Whenever a golfer as talented as Jordan Spieth struggles for as long as he did, prognosticators love to lambast their decision-making and question whether said golfer will or will not ever be the same player they once were. The same thing happened to Tiger Woods. He got hurt. He changed his swing four times. Each time he struggled during those transitions, the Brandel Chamblees and Nick Faldos of the world openly challenged his decision-making. Each time, Tiger eventually proved them wrong, authoring four different acts of his career, each memorable in their own way.
Which brings us back to Speith. After winning the 2017 Open Championship, his third major in three years and 11th win overall, he went through an extended cold spell. He hurt his hand. He changed his swing. His driver went wayward. The long putts stopped dropping. The chip-ins stopped falling. He dropped from No. 1 in the world to nearly being out of the Top 100. Throughout this fall from grace, seemingly every analyst out there called for him to make changes with his coach, or caddy, or anyone to re-energize a career that at one point seemed destined to challenge Woods' greatness.
Spieth didn't listen to them. He stood pact. He kept working on his new swing with the same coach he's had since he was a kid, Cameron McCormick. Michael Greller remained his caddy. Spieth married his high school sweetheart. He placed the blame on himself, not them, for his struggles. He didn't listen to the outside noise. Yesterday, his patience paid off when he won the Valero Texas Open.
It was a vindicating win for so many reasons. Given all the outside noise and doubt, it must have felt good for Spieth to win with the people who have been part of all the ups and downs. But it was encouraging for another reason. Much like Woods, this feels like the beginning of a new act for Spieth.
Spieth has been exceptional all season. He has five Top 10s this year already. He shot a 61 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He's one of the top-ranked ball strikers on tour. His driver is still erratic, but it's getting better. Now he knows he can win.
Spieth now heads to Augusta, where he's won once, finished second twice and third once. He's among the betting favorites to win again. And perhaps he will take home a fourth major and second green jacket.
Regardless of whether he wins this week or next, it's clear he's now back to playing the kind of golf he used to. He still talks to himself after nearly every shot. He still complains about every miss. He still points and rolls his eye when a 30-foot putt veers ever so slightly off -course. But that's what we love about him. And even more important, that's when you know he's in the zone.
You can see the pressure Spieth put on himself for all those years is gone. He's confident in his game again. He knows he can get it done. It took longer than he wanted, but Spieth is back. Perhaps the second act will be just as compelling as the first.