There’s a familiar face hovering on the Open leaderboard. Steve Carroll witnessed Jordan Spieth’s second round adventures and wonders what we can learn
Three things in life are certain, it seems: death, taxes and Jordan Spieth charging up an Open leaderboard.
It might not be immediately apparent, given he is floating around the top 10 and most of us couldn’t break 90 at Royal Portrush with a bunch of mulligans, but I’m convinced there’s plenty in the Texan’s game that can even help us on the course.
So in the spirit of WWJD – What Would Jordan Do – I set out after the three-time major champion as he was compiling a second-round 67 and returned with a treble of delights that will have us taming tricky links before we know it.
1. Fescue is your friend
“At some point I hope to be playing off the short grass this week.”
We reach our hero at a timely point on the 10th – just as he’s recreating the drive he struck at Royal Birkdale’s 13th two years ago.
You can’t practice hitting it out of the deep stuff, an interviewer opined in the mixed zone afterwards, but then he probably hasn’t watched Spieth much recently.
Barely escaping the top 200 in strokes gained off the tee tells you Spieth’s been spending too much time gardening this season.
But some of his scores mean he’s an absolute genius in getting out of it.
This was certainly a master class. Way left, way right, Spieth was all over the shop off the tee and still kept finding the answers.
I know he’s a student of the game. I wonder if his back yard is actually a secret turf nursery, with all kinds of weird gnarly stuff growing that he can get a wedge into.
And that’s the key. We’re too stubborn. Give us 150 yards to the pin and we’ll still take a straight face to it, even though it’s impossible. But this is what you should do…
“It’s a feel. I don’t think about the swing. It’s just ‘how is it going to come out?’ Hold the face open, hold the blade open and I’ve been clubbing it well.
“I club up because I’m essentially hitting a flop shot out of it. My shots out of it were really, really nice and I got some good breaks from where I hit it to as well.”
2. Only quitters quit
You know what they say. If at first you don’t succeed…
Your driver may think the 2nd fairway is actually the 14th. But, and it doesn’t matter how bad you hit it, keep flailing away. The law of averages says you have to find a fairway at some point.
Spieth, by his own admission, managed three. “I posted a score that was pretty incredible from where I played my second shots from,” he said.
And he’s still in the top 10. Arnold Palmer was right all along. Hit it hard, go find it, and hit it hard again.
So don’t be tempted to banish those big clubs to the back of the bag. Irons are for losers.
3. Practice, practice and practice those up and downs
If you’re going to set up a deck chair in the deep stuff, you’d better be pretty good at salvaging your situation in the much-quoted ‘scoring zone’.
Spieth’s lauded for his long putting but he’s also incredible with a bladed club around the green.
There was a shot on the 14th that absolutely took my breath away. Jordan hadn’t even made the tricky bunker after hacking out of another rough infested hell-hole.
He was left of that and had what looked to my 10-handicap eye to be an absolutely impossible shot. Short sided, with a heavy slope in front that obscured the cup and most of the flag, the shelf seemed tiny.
Spieth hit the ball so high off a tight lie it went almost vertical, landed barely half a yard on from rolling back to his feet, and settled about eight feet away.
He did this again and again on the back nine. Most of us can get around a green in a couple of shots. But how many does it take us to finish from there?
I spend hours ripping 6-irons on the range. I’ve got it all wrong. It’s tricky little flops over bunkers for me from now on.
Either that or just sink everything you lay a putter at on the green.