Bogey saves Spieth's bid for third major
July 23, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth battles for a gutsy bogey at The Open
SOUTHPORT, England – Jordan Spieth put his hands over his head after hitting his tee shot on Royal Birkdale’s 13th hole. Negative thoughts crept into his mind as his ball sailed deep into the right rough on the 503-yard, par-4 that was the second-toughest hole in this year’s Open Championship
Spieth, who started the day with a three-shot lead, knew his lead was lost. He just didn’t know how large the deficit would be, or if another major championship was going to slip away.
Nearly a half-hour later, after a complex ruling that befuddled television audiences, Spieth made the rare bogey that can be viewed in a positive light.
That’s the message his caddie, Michael Greller, wanted to deliver before they reached the 14th tee. Greller called out to his boss, halting his procession to the next hole.
“That’s a momentum shift right there, even though you lost the hole,” Greller said. Indeed it was.
Spieth’s bogey set the stage for a dramatic comeback, which included a near-ace and the type of long putts he seemed to hole regularly in his FedExCup-winning season of 2015. He followed the unlikely 5 at No. 13 by going 5 under on the final five holes and winning The Open Championship by three strokes over Matt Kuchar.
Spieth finished his bogey at No. 13 by holing a 7-foot putt, calling the stroke “massive.”
Spieth, who started Sunday with a three-shot lead, trailed for the first time, but he drew encouragement from the fact that he’d staved off a larger disaster. His swing instructor, Cameron McCormick, said that it helped Spieth “reboot.”
“It’s almost like 13 was such a kick in the pants that 14 was bound to be a good shot,” McCormick said. “Then to follow it up with what happened at 15, that was the real turning point.”
Said Spieth, “After the putt on 13, I felt a lot more comfortable because I felt I made a putt that really mattered.”
Jordan Spieth's near ace on No. 14 at The Open
His penalty drop took some 20 minutes to sort out, as Spieth dropped his ball on Royal Birkdale’s driving range and then received relief from equipment trailers. Then there was the tough task of calculating the yardage from so far off-line.
A course’s driving range is often marked as out-of-bounds, but not this week, likely because it wasn’t anticipated that any players would hit a shot from there. Tall dunes, some 30 feet high, separate the right side of the 13th hole from the practice facility. Dropping on the driving range allowed Spieth to put his ball on short grass, instead of dropping into the rough
Players have three options when taking an unplayable lie, which brings a one-stroke penalty. They can play from the site of the previous shot, which would mean a return to the tee for Spieth’s third shot, or they can drop within two club lengths of the ball’s location, but that would have left Spieth in the rough. He chose the third option, which allowed him to drop as far back as he desired, as long as he kept the ball’s position between him and the hole.
When asked if Spieth has studied the rules profusely to use them to his advantage, he replied, “No, I’ve just hit it in a lot of places before.”
The delay was so long that Kuchar and his caddie, John Wood, “made ourselves comfy and told some stories.” Spieth was apologetic about the delay, but knew this was a crucial point in the championship.
“I didn’t feel like that was necessarily fair to him, but I needed to do what I could to produce the best score, and I didn’t go overboard in what I was doing,” Spieth said.
Kuchar concurred, calling it a “difficult situation.”
“It was not anything I was ever going to be upset with,” he said.
After a debate with Greller over the yardage, Spieth hit his third shot with a three-iron. He was upset after he caught the shot heavy. His ball rolled short of the green, and he pitched the next shot over a bunker and within 7 feet of the hole.
Spieth nearly aced the par-3 14th with a 6-iron, then made a lengthy eagle putt at No. 15. Birdies at 16 and 17 gave him a two-shot advantage on the 18th tee.
“Once he made that putt on 13, there was just a different energy with him those last five holes,” Greller said.
Spieth now joins Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three legs of the Career Grand Slam before the age of 24. This win also helped him put the collapse at last year’s Masters, which he lost after a quadruple-bogey on the 12th hole, behind him.
“Seventeen pars and a birdie would have been fine, too,” Spieth said of Sunday’s 69. “There’s a lot of roads to get there.”
Spieth took the circuitous route, but he reached the desired destination.