Jordan Spieth has been here before. In fact, it was at this time last year when he found himself in the exact same spot - entering the Travelers Championship off a less than ideal performance at the U.S. Open.
Last year, Spieth was coming off a 35th place finish at the Open, doomed by his putter on the third day when he missed a number of birdie putts. But Spieth rebounded quickly, winning the Travelers the following week in a dramatic one-hole playoff against Daniel Berger. He used that momentum to win The British Open.
Last week at Shinnecock, the world’s No. 5 golfer shot a 78 and 71 to miss the cut at the U.S. Open. Spieth is hoping a similar situation to last year will play out again. He knows a strong start like he had in 2017 is going to be key.
“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and not try to do too much,” Spieth said. “Ninety-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I've thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I've had to do too much from [there] on. And the only tournaments I had a shot, I averaged good scores in the first round and I've had a chance to win Sunday. Just hit greens and let the flow of the golf course come to you.”
TPC River Highlands will give him a chance to do that.
Shinnecock was a par-70, 7,440-yard course, while the Travelers is played on a course that is almost 600 yards shorter, at par-70, 6,841 yards, and often provides players with a number of scoring opportunities. Last year, the top four finishers - Spieth, Berger, Charley Hoffman and Danny Lee - all finished double digits under par with three others finishing at 9-under.
At the same time, the Travelers offers some challenges, both on the course and mentally, and Spieth, who has been known to play quite aggressive at times, will have to find a balance.
“I think one of the bigger challenges is if you're doing scoreboard watching, you feel like you need to do a lot,” Spieth said. “Guys are going low every day. So if you look at it that way, don't scoreboard watch and just play the golf course, then you're ahead of the game already. Then you start getting these risk-reward holes mixed with these holes that bring water into play. So you kind of are like, OK, I hit a good tee shot here, I've got this drivable par-4 and I can get up-and-down for birdie. Then you go to the next two holes and you've got to deal with wind and water. I see myself making birdie or eagle, and then, man, I've got to play to the right spot on this hole. Each hole kind of changes that mindset.”
Spieth will tee off at 12:50 p.m. today and he knows this could once again be the tournament to set him back on track to winning another major.
“It feels good to be back,” he said. “I was able to play the back nine [Tuesday], and walking up to 18, it was really cool. The last time I walked up that hole was obviously in the playoff. This is a golf course that I have pretty much all good memories on. I don't have any bad experiences here.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org