Jordan Spieth finds bunker magic at the Travelers Championship

By Dave Kaplan

Jordan Spieth is so good that it is sometimes quite easy to forget that he is only 23 years old!

After holing out, perhaps, the shot of his life on Sunday evening to win the Travelers Championship, Spieth became the second youngest player in golf’s modern era to earn 10 PGA Tour victories.

In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest post-shot celebrations in the history of the sport, the Texan watched as his ball rolled into the cup, excitedly threw his sand wedge into the air, and then did a flying chest-bump with his caddie Michael Greller in front of a frenzied gallery.

“I was actually a little surprised by the jubilation from Michael,” Spieth revealed to the press after the win. “I looked over, I think he had just kind of turned around and screamed. Normally, he’d just kind of have his hands up or something. He’s more reserved. But, he was screaming and it made me want to scream louder and then he jumped and fortunately we didn’t like high-five jump. We both went kind of for the little side bump and it was cool.”

Prior to the shot, Justin Thomas posted on Twitter that it wouldn’t surprise him if Spieth holed out from the bunker.

Obviously, that was a prophetic call by Thomas. Although, maybe we shouldn’t give the 24-year-old too much credit, considering just how many times Spieth has come up clutch with the tournament on the line over the course of his short career!

At the 2013 John Deere Classic, Spieth holed a very similar bunker shot on the final hole to force a playoff with David Hearn and Zach Johnson en route to notching his first PGA Tour victory.

His second career win at the Valspar Championship in 2015 was no less dramatic! At that tournament, Spieth made two nearly impossible ups-and-downs on the final two holes of regulation — including the following gem — to force a playoff with Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair:

Three holes later, Spieth closed out the tournament with this kiss of death from 28 feet!

Spieth went on to win the Masters, the US Open, the John Deere Classic (again), and the Tour Championship that year, along with the FedEx Cup. In the season and a half that has transpired since his breakout campaign, Spieth has accrued four more victories — two last year and two, so far, this year with plenty of golf still remaining on the schedule.

Oddly enough, Spieth was generally considered to be underachieving this season prior to his win last weekend — which is somewhat perplexing, considering that the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year had already amassed six Top 10 finishes in only 15 starts!

Spieth, of course, put an end to that narrative with a single swing of the club on Sunday evening. In doing so, he also became the youngest player in PGA Tour history to reach the $30 million mark in career earnings.

Spieth has taken home just under $5 million this season alone and he has done that, for the most part, while struggling with his putter. The Texan’s putting numbers are down across the board this year from the past two seasons, when he was ranked 2nd and 9th overall amongst his colleagues in strokes gained with the putter. This year, Spieth ranks 39th overall in this crucial category, 40th overall in putting average, and 50th in one-putting percentage.

Those are obviously not the numbers that you would expect from a player that is almost unanimously considered to be one of the best putters in the world. However, Spieth has managed to offset those putting struggles with some lethal and accurate iron striking. In reality, it is this excellent ball striking that has fuelled Spieth to so many of his strong finishes this year.

The two-time major champion ranks first on the PGA Tour in strokes gained approaching the green, second in proximity to the hole (32’ 11’’) and fifth in greens in regulation percentage (70%).

Those numbers should be rather concerning for the rest of the players on the PGA Tour. Spieth is too good a natural pace putter to continue to struggle with the flat stick for too much longer. He will eventually snap out of his putting funk and when he does, the circuit had better watch out because the Texan is going to be very difficult to beat.

Dave Kaplan is a Toronto-based freelance writer and golf fanatic who is sneaky long off the tee. He’s on a crusade to inject a youthful perspective into golf media, especially the broadcast booth. Follow him on Twitter @davykap

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