May 13, 2019 / 2:09 PM / 14 days ago

Golf-Spieth says he is close to top form, but critics not so sure

May 13 (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth will have a third opportunity to complete the career grand slam at the PGA Championship this week, but his form is a far cry from that which saw him ranked third in the world as recently as this time last year.

Spieth has not won since the 2017 British Open and, more troubling, has not even contended at any tournament he has played this year.

He showed glimpses of his old self at the Byron Nelson tournament in his home city of Dallas at the weekend, but ultimtely finished a disappointing equal 29th after a mediocre final round.

Spieth says that he is happy with every part of his game except his driving and that he is close to getting that area back to where he wants it

“I really think I’ve done a good job now of embracing the struggle,” he said last week.

“My last four to six starts, I’ve been a couple of tee balls away from really having a chance to win and that’s without feeling like I had my best stuff.

“So, just tightening up the tee game is really the key at this point. The rest of it is really coming together.”

Several former players, however, are not quite so sure a return to form for Spieth is just around the corner.

“He talks about getting comfortable and all sorts of things but it just doesn’t look comfortable for me,” six-times major champion Nick Faldo said during a conference call last week for CBS television, which will screen the PGA Championship in the United States.

“I watch his hip action, and his leg action, the whole action which leads to balance and power. To me that just doesn’t seem right and that’s why he’s got ... the two-way miss.

“He can block it right and pull it left with the driver.”

The two-way miss refers to the dreaded affliction of wondering which side of the fairway you are going to miss with your bad shots.

Spieth, 29, almost completed the calendar grand slam in 2015, winning the Masters and U.S. Open before contending but falling just short at the British Open and PGA Championship.

His iron play was magnificent back then, his short game sublime and his putting unparalleled, particularly from mid-range. He sank so many 20-footers, they began to look almost routine.

Those days are long gone.

“The putting woes have been well-documented. He doesn’t have the same confidence because he’s now seen an awful lot of misses his last 18 months,” said Faldo.

SWING STRIPPED OF ATHLETICISM, SAYS CHAMBLEE

Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee also wonders whether Spieth, who won a third major at the 2017 British Open, will ever find his way back to his previous heights.

“His golf swing has changed so much, it’s almost been completely stripped of all of its athleticism,” Chamblee said recently.

“Spieth was one of the best drivers of the ball his first couple of years on the PGA Tour. People now just think of him as a poor driver of the golf ball.

“It looks to me like he’s in a very tough spot. Who knows if he’ll ever find his way back? A lot of people who go down that road can’t remember how to get back home.”

PUTTING ANXIETY SHOWS, ACCORDING TO BAKER-FINCH

As for Spieth’s putting, former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch has noticed the Texan change his routine.

“When you feel a little anxious or confused with aim it throws off your routine and that’s what it looks like to me,” Australian Baker-Finch, a master putter in his day, told Reuters.

What this will all add up to next week is open to question, but Faldo does not expect it to be pretty.

“It seems like golf’s hard work from three or four years ago,” he said.

Spieth, however, is shrugging off the criticism. “There’s a lot of experts out there that actually have no idea what they’re saying,” he said. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina Editing by Ian Chadband)

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