PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – If there was a favorite to win the individual title at the NCAA Division I men’s golf championships, Texas’ Jordan Spieth could have been an easy pick.
The Longhorns’ freshman is the top-ranked collegiate golfer in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and had built up a pretty impressive resume before he even came to Austin.
He was a member of the 2011 Walker Cup Team, reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur and won the U.S. Junior Amateur all last year.
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Besides, unlike most of the players at Riviera Country Club, Spieth played the course when he received a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open in February. He missed the cut by two shots, but got in three rounds of golf and was able to learn the nuances of the famed tract that has hosted several major championships.
“I felt like I had an advantage coming in because I had played here at the PGA Tour event,” Spieth said. “I felt like I could win this if I played solid golf.”
Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan. Spieth shot an opening round 2-over par 73 and in the second round shot a 79. The round included a very uncharacteristic double and triple bogey.
“I hit bad shots,” Spieth said. “It wasn’t normal for me. I could have easily shot better.”
The championship has served as a lesson in humility for Spieth. His confidence quickly changed to reality.
“I’m not going to win individuals,” Spieth said. “I can still help the team and if we make it into match play anything can happen.”
Spieth’s woes are coming from a swing that has recently betrayed him. It was a strong part of his game, but in the last two rounds he has been fighting his tee shots and long approach shots.
“I’ve been off lately,” Spieth said. “My stroke is great, I have putted great. I am trying to get my stroke back, but it is tough. It kind of stinks, but there’s not much I can do about it.”
One of the possibilities for the slight decline in his game is the amount of golf Spieth has played. He was in 11 collegiate events and two PGA Tour events from September until May and it is a lot more competitive golf than he is accustomed to.
“It’s a lot of golf to play,” Spieth said. “It’s more than I ever played in high school. I never used to play a lot of tournaments. By this time in previous years I might have played in three events. It’s been completely different. It starts to wear on you.”
Playing in PGA Tour events has been something that Spieth thought was important for his development. The tour allows seven sponsor exemptions for non-members and Spieth used one for the Northern Trust and one for the Texas Open, where he made the cut and finished tied for 41st.
Spieth’s plan is to play in more events this summer and he thinks tasting the professional tour has helped his game.
“I would say it helped,” Spieth said. “It was different missing that much class and trying to make it up while I was on the road. From as far as a golf standpoint being able to handle pressure and emotions, it has definitely helped. It’s just been a little different and takes some time to get used to it.”
It is one of many new experiences Spieth will have to get used to during his collegiate career.
“I was pleased with fall and most of spring,” Spieth said of his first year at Texas. “Recently it hasn’t been going to way I wanted it to. Whether that is a lot of finals and dealing with that and tournaments or taking weeks off to play in tour starts, it’s been an adjustment. It’s something that I will definitely learn from.