Bethpage – Jordan Spieth still has trouble trusting his swing and his putting is only 90 percent of his best, but fighting those issues might lead him to a career Grand Slam.
The three-time major champion fired a four-under-par 66 on Friday at Bethpage Black to stand second on five-under 135 after 36 holes at the 101st PGA Championship.
“I feel like each round I’ve played I felt a little bit more in control of the ball,” Spieth said. “And hopefully that continues.”
After 2015 Masters and US Open triumphs and a 2017 Open victory, Spieth only needs to lift the Wanamaker Trophy to become only the sixth golfer to complete a career Grand Slam.
It’s a select lineup including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
And while Spieth downplays the significance of what a PGA victory would mean, it’s notable that it could come in a year when the 25-year-old American has struggled with swing and putting problems.
Spieth hasn’t managed a Top-20 finish all year and hasn’t won anywhere since collecting the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale.
But he did focus on one swing motion before arriving at Bethpage Black, certain in his return to form even if it remains somewhat a work in progress.
“I’m still really thinking through swings, but I have to because if I don’t, it gets into the wrong position,” Spieth said.
“I played most of 2017 with just one swing thought and be reactive, and it was as good as anybody that year. So it’s working back in that direction, but it was far enough off to make it pretty difficult, especially to trust it in certain situations in majors.
“It’s just harder on the tees to sit there and fully trust it. Doing a pretty good job this week so far.”
Spieth has also found rhythm in his putting stroke, making him tougher on the sloped greens of Bethpage.
“Probably 90 percent back to when I was at my best,” Spieth said of his putting stroke. “The only difference maker is I think just speed control. Speed control has still been just a little bit iffy, but I’m as good or better 15 feet and in.
“I feel like I’m where I should be. I’ve put a lot of thought and work into it, and the putting feels good.”
A 39-yard birdie putt at the eighth felt especially nice.
“I don’t expect to putt as well as I did today, each and every day. It’s just not possible,” he said. “But it feels consistent enough to where the good days are like they were today, and off days, I’m still rolling some good putts and still coming away with some confidence.”
More importantly, he’s seeing the putts better than he has since his British Open title.
“Especially inside of 10-12 feet, I feel more comfortable,” Spieth said. “My eyes are seeing where the putter is pointed so I can be reactive to the correct line.
“It seems easy, but when that gets off, golf is pretty difficult – and that’s where I’ve been the last year and a half.”