Jordan Spieth entered the 2018 Pebble Beach Pro-Am optimistic and in good spirits despite a recent run of uncharacteristically difficult starts and finishes that many touring pros would be ecstatic about. But for Spieth, a man accustomed to the dramatic flair of clutch putting and perfectly placed approach shots, it has been less than favorable.

A tedious battle with mononucleosis accompanied by inconsistency particularly with his putter, the one club in his bag that he could always depend on to create the magic, has invariably become more of a burden than a brethren.

Jordan Spieth is one of those players that you just can’t help but cheer for with his ability to maintain composure under pressure, his charisma and maturity far older than his 24 years, his work ethic and generosity with his time for fans but above all else, his ability to secure victories. The public loves a winner and especially one that can handle themselves with grace and professionalism.

He has all the attributes required for legendary status. And one of those is now being tested. That is how he is able to grind his way out of a slump. After a string of tough tournaments, there have been whispers of a possible slump staring him down. It is a period of time, and possibly a first in his golfing life, where things aren’t going as smoothly as he would prefer.

All the great ones before him have faced off against this sinister shadow in the foggy alley. It has almost become a rite of passage for all great sportsmen and women, en route to that coveted status of legend, to overcome at least one significant slump in their career. Luckily for Spieth, he is still so young that the ability to bounce back is far less of a steep climb then say Tiger Woods who is only now, after nearly seven years pulling himself out of the dark forests of that all-to-common mental affliction.

The “slump” is a self-created intangible barrier not attributed to a degeneration of fundamentals or a lack of talent or even old age- but instead the mysterious nuances of the human mind at play.

A famous slump took place in 1979 and part of 1980 when golfing legend Jack Nicklaus seemingly lost his mojo. Nothing would go right for him for nearly a year, and at the time it appeared that his once-promising career was in peril. It was so bad for him that he barely clung to 71st on the money list throughout ’79 and well into ’80. Nicklaus said at the time, “First, it irritates you, then it really bothers you, until finally you get so damn blasted mad at yourself that you decide to do something about it. I’ve decided to do something. And I will, or I’ll quit.”

And Jack did something about it. He worked behind the scenes with an intensity he said he had been neglecting. He changed his mental approach and reconnected with the passion he had for the game and the euphoria he had once felt as a child when playing. It was essentially a battle of wits, and the competition was Jack against himself.

Jack had talked about how he changed his swing to be flatter, and that is part of what got him out of the slump. But when you watch video clips during that difficult time and afterward when he climbed out of the slump, the swing looks more or less identical. It was the swing within his mind that he fixed.

And golf is not the only sport where such mind-wrenching droughts occur. In 2004, New York Yankee great, Derek Jeter, suffered a two-month slump going 0-32. On his 33rd time at bat, up against Barry Zito of the Oakland Athletics, he smashed the first pitch over the wall for a home run and later said, “With the way things were going, I wondered if the ball would collide with a bird and fall into the outfielder’s glove.”

It had gotten so bad Yankee fans were even starting to boo him. Luckily for Spieth, the only booing he may face would be at the Par-3, 16th hole of the Phoenix Waste Management Open. Jeter said about that time in 2004, “It is rough when you are going through it, but you are the only one that can get yourself out.”

And slumps are not confined solely to the athletic world. Famous composer Ludwig von Beethoven suffered a seven-year slump, better known in that world as a “creative block”. From 1813-1820, he produced a mere six pieces of music while searching for inspiration through excessive drinking. Another composer, Rachmaninoff, experienced a two-year creative slump that finally drove him to seek help from a hypnotherapist.

Writers Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Wolfe battled notorious periods of creative slumps. Ernest Hemingway’s slump became so overbearing that it drove him to commit suicide. In any high-pressure platform to perform, it is inevitable that some form of slump or drought is going to occur. Most can grind on through it, though some, like Hemingway and English composer Peter Warlock, may never be the same.

All performers in their respected fields dread the onset of a slump. And it doesn’t matter what you are doing; the demons are unequivocally the same across the board. They are mental obstacles that require
concentration and perseverance. They that have fought through the misery including Jack Nicklaus, Derek Jeter, Beethoven, Virginia Wolfe, etc., went on to become legends in their fields.

Getting through the slump beaten and bruised doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a spot in a Hall of Fame, but you will be mentally tougher then you were before. And that is an advantage that can be
utilized down the road when faced with other moments of extreme stress and pressure. A slump may seem next to unbearable while it is occurring, but in reality, it is a valuable tool for future successes.