Planet Golf — 14 May 2016 by GW staff and news services
Missed cut sends Spieth back home

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jordan Spieth’s stay at THE PLAYERS Championship extended to Saturday only because of the previous day’s 2-hour weather delay.

He missed the cut by one shot after making a 14-foot birdie putt at his final hole, an ending that didn’t accurately represent an otherwise frustrating week on the greens for the reigning FedExCup champion.

He shot 72-71 at TPC Sawgrass’ THE PLAYERS Stadium Course to miss the cut by a single shot. This was Spieth’s first start since his runner-up finish at the Masters, where he lost a five-shot lead with nine holes to play.

Spieth had a chance to win his second Masters last month despite fighting his swing. His ballstriking was the focus of his practice sessions in the four weeks since Augusta, and he said he was content with how he hit the ball this week. It was his biggest strength, his putting, that hurt him this week. He lost 1.23 strokes per round on the greens at TPC Sawgrass. He entered the week gaining 0.54 strokes per round on the greens.

“If I putt anywhere up to the standard that I normally putt, even with a couple bad breaks here and there, I’m at 6- or 7-under,” Spieth said. “Everybody has an off putting week. I just had a couple days where I just kind of lost a little control of it.”

He also admit that he’s been too hard on himself this season. He’s known for being demonstrative and expressing his emotions, especially after mishits, but he said his self-criticism is having a negative impact on his game.

“I just need to be a little more positive with myself on the course and maybe kind of lower expectations a little bit and just kind of free myself up,” Spieth said. “It just seems I’m so tense and I just need to get back to the way I enjoy playing golf.”

Spieth will now prepare for his hometown events, the AT&T Byron Nelson in his native Dallas and the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational in nearby Fort Worth, the next two weeks. He made his PGA TOUR debut at the Nelson as a 16-year-old amateur in 2010, finishing 16th (Jason Day won his first PGA TOUR title that week). One year later, he started the final round four shots off the lead before finishing 32nd. He played with eventual champion Keegan Bradley that year.

“That’s an event that, growing up, I’ve always wanted to win and haven’t really had a chance to win since I was 16, 17,” Spieth said with a laugh. He’ll use the weekend to prepare for those events with his coach, Cameron McCormick. Spieth missed a couple putts Saturday morning that would have allowed him to play the final two rounds at TPC Sawgrass.

His ball lay in the rough right of the 15th fairway when he resumed his second round this morning. He was 1 under par, one shot outside the projected cut line. Spieth’s first shot of the day hit tree branches and a tree trunk, falling 70 yards short of the green. He was trying to hit the green with a “punch-cut” 9-iron instead of pitching out into the fairways.

“It was just a mental mistake,” he said. “I should have just taken my medicine.”

The bogey meant Spieth needed to birdie two of the final three holes. His second shot on the par-5 16th with an 8-iron came up short of the green. He chipped 9 feet past the hole and missed the birdie putt. He also missed a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th.

Spieth made birdie at his final hole after hitting the left side of the fairway and knocking his 168-yard approach to 14 feet.

He hit 18 of 28 fairways this week, missing just three in his first-round 72. He also hit 24 of 36 greens.

This is his second consecutive missed cut here after he finished fourth in his debut in 2014.

Spieth has now missed two cuts in 10 starts this season. He also missed the cut after shooting 79-68 at the Northern Trust Open in February. He missed four cuts in 25 starts in last season’s five-win campaign.

He’s 34th in the FedExCup this season with a win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. This was his 10th worldwide start since that win; he has finished in the top 25 in eight of those events, with his missed cuts this week and at the Northern Trust Open the only exceptions.

“No one ever wants to think that they can’t match what they have done the previous year,” Spieth said. “You believe that you can get better all the time. And I believe that I can be a better player this year than I was last year. “But in the off days I just need to do a little bit better job of being positive with myself and smiling a bit more, having a bit more fun.”

Spieth had plenty of cut company.

Phil Mickelson= left early for the fourth consecutive year. The former champion here understands that TPC Sawgrass provides a strong barometer for the state of his game.

“I think that it’s a great golf course to identify how well you’re playing,” he said after scores of 70-73. “It tells me that I’ve got some work to do still. I’ve been driving the ball much better this year, but I drove it terrible this week and it’s, it will eat you up. So I think it’s a really good place to play to find out where your strengths and your weaknesses are.”

Defending champion Rickie Fowler also missed the cut.

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