McKINNEY, Texas – The AT&T Byron Nelson continues to be a white whale of sorts for Jordan Spieth.
From his debut in this event in 2010 as a 16-year-old sponsor invite, Spieth has circled it as one of the tournaments that he never misses and desperately wants to win. He came his closest to him (yet) in his 11th attempt, shooting a final-round 5-under 67 for a 72-hole total of 25-under 263 and one shot behind winner KH Lee. His runner-up finish topped last year’s T-9 at TPC Craig Ranch as his best result at the Nelson.
“I love playing at home, I would love to win it some day,” Spieth said. “I had a good chance here, I don’t think I ever really had the lead on my own, I think I had a putt to maybe get the lead on my own on 10. But it would be nice to close one out. ”
But there is so much to be encouraged by, least of all that he posted four rounds in the 60s for the first time at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Spieth heads to the 104th PGA Championship with a first and second in his two most recent starts as he seeks a win to complete the career Grand Slam. This will be his sixth attempt by him to join one of golf’s most exclusive fraternities and he’s probably never felt as confident in his game by him.
AT&T Byron Nelson: Leader board | winner’s bag
“I feel like I’ve got every shot,” said Spieth and the number seemed to back him up. He ranked seventh for the week in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, second in SG: Tee to Green and fourth in SG: Approach the Green.
“I don’t feel like I have to go change much, I just feel like I’m doing the right things,” he said. “My rehearsal is not exactly what I’m trying to do, but it gets me closer to where I want to.”
In support of the growing confidence, he highlighted two shots that he pulled off that weren’t previously in his repertoire. The first of which was at the 134-yard par-3 17th. Spieth declared it was an uncomfortable yardage for the shot he wanted to hit, “a chippy draw.”
“I haven’t wanted to hit it under pressure,” I explained. “So today I wanted to kind of hood a pitching wedge and I said, ‘You know, I’m going to trust this, I’m going to learn from this shot and I’m going to take seven, eight yards and draw a 9-iron without it crossing over left of the pin.’ That’s just a shot that I just haven’t had and I just hit maybe my best shot of the day into there.”
The second shot that stood out was from 245 yards at the par-5 18thwhere he needed to make an eagle to force a playoff.
Jordan Spieth plays a tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch. (Photo: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports)
“I hit a 3-wood and tried to hit a 30-yard high slice into the green because I couldn’t get a hybrid there, but 3-wood’s over the green,” he said. “So it’s like being able to kind of sit here and play these back-to-back crazy shots and feel comfortable doing so means it’s really close. But it’s really, really close on the range and normally that starts to, everything just inches a little bit closer.”
His slicing 3-wood to 18 cleared the front bunker but ended up just short of the putting surface and he failed to chip in. “I hit just a shot that you don’t practice into the green and I actually thought I just stuck it and I don’t know if I could have a thousand balls and hit it where I hit it,” he said.
Spieth’s putter remains a work in progress. He said that he won the RBC Heritage last month without a putter, and spent considerable time ahead of the Byron Nelson working on his stroke. He entered the week ranked No. 176 in SG: putting. Ranked 36th for the Nelson, he judged it a successful week, considering he gained strokes on the field with the short stick for three of the four rounds as well as overall (+1.449). But Sunday he lost more than a stroke and a half to the field and a 3-putt from 7 feet at No. 10 was costly.
“Just got a little too aggressive and hit it through the first break and then I kind of got in my own head in the wind there on the second one and missed about a 3- or 4-footer which to go from thinking I was going to make birdie to make bogey, I mean that’s obviously a big swing,” he said. “I also missed a three and a half footer on (No.) 7 three days ago. So sometimes it’s tough, sometimes we miss those. Like I made 98 of them this week and you miss two of them.”
But Spieth also noted he made a bunch of nasty 5-foot sliders and he was able to focus more on judging the line and speed.
“I was more outwardly focused than stroke focused,” he said. “So that’s really important under pressure as I look to a major.”
He also expects the greens at Southern Hills, site of the PGA and where he recently played a practice round, to be more to his liking.
“We’ll get on greens next week that remind me of a lot of Colonial (where Spieth is a past champion and has a tremendous record), bent grass, which is gradual slope where you don’t have a lot of tricks, which I think will be nice and I gained a lot of confidence on the greens this week.”
Confidence is knowing your best golf is still to come.