Jordan Spieth's memorable triumph at last year's Travelers Championship, where he holed a bunker shot for birdie to win the tournament in a playoff, makes it easy to forget he struggled heading into the tournament, finishing tied for 35th at the U.S. Open.
Spieth will need a similar rebound this week in order to repeat as champion in Connecticut, as this season has provided more questions than answers for the former world No.1.
He hasn't won this season and sits 188th in strokes gained: putting, essentially dead last on Tour in that category.
The 24-year-old is just two years removed from being ranked as one of the best putters on the planet. In 2016, he was second in that same strokes gained category.
Spieth's struggles on the greens have left him shrugging his shoulders entering this week's tournament, and have held him back from finding the winner’s circle; he missed the cut at last week's U.S. Open.
However, it's the entirety of Spieth's game that's causing his flat-stick follies.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
He's second on Tour in greens in regulation and fourth in strokes gained: tee to green, but on approaches from 50 to 125 yards, Spieth sits 145th. Although he's hitting the green frequently enough, he's not hitting it close enough, leaving himself with long birdie attempts. To compound that problem, he's 199th on Tour in putting from 15 to 20 feet.
"I'm not sure where the state of my game is right now," he told reporters Monday, per ASAP Sports. "I've kind of got to where my putting is making a lot of progress right now. It's getting back to where I'm seeing my lines, and it's getting back to where it could be top level. And in that process, I've spent a lot of time on the putting and less on the swing, and that's gotten off."
Spieth has played in five of the last six tournaments, missing the cut in the previous two.
He admitted it's his play on Thursdays that gets him out of contention early; his first-round scoring average of 71.79 has him 155th on Tour.
"I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and not try to do too much. I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournament the last two years I've thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday," he said.
But Spieth returns this week to a place of much celebration and success. His victory at the Travelers Championship was one of the more exciting finishes to a tournament in 2017. He went on to win the Open Championship in his next start, and finished outside the top 15 just once in his final six tournaments.
This year, his two best finishes have been third at Augusta National and tied for third at the Houston Open.
So, while Spieth's got some big goals in his sights, he's looking to start small.
"Tee time Saturday would be nice," he said.
Adam Stanley has written about golf since 2011 for PGATOUR.com, LPGA.com, and the Canadian Press, among other organizations. He's also a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail. Find him on Twitter @adam_stanley.