KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Jordan Spieth knows he likely shot himself out of the PGA Championship with his misbehaving putter during the first two rounds, but he battled hard for no other reason than he’s a fighter. Spieth was 5 under and bogey free on Saturday until his lone hiccup at the treacherous par-3 17th. In calmer conditions on Saturday, he signed for a 4-under 68 and landed at even-par 216 for 54 holes.
“I hate being over par at a golf course. I mean, it’s like my biggest pet peeve regardless of when it is in the tournament and I just hate seeing an over-par score next to my name,” he said. “So, it’s nice to be tied with the course with a chance to beat it tomorrow.”
Spieth struggled with his putter for the first two rounds at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort. He lost nearly two strokes on the green on Thursday and more than two and half on Friday, when he needed 34 putts in his round of 75. But he sank a 32-foot birdie putt on the third hole of his third round and suddenly the cup no longer looked to be the size of a thimble. He took just 23 putts and gained nearly a stroke and a half on the field on the greens Saturday.
“It’s just a stroke thing. I know exactly what it is,” Spieth explained. “I’m just trying to trust it on the course, and it’s difficult. It’s a move just like any kind of swing move where it needs some repetition and it needs trust and it needs a couple results, and all of a sudden I’m pouring it in.
“It’s in a place where, you know, when I look at it on video or how I need to calibrate it, I’m like, OK, yeah, no wonder it feels that bad on the course and that’s better than it being perfect and feeling poorly and not performing on the course.
“It’s obviously not great to try to figure out in the middle of a major championship, but I can go in with nothing but trust like I did today, tomorrow, and see if they start pouring in.”
Spieth also benefitted from a chip in at the par-3 fifth hole and added back-to-back birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. He made a 16-foot putt par putt at 15 and a similar length putt one hole later for birdie. As he approached the 17th tee, a marshal asked how Spieth was doing and a fan reported that he was into red figures for the championship and 5 under for the day. The marshal smiled. Then the fan said, “But he should be at least 7 or 8.” The marshal’s smile disappeared, even before Spieth tugged his tee shot at 17 and made bogey. Spieth agreed with the fan’s assessment – to a point.
“I chipped in and made a long par putt on 15, so I can’t really say that it should have been a lot lower. But this is a round where I’m walking up the 18th going, ‘Man, this could have been special today.’ I had four or five really with no pace on it lip out today. Obviously had a couple go in. But it felt like one of those really good 6-, 7-under rounds that ended up being 4.”
But Spieth said he would continue to play aggressively, blasting driver off every tee and firing at flags in pursuit of birdies.
“Yeah, if I were at 4 under and the lead was only 7, then things could be different,” he said. “But I’m not.”
It was the only moment where Spieth sounded dejected that his chance to complete the career Grand Slam likely had faded away. He was already starting to think about the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and upcoming starts at the Charles Schwab Challenge next week and The Memorial after that. Spieth’s third round had ended before the leaders had teed off. With a free afternoon at his disposal, Spieth said he’d do something he rarely does – watch golf, or more specifically, Phil Mickelson.
“I don’t watch golf but I promise you I’m going to turn it on to watch him today,” he said.