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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Want to Know What's Wrong with Jordan?

That's the big question right now: What's wrong with Jordan Spieth? Why can't he crush fields the way he did last year?

Just so you know, nothing is really wrong with Jordan's game, other than the normal ups-and-downs of golf that affect everyone. His stats look very similar to last year, as you can see on his stats pages. (That link will automatically bring you up on his 2016 stats. You can check any season by changing the year in the upper right corner of the 'Statistics' tab.")

Jordan Spieth

His driving stats are almost identical, although he's hitting slightly more fairways this year (63.76% VS 62.91% in 2015).

His proximity to the hole is worse this year (37' 3" VS 33' 8" in 2015). That extra 4' 5" is enough to reduce his odds of making putts... but he's actually making more one-putts this year (44.79% VS 44.26% in 2016). So that may not be as bad as it appears.

His scrambling is also slightly worse (61.06% VS 65.03% in 2015).

It might surprise you to know that his overall putting stats are nearly identical to last year, although his Strokes Gained Putting stat is worse (.372 VS .571 in 2015). I was actually surprised that neither year looked particularly good to me, but Aaron Baddeley was the best last year with only .722. Steve Stricker is best this year with 1.065 but only he and Jason Day are better than 1.000.

The fact is, none of the stats seems to be different enough to explain Jordan's struggles this year -- no stat, that is, except for his overall Scoring Average. Last year he averaged 68.938 strokes per round; this year it's only 70.086 -- a difference of 1.148 strokes.

Let's add Stokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained Putting for each year:
  • 2016: 1.205 + .372 = 1.577
  • 2015: 1.583 + .571 = 2.154
That's a difference of .577 strokes per round.

Bear in mind that we don't have a full year for 2016, so it's a smaller sample size than last year and that could be skewing the stats slightly. But the problem seems clear enough:
This year Jordan is taking about one more stroke per round than he did last year, or four more strokes per tournament. And the Strokes Gained stats only account for a little over half of it.
So I can't help but wonder if maybe he's just putting too much pressure on himself to match last year's performance, even though he says he doesn't expect to match it. But we've heard him berate himself harshly on the course quite often this year. Given how often he told us last year that he wasn't on a streak, and that he expected to play at that level all the time, I'm not sure I believe him when he says he has lower expectations now.

Perhaps when he stops berating himself so much on the course, then maybe I'll believe him. I think his mindset is the real problem, and a change in that is what I'll be watching for the rest of this year.

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