LA JOLLA, Calif. — Jordan Spieth was unable to provide clarity on where his game is vis-a-vis his disappointing 2018, though suffice it to say that on Friday it wasn’t where he preferred it to be.
Spieth, who went without winning last year, stumbled on the back nine of the South Course at Torrey Pines, shot an even-par 72 and fell to a tie for 18th, eight strokes behind leader Justin Rose in the Farmers Insurance Open.
A front-nine of three-under par 33 had him within two shots of Rose. But he made a mess at the par-4 12th hole, going from the left rough, to the left green-side bunker, to over the green, to the fringe, to two feet of the hole and a tap-in double bogey. He also bogeyed the 16th and failed to make a back-nine birdie.
But here’s what we do know: His putting deserves little of the blame, an improvement over 2018 when the man regarded among the best putters in the world faltered on the greens.
“Obviously, everyone talks about his putting,” Billy Horschel, his playing partner, said. “He rolled the ball really well the last two days. We were talking about it out there, that he’s sort of worked on it, figured out what the issue was.
“I think yesterday was a big, big confidence boost to him the way he rolled it, and he came out and rolled it good again today. Obviously, he’s off with his swing, just like I am, so we’re both sort of working on it and trying to figure it out.”
Spieth, a former No. 1 who has fallen to 20th in the World Ranking, has hit only 11 of 28 fairways, tying for 132nd in a field of 156. It makes hitting greens in regulation problematic and he tied for 134th in the field there, hitting only 21 of 36.
“I scored tremendously well because I made a lot of putts,” he said following a first-round 65. “It’s good to have to scramble and to make a lot of putts to keep rounds going. That was a great round considering some of the spots I was in.”
It was more of the same on Friday, his putter, if not rescuing him entirely, at least keeping him in position to make a weekend move. “I know kind of what I was doing in my routine and I know what I was practicing in order to kind of get to this,” he said. “I putted really well actually the second round of Sony [the Sony Open in Hawaii]. I made a couple strokes up there. Something clicked probably six, seven holes in there at Sony and I’ve just been riding with it since. Really nice to see them go in from anywhere.”