- Jordan Spieth is listed among the favorites to defend his Open Championship title
- Is that a good bet? Is there maybe something wrong with the young American?
Jordan Spieth won The Open Championship last year, and if you only tune in to the PGA Tour a couple times a year, you’ll remember that he was in contention at the Masters and, well, the US Open was crazy.
If you follow the PGA Tour more closely, you’ll probably have noticed that something is going on with Jordan Spieth this year.
Jordan Spieth’s Odds to Win the Open
The 2015 Open Championship winner is currently listed at +1600 to win The Open (see top 6 tab). Those odds have stayed pretty static throughout this season, and as you can see they’ve relaxed from +1000 (and outright favorite) to +1600, equal to Rickie Fowler,* Tommy Fleetwood, and Justin Rose.
|Player||Odds to win The Open Championship as of 7/13/18|
To keep up with The Open odds, use our Open Championship Odds Tracker.
The kneejerk reaction is sure, why not? Jordan Spieth is really good, and blindly betting on him to win the Masters every year for the next 20 is probably an efficient strategy.
The more considered reaction is that something is going on with Jordan Spieth this year, and right now is not the time to be paying favorite money for the young American.
Jordan Spieth’s Biggest Strength is Putting. Or is it?
When you talk to golf fans about Jordan Spieth’s skills, the first thing they’ll talk about is his putting. He’s great at putting, they’ll say, and that’s half the game. He is the avatar of the drive for show, putt for dough argument that fathers everywhere have long espoused.
If you look into the data, you find that Jordan Spieth is/was actually good at putting, but also really good at leaving himself makeable putts. It’s two distinct skills: getting the ball into a great position on approach, and then making a lot of six and eight-foot putts.
Here’s how Jordan Spieth has performed against the PGA Tour average in both of those skills since bursting onto the scene in 2013:
|Year||Strokes Gained Total (Rank)||Strokes Gained Approach-to-Green (Rank)||Strokes Gained Putting (Rank)||Number of Measured Rounds|
|2018||1.040 (31st)||0.550 (25th)||-0.329 (173rd)||44|
|2017||1.871 (2nd)||0.906 (1st)||0.320 (42nd)||68|
|2016||1.569 (5th)||0.145 (87th)||0.758 (2nd)||58|
|2015||2.154 (2nd)||0.618 (11th)||0.571 (9th)||66|
|2014||0.980 (20th)||0.286 (57th)||0.399 (20th)||79|
|2013||1.473 (6th)||0.480 (24th)||0.182 (60th)||67|
We can see that Jordan Spieth has never actually been the best putter on tour, but was top ten in 2015 and 2016.
In 2015, Spieth was on the top of his game: he was making a lot of ground on approach, and then putting beautifully, well enough to earn himself more than a stroke a round between those two skills alone. In 2016, Spieth putted better than ever, but was pretty lax on approach to the green.
Here’s an inartful visual representation of that, in case you need one:
Spieth’s putting declined in 2017, but he was able to lean on his approach game to paper over that hole in the drywall. In 2018, the paper peeled off the wall, and Spieth started struggling on approach.
If you want to resort to speculative armchair psychology, it’s easy to imagine a post-2016 Masters Spieth shifting his focus from putting to approach, and paying dearly when the latter skill abandoned him in 2018.
Spieth Has Never Been Worse At Golf’s Most Important Skill
We can measure a players efficiency at getting the ball from within striking distance of the green to inside the little cup with the sum of his strokes gained putting and strokes gained on approach.* When you start doing those sums, things really don’t look good for Spieth.
Here’s a helpful chart I made:
*It’s interesting to note that in 2017, Spieth was actually the best he’s ever been at this, despite struggling with the flat stick.
That’s right, the sum of Jordan Spieth’s combined strokes gained on approach and strokes gained putting has not been lower since he started winning. He’s in a rut, is what I’m saying, and the skills that made Jordan Spieth the player we all know, love, and bet on have measurably abandoned him in 2018.
One thing you might have noticed about playing golf is that once you’re bad it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to get good. Players don’t just wake up vastly improved at all the little skills that make up the world’s most expensive form of ball-in-a-cup.
I can’t stop you from betting on Jordan Spieth to do just that next weekend, but I can suggest that the odds you’re getting on that bet are bad value.