LOS ANGELES: The text messages were meant to encourage. They felt like back-handed compliments to Jordan Spieth.
He had just posted his second straight 67 in the Phoenix Open, three shots off the lead, and it was cause for celebration. After all, Spieth had missed the cut six times in his previous 15 tournaments. The nine other times he made it to the weekend, his average finish was nearly 15 shots behind.
“I was receiving texts that were like it was my first PGA Tour event ever,” Spieth said. “And as much as I enjoyed that support, I mean, I’m not leading by three. I didn’t win the golf tournament. Yeah, I know it’s been a little while since I’ve been near the top, but like, come on guys. I expect to be here, you know?”
Spieth knows better.
His slump has been so pronounced that he has now gone 80 individual tournaments worldwide since his last victory at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open. And it won’t officially end until he wins again.
He’s getting closer.
Whether it’s baby steps or giant leaps, at least he’s moving forward.
He shared the 54-hole lead in Phoenix until he limped home with a 72 to tie for fourth. One week later, he opened with rounds of 65-67 and took a two-shot lead into the final round at Pebble Beach only to endure another poor start and spend the rest of the day trying to catch up. Two birdies at the end gave him a tie for third.
He was No. 2 in the world when he won at Birkdale. He dropped as low as No. 92 after missing the cut at Torrey Pines last month. The close calls at Phoenix and Pebble allowed him to move up 30 spots to No. 62.
Even so, he needs another top finish this week at Riviera or Spieth won’t be eligible for a World Golf Championship for the first time since becoming a full PGA Tour member in the summer of 2013.
But he has momentum now, which has been lacking the better part of two years.