JERSEY CITY, N.J. — If you were looking to follow Jordan Spieth on Friday at Liberty National, he wasn’t difficult to find. He had quite a following in his gallery for the second round of the Northern Trust, and he put on a good show for those who came out. Spieth made eight birdies against one bogey to shoot a seven-under-par 64, leaving him in a familiar position in 2019—near the top of the leader board after Thursday and Friday.
After a hit-or-miss season that saw Spieth enter the FedEx Cup Playoffs at 69th on the points list—only the top 70 qualify for next week’s BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club—Spieth backed up a solid Thursday start (four-under 67) with an even better performance after making a 24-foot birdie on his final hole (the ninth), leaving his 11-under 131 the low 36-hole score after the morning wave.
Now comes the hard part. Spieth enters the weekend trying to figure out how to reverse the ugly trend that’s plagued his game this year. Entering the Playoffs, Spieth has averaged scores of 69.35 and 68.4 for his first two rounds, respectively, ranking 10th and second on tour. The next two days have been the struggle as Spieth’s average goes to 71.19 in the third round and 73.0 in the fourth, ranking him 172nd and 195th among his peers for Saturday and Sunday.
Spieth insists he’s carrying good vibes into this weekend thanks to his solid iron play and consistent putting.
“Confidence for me is knocking in birdie putts,” he said. “When you’re at three or four under, pushing it to six and seven under—that’s what I’m looking to do.”
Of course, that’s what he did a week ago as well, shooting two rounds in the 60s at the Wyndham Championship, only to follow it up with a disappointing Saturday 77 that led him to miss the secondary cut.
Last week’s struggles had much to do with Spieth’s driving, something he feels he’s improving.
“I’m halfway there and off to a good start,” he said. “I’d like to gain a little bit better control off of the tee than I did today. It kind of got a little wayward.”
This is more than a good start at Liberty National, but whether Spieth can continue this into Saturday is the real question.
“The important thing for me is not to get ahead of myself,” he said. “It’s to just continue trying to be consistent. Historically, I’m a very consistent player. I’ve lost a bit of that. I still have that firepower, but the consistency is what I’m trying to get back. It’s about limiting mistakes. One bogey over 36 holes is somewhat unrealistic, but if I can hold it close to that for the next 36 and that firepower’s still there, it will certainly keep my confidence up.”
The potential fear for Spieth regarding his play over the first 36 holes at Liberty National is that he’s had plenty of lucky breaks, including a fortuitous drop near a cartpath on the ninth hole that led to a birdie.
“When things are going well, you end up getting all of the bounces, too,” Spieth said. “You’re playing well, you’re confident, you’re positive the whole time. And when you’re not, they just don’t. Some would say the ‘golf gods,’ but that’s just the way it works. I felt like I stole one or two.”