Spieth approaching old form at THE NORTHERN TRUSTFires third-round 64 to get within sight of Bryson DeChambeau lead
August 25, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Bryson DeChambeau takes solo lead at THE NORTHERN TRUST
PARAMUS, N.J. – It’s been a year of studying old swing video and photos for Jordan Spieth, who came into THE NORTHERN TRUST winless this season and 43rd in the FedExCup as he tried to reconnect to the form that propelled him to 11 PGA TOUR victories.
Well, don’t look now but Spieth, 25, appears to be on the cusp of a return to the winner’s circle. Maybe not this week, but potentially soon. He felt so good over the ball in the third round at Ridgewood, he stopped to make a note of what he’d found, for later consultation.
“I really found kind of the setup that I used to putt with,” Spieth said after signing for a third-round 64 that got him to 9 under, within sight of the lead. “I've been searching for it for a long time and I found close to, you know, 100 percent of it. It felt really good over the ball with the putter, and that's why I started to run those mid-rangers in, because that line and speed was a lot easier to match up because my eyes were seeing where the putter blade was pointing.”
Bryson DeChambeau, making a strong case to get a pick from U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk, shot a third-round 63 to open up a four-stroke lead over Keegan Bradley (62). Click here for more on Bradley's round.
Cam Smith (65) and Tony Finau (66), who is also hoping to impress Furyk, are five back at 11 under.
Normally one of the best putters in the game, Spieth came into this week 140th (-.095) in Strokes Gained: Putting. But he was better than good Saturday, when he got off to a scratchy start with a bogey at the easy first hole only to bounced back with birdies on eight of the last 16 holes.
Hitting the highest highs, as he did with two majors and the FedExCup in 2015, has also made Spieth a victim of his own success. Anything less seems worse than ordinary. He was close to a return to form at the PGA Championship at Bellerive two weeks ago, when he tied for 12th. He has been closer still at sun-splashed Ridgewood. For the second straight day, he made over 100 feet of putts, this time taking just 25 strokes on the greens.
The putting improvements have spilled over into the rest of his game, too, with Spieth reminding himself that he doesn’t have to try risky shots just to get the ball within kick-in range. He’s making the mid-range putts again.
“You go back to photos, videos from when you're at your best,” he said of his search to find his old stroke on the greens. “You go to measurements of the stroke from the SAM PuttLab, all kinds of stuff trying to constantly improve. Even when you're putting well, you still want to go do it. It's head position, body position, where the ball position is. It's everything.
“It's always the simplest stuff with us,” he added, “but it was more challenging than I'd like this year. Again, it's not saying that it's back. It was a round where I'm progressing nicely, and really the last month, I've been putting better than TOUR average, and even up to the level that I want to putt at, which is what I did at PGA and now the last couple rounds here.”
DECHAMBEAU AIMS FOR THIRD WIN ... Bryson DeChambeau has gone 68-66-63, has made nearly 300 feet of putts, and is second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.
It all added up to a four-shot lead with one round remaining at THE NORTHERN TRUST at Ridgewood, a course that gave the leaders fits but that DeChambeau tamed with nine birdies.
“I’ve never really been in this spot before,” said DeChambeau, who won a playoff to capture his second TOUR event at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide earlier this year. “But I'm excited because this is a new challenge for me, and I always like challenges.”
Ridgewood itself was plenty challenging for many of the biggest names in golf, including Brooks Koepka (72) and Dustin Johnson (72), who along with Sean O’Hair (72) were among those in or near the lead who struggled Saturday.
Not DeChambeau. He credited his success, in part, to a lengthy range session Wednesday.
“People don't realize how hard I work to try and get a better understanding of my biomechanics,” he said. “I've never really been super-talented; people would disagree with that, but I've always had to work twice as hard as everybody growing up.
“I was never as good as a junior, at least when I was 12, 13, 14, 15,” he added. “Right around 14, 15, I started working really hard and that's kind of what changed my game.”
After his press conference, he ducked out to the range for yet more practice.
Bryson DeChambeau's interview after Round 3 of THE NORTHERN TRUST
TIGER WOODS – Struggled again on the greens, including a missed four-footer for birdie at the short par-4 12th hole, on the way to a bogey-free 3-under 68.
PHIL MICKELSON – Front-nine woes included a double-bogey at the par-3 sixth hole, but a back-nine 32 gave him a 68 and left him at 9 under.
TONY FINAU – Much like DeChambeau, the long-hitting Utahan is making a strong case for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick after a third-round 66 to get to 11 under.
BILLY HORSCHEL – Winner of the 2014 FedExCup is off to a strong start in this year’s Playoffs after a third-round 65 got him to 10 under overall and within reach of the lead.
JUSTIN THOMAS – Defending FedExCup champion continues to signal that he won’t give up the title without a fight, shooting a third-round 69 to get to 8 under.
AARON WISE – In a tight race with Austin Cook for PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, Wise shot a third-round 67 to get to 8 under.
Phil Mickelson’s lengthy birdie putt on No. 14 at THE NORTHERN TRUST
QUOTABLESIf I play well in the FedExCup Playoffs, the rest will take care of itself.Just attack.Not really. I've had to change putters over the years just because I've altered the shaft after the round.Right now, being somewhere 90th or whatever I am in the world, I have no clue. I don't feel that does me justice for how good of a player I am.
Low round: 62, by Keegan Bradley
Longest drive: 356 yards by Dustin Johnson (72, T20)
Longest putt: 63 feet, 6 inches by Whee Kim (69, T42) at the 14th hole
Fewest putts: 23 by Austin Cook (68, T49)
Easiest hole: The 275-yard, par-4 12th played to a 3.6 stroke average.
Hardest hole: The 487-yard, par-4 10th played to a 4.225 stroke average.
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the final round of THE NORTHERN TRUST, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Tony Finau's 46-foot eagle for Shot of the Day