Bunker practice pays off as Jordan Spieth just two back at Memorial Tournament
DUBLIN, Ohio – It’s been a weird few weeks for Jordan Spieth.
He skipped his hometown event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, with a left wrist injury, wasn’t at his best the next week at the PGA Championship, where he finished tied for 29th, and missed the cut for the first time in 11 starts at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.
“A place that historically has been, I think, the best place for me as a professional, at Colonial, to miss the cut there was just, was such a bummer,” said Spieth, who won the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2016 and has three runner-up finishes at Colonial.
But the weirdest part of the last few weeks hasn’t been the results as much as it’s been why he’s struggled. For a player whose history has been written largely thanks to a sublime short game, Spieth’s efforts have been anything but special around the greens the last few weeks.
Specifically, Spieth said it’s been his play from bunkers that cost him at Oak Hill and Colonial, where he lost 2.44 shots and 3.58 shots to the field around the greens, respectively.
“I just got thrown off at the PGA. I had a lot of really weird, difficult bunker shots there. I think I just lost a little of my entry point,” Spieth said. “I had a lot of like plugged lies. I had some like 30-yard ones from up-slopes. Then Colonial is normally the best ones – I think I sent one too far once, and then I just bailed on a bunch.”
But now Spieth’s wrist is healthy and he was able to spend the week at Muirfield Village working with swing coach Cameron McCormick on his bunker play. The result? He was 4-of-5 from the sand Thursday at the Memorial and 9-of-10 in scrambling, which was first in the field. He’s second in the field in strokes gained: around the green, picking up 2.77 shots.
The highlight of the round was a 43-footer from the bunker left of the 10th green that dropped into the cup for a perfectly “Jordan” birdie. And he salvaged his day with a shot from the sand short of No. 18 that set up a tap-in for bogey, following a poor drive.
“I just needed to get in, just get in and work on it,” he said. “It’s the one part of the game I’ve worked the least on since I injured my wrist because it’s the one thing that hurts the most, is flicking a bunker shot over like that. We held off on that for a couple weeks, and then I put a lot of work in this week with it and it felt fine and it certainly yielded results today.”
Spieth’s opening 69 left him two shots off the lead held by Davis Riley. It also looked a lot more like a “Jordan” round considering that he ranked in the middle of the pack in driving for the day and was even worse with his approach shots, hitting just eight of 18 greens in regulation.
Still, on one of the year’s most-demanding tests Spieth relished in his ability to grind out a score, which has always been his style.
“It felt like a great round. It was nice to beat a tough golf course,” he said.
Perhaps even better than getting the best of Muirfield Village with his lowest round since April’s RBC Heritage was heading into a crucial part of the season without any injury concerns.
“It’s fine. I don’t notice it,” Spieth said when asked about his left wrist. “It’s random little things like pushing a door wrong or getting jammed. It’s not a bother out on the golf course at all. I just tape it up to make sure that it doesn’t get any worse.”