PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One swing brought Jordan Spieth closer than ever to ending a long and disconcerting fall, and served as a reminder that he still has a long way to go in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Two shots back with three holes to play Saturday, Spieth hit an 8-iron from 160 yards for eagle on the 16th hole, the beginning of a surprising turnaround that sent him to a 1-under-71 lead on 2 shots. entering the final round.
Daniel Berger helped by going from a portion of the lead to 2 shots behind when his tee shot at par 5 of 18 was out of bounds by mere inches and resulted in a double bogey.
“It’s a good lesson to learn for tomorrow, how quickly things can change here,” Spieth said.
The timing was ideal for Spieth, who has not scored a world victory in his last 79 events, since winning the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale.
He led by 2 shots around the corner only to miss the green and bogey on 10 and 12, then jumped from a difficult wedge to a rear pin on par 5 14 which turned off the green for another bogey.
Pin 16 was cut to the left on a very steep green, and it was perfect.
“With the wind to the right and a little mud on the right side of the ball, I knew I could throw it to the right and let the wind and mud do most of the work,” Spieth said. “On air, I thought it was going to be really good. It was one of the only takes where I said, ‘Oh, be good’ today. Certainly a bonus for it to fall.”
These moments used to happen when Spieth was winning all the time. This was the second time this week that he had hit from the fairway, and now he is about to win again. Spieth was at 203 at 13 under par with many contenders right behind.
Berger called a referee for a linear measurement of his ball on the 18th, against the hedges but within the out-of-bounds white discs. He still had a 72 and was 2 shots behind.
“I’m still 2 shots behind so I feel pretty good about my chances for tomorrow and to drop a few more putts and it’s going to be a good week,” he said.
Patrick Cantlay, whose third round started with such promise when he hit 8 feet for the eagle, birdied at 18 for a 70 and joined Berger 2 shots off the lead. Tom Hoge (68) and Russell Knox (69) were also 2 shots behind.
This is the second week in a row that Spieth has had at least some of the lead. A week ago at the Phoenix Open, he couldn’t make any putts and closed with a 72 to finish 2 shots behind.
Still, this is considered a body of work – seven straight rounds of scoring good, and this week doing it keeping the ball in play.
Spieth hopes there are nerves, as always. He’s just as excited about the process as he is about the position.
“I don’t really care about the time frame stuff,” he said of the 43-month drought. “I’m really going to get that out of my head, because I’m finally doing things consistently for the last two weeks that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think obviously the more you keep doing that, the rebounding comes your way, like it did. today the 16th hole.
“Someone can do that to me tomorrow or come shoot a 64 or something. I mean, it’s golf and it’s Pebble Beach.”
Spieth’s goal was to set a goal and go looking for it, realizing that his game is still not as complete as when he was winning often and competing regularly in the majors.
“It’s working in that direction, but it’s not there yet,” he said. “I’m just trying to make her feel a little better than yesterday.”
Jason Day was also heavily involved, after a 68 dropped him in the group at 206 under 10.
Paul Casey fell 3 shots behind with a big break at 18 when his tee shot landed on the rocks, but he had a lie flat enough that he could hit off the rock back onto the fairway. Shot 71.
Maverick McNealy had a 69 that included a penalty shot behind the fifth green as his ball drifted to the right as he put the stick behind the ball.
Spieth didn’t have to deal with what he predicted would be a “bad” day at Pebble Beach. The rain in the forecast had disappeared when it started. The raging wind was more of a strong breeze along the ocean holes. which Pebble gets all the time, although it was no less challenging to come back in the last nine.
No rain was forecast, just typical Pacific wind on a heading where everything can change quickly.