Golf

Jack Nicklaus says don’t worry about Jordan Spieth’s struggles. Does Spieth agree?

Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus isn’t worried about Jordan Spieth’s recent struggles on the course.

“He’ll figure it out,” Nicklaus said at an event celebrating Dallas Athletic Club’s 100th anniversary last week. “He’s a smart kid. He knows where he has to go. Just be patient. He’ll be all right.”

Spieth agrees to a certain extent. He feels his game is progressing toward peak form even if the results haven’t shown it yet.

He enters his hometown event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, without a Top 10 finish this season. He hasn’t won since collecting his third major championship at the 2017 British Open.

But Spieth has seen much-needed progress of late, although he refused to put a time frame on when it might translate to better results.

“I don’t know on time frame, but I feel really good about the progression being made,” said Spieth, who tees off at 12:40 p.m. on Thursday along with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.

“I know it got off for a while, I didn’t know what it was and I know it got off, and now it’s just the difficulty in fixing it, like anything else.

“My last four to six starts I’ve been a couple tee balls away from really having a chance to win and that’s without feeling like I had my best stuff. So just kind of tightening up the tee game is really the key at this point. The rest of it is really coming together.”

As stated, wildness off the tee is the most glaring issue in Spieth’s game right now. He’s hitting just 49.53 percent of fairways, which ranks 210th on Tour. That makes it tougher to reach the green in regulation, evident by his 63.74 percent mark (167th on Tour).

By comparison, Spieth found the fairways off the tee at a 62.91 percent clip in his stellar 2015 season, and 60 percent in 2017. Last year, he also hit more than 60 percent of the fairways.

Maybe playing at a course he’s a member at and familiar with, Trinity Forest Golf Club, gets him on track this week. Spieth finished T21 in the course’s debut season last year.

“I like Trinity Forest a lot,” Spieth said. “I’ve been coming out here since they were sprigging the greens so hopefully [I’ll] get it going this week and potentially have an exciting weekend.”

The Nelson tournament has always held a special place in Spieth’s heart. This is where he captivated the golf world by finishing T16 as a high school student in 2010.

That just foreshadowed what would come. Spieth already has won three major championships at age 25, and will be going for the career grand slam at next week’s PGA Championship in New York.

Spieth would love to complete his grand slam before other stars on Tour such as Rory McIlroy, who has yet to win a Masters, and Phil Mickelson, who has yet to win a U.S. Open. But Spieth acknowledged he won’t be a favorite to do so.

“I think I’ll be flying under the radar compared to previous years just based on kind of the results of the last year or so,” Spieth said. “But I don’t mind that.”

Instead, Spieth has learned to embrace the challenge of getting his game back to that point. He seemed relaxed and optimistic about it during his news conference, and ripped so-called “experts” who seemingly dissect his game on a daily basis.

“Quite simply put, there’s a lot of experts out there that actually have no idea what they’re saying,” Spieth said. “It’s actually not hard to say what I’m going to do. The very frustrating part is personally knowing what I need to do and doing that can be very challenging and taking so much time.

“It does take time and I’m certainly at peace with that now. I don’t feel the need, by any means, to have to do something here, there or with any time frame. I feel good about being patient with it.

“I have no doubt in my abilities and myself.”

Spieth on Romo

Spieth has played plenty of rounds with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who received an exemption into this year’s Nelson.

Like everyone else who’s seen Romo on the course of late, Spieth seemed confused why Romo has gone to a hockey-stick grip with his putter.

“Last time I saw him he was putting normal,” Spieth said, smiling. “He’s a good putter, too. Next thing I see he’s like trying some kind of sidesaddle thing. I’ll need to talk with him about that.”

Romo told the Star-Telegram earlier this week that he changed his putting grip after a horrendous showing at the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in late March.

Romo averaged 2.3 putts per hole, posting scores of 79-80 and missing the cut by 17 strokes.

“Putting … so much of it is just how you can get yourself set up to see the line and then be freed up and let it go,” Romo said. “I struggled with that at Puntacana.”

Romo smiled and said: “I wasn’t married to anything [grip-wise]. I was open to any possibility of what stroke we were going to use. After practicing a ton, it just feels like a normal grip that is just extended. It’s a hockey grip.”

Either way, Spieth is on board with Romo being in the field.

“It provides a boost for the tournament for sure,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what to expect from him. I haven’t played with him in a couple months. He’s a very good player. Tournament golf, it is something different, something that he’s trying to figure out.

“This is a place he’s as familiar with as anyplace else, so I think he’s going to really enjoy it.”

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