Will speeding up bring scores down for Spieth?

AKRON, Ohio -- Jordan Spieth has heard the whispers. He has also heard the considerably more voluble criticisms.

He can easily recite them, too. Like ticking off boxes on a checklist.

"Hit the ball."

"You're taking forever."

"It's too boring."

These objections, whether they emanate from behind the gallery ropes at a tournament or through the anonymity of social media, haven't fallen on deaf ears.

Along with his swing instructor, Cameron McCormick, Spieth knew what people were saying about his pace of play.

"I noticed and I'd get plenty of comments on it from other people," he said. "But Cameron also mentioned, 'Hey, I think you're going to play better if you just step up and swing.' So I'm trying to do a bit of that."

Spieth could be excused for failing to immediately rectify this during the course of competition, though -- especially when he doesn't have his best stuff and might find it hard to get into a rhythm.

That has been the case this week -- from tee to green, at least -- as through two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational he has found just 12 of 28 fairways and hit only 15 of 36 greens in regulation, while posting scores of 68-71. That has him in a share of sixth place entering the weekend, just 3 strokes off the lead and much better than his stats would indicate.

After the second round, Spieth didn't use playing quicker as an excuse. In fact, he credits the process for helping his game.

"The quicker part actually helps me, because then I just get up there and fire away," he explained Friday. "The more I can do that, actually I think the better off [I am with a] kind of gun-slinging mentality, just to go up and hit the way I always have played."

Playing quicker is just one piece of the puzzle that he's hoping to solve while trying to emerge from what he has described as "a little lull." Following his win at last month's Dean & DeLuca Invitational, he finished T-57 at the Memorial Tournament and T-37 at the U.S. Open, where he was the defending champion.

Another key to that is maintaining a strong mental disposition during tournament rounds -- essentially, getting less frustrated with himself when things aren't going well.

Prior to the opening round, he told caddie Michael Greller, "I'm going to [focus] the rest of this year [on being] a lot stronger mentally than I have been and just not dwell in conversation on each shot."

That philosophy worked to the tune of four closing birdies on Thursday when he was clearly fighting his swing, and just 21 total putts -- the fewest in a single round of his young career.

While he didn't quite carry that same momentum into Friday's round, Spieth played the first dozen holes bogey-free before posting two in his final six.

It wasn't that long ago that such a finish would've left a more bitter taste in his mouth. Instead, he appeared content with his play and optimistic toward the weekend.

"I almost held a bogey-free round together today, which would have been really special," he said. "So yeah, I mean, I played about the same as yesterday, just made that many more putts yesterday."

Unlike injured golfers or those playing with nothing to lose, there might not be a specific adage about players in contention without playing their best game, but maybe there should be. The first page of the leaderboard at Firestone Country Club is tightly packed, with Jason Day leading the way and 12 others within 4 strokes of his pace.

If you're seeking the guy who could make a run on Moving Day, consider a player who hasn't yet figured out his swing this week.

That player might very well be Spieth, who is trying to emerge from that little lull.

Of course, every day for him is now Moving Day, in a way.

While he has heard those criticisms about his pace of play from galleries and through social media, he has yet to hear any complaints from fellow players.

Well, not without some prodding.

"I mean, I'll joke with them about [my slow play] maybe, and they'll say, 'Yeah, you are,'" he acknowledged with a laugh. "But that's fine."

The happy byproduct for Spieth is that becoming quicker could help him -- he believes -- to play better, too.