I haven’t been following the week to week professional game as closely as I once did (as anyone who follows my weekly tips should already have worked out).
It’s not that I don’t keep up with what’s going on – broadly – but I no longer live in that world where I can instantly name last week’s winner or have a general sense of how Australia’s players are performing without checking the internet.
In this limbo space between the dedicated follower and interested observer, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that Jordan Spieth is a spent force.
Based on the snippets I see on Twitter, one would think Spieth is in danger of losing his card so dire are his alleged problems with the game.
But (and hat tip to Australian pro James Nitties here) it turns out that’s a little off the mark. Or – if it’s facts you want to deal in – completely off the mark.
So much speith hate from the general public and media... Only $1,125,346 this year to date.. yeah probably deserves it 😂😂😂— James Nitties (@JamesNitties23) August 15, 2020
Clearly, Spieth is not performing to the level he was five years ago. But it would be blatantly and demonstrably untrue to suggest he has lost his game.
In 15 events this year Spieth more top 10 finishes (three) than missed cuts (two). And he has earned $1,138,146 (or 354 FedEx Cup points, if that is your preference).
Hardly seems like a game in free fall?
What Spieth is really a victim of is expectation, both his own and those from outside.
Having started his career on such a high, even a decent year (like 2020) is seen as some sort of failure.
There are a number of players who suffer from this syndrome, the poster child being (spoiler alert) Tiger.
Anything other than regular victories is considered a slump and even decent play is downgraded to poor.
(There was a period around the turn of the century where my mum – a casual watcher of the game at best – would enquire ‘what’s wrong with Tiger?’ any week he didn’t hold the trophy.)
"What Spieth is really a victim of is expectation, both his own and those from outside."
There is an old saying in sport that form is temporary and class is permanent and one need look no further than the resurgent Lydia Ko to see that cliché holds true.
Spieth, too, will be back to his best at some point and prove to those currently writing him off just how much they have missed the point by.
He’s not Tiger Woods but Spieth is the closest thing we have seen to that magic since the man himself dominated.
Technically imperfect, what Spieth has is a rare gift for the game (not dissimilar to Ko, interestingly).
I followed the then 21-year-old when he shot a ridiculous 63 in a final round gale to win the Australian Open in 2014.
Mike Clayton asked at the time whether it was the best final round in the tournament’s history, an unanswerable question but one with plenty of merit.
Had that Sunday been a one-off I would be less inclined to hold out hope for Spieth. But it wasn’t a one-off, it was merely a step along the way in an extraordinary couple of years.
From the moment he announced himself as a 16-year-old amateur at the 2010 Byron Nelson (where he finished T16) Spieth has been one of the game’s most compelling players to watch.
He has ‘it’, whatever that is, and ‘it’ never stays away for long.
So I look forward to seeing the Texan climb back to the top because golf is better when Spieth is playing well.
In fact when it happens, I might even watch a bit more of it myself.