Late eagle from the fairway stakes Jordan Spieth to lead at Pebble Beach
Jordan Spieth holed out from 160 yards for eagle on the 16th hole at Pebble Beach, the start of a stunning turnaround that took him from two strokes behind to a two-shot lead Saturday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
These moments used to happen when Spieth was winning all the time. This was the second time this week he holed out from the fairway, and now he is on the cusp of ending more than three years without a victory.
He shot a one-under-par 71 as he goes for a second victory at Pebble Beach in the last five years.
A pedestrian round that included bogeys on two of the par-fives left Spieth two strokes out of the lead with three holes to play. And then it all changed. His hard draw to a left pin on the 16th landed about eight feet right of the hole and took the slope all the way to the bottom of the cup.
“With the wind in off the right and a little mud on the right side of the ball, I knew I could throw it out to the right and let kind of the wind and the mud do most of the work,” Spieth said. “In the air, I thought it was going to be really good. It was one of the only shots [where] I kind of said, ‘Oh, be good’ on today. Certainly a bonus for it to drop.”
Two holes later, Daniel Berger sent his drive well to the right, over the bunkers and onto the cart path. It settled next to the hedges and was out of bounds by mere inches. Berger called over an official for a linear measurement, but it was out. That led to double-bogey and a 72.
“It’s a good lesson to learn for tomorrow, how quickly things can change out here,” Spieth said.
Patrick Cantlay, a former UCLA standout whose third round began with such promise when he hit to eight feet for eagle, birdied the 18th for a 70 and joined Berger two shots out of the lead. Tom Hoge (68) and Russell Knox (69) also were two strokes behind.
Spieth was at 13-under 203.
He was tied for the lead going into the final round last week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, only to fall back when he couldn’t make any putts. He shot a 72 and finished two back.
Jason Day was very much in the mix too after a 68 left him in the group at 10-under 206. Paul Casey stayed three strokes behind with a great break on the 18th when his tee shot tumbled down onto the rocks but he had a flat enough lie to hit off the rocks back into the fairway. He shot a 71.
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Maverick McNealy had a 69 that included a penalty shot behind the fifth green when his ball moved right as he set the club behind the ball.
Spieth didn’t have to contend with what he predicted to be a “mean” day at Pebble Beach. The rain in the forecast was gone by the time he teed off. The raging wind was more of a stiff breeze along the ocean holes that Pebble gets all the time.
Spieth didn’t do anything great Saturday. He made bogey on the easiest hole at Pebble Beach from the middle of the fairway on the par-five second hole, coming up well short of the green, pitching short of the putting surface and missing a par putt from five feet. He also bogeyed the par-five 14th when his lob wedge was too tentative and spun all the way off the front of the green.
But there was enough good golf — and no wild shots that have cost him so dearly over the last three years — to keep him close enough to work a little magic at the end.
He also needed some help, which Berger supplied.
“I’m still two shots out of the lead, so I feel pretty good about my chances going into tomorrow and drop a few more putts and it will be a good week,” Berger said.
A dozen players were separated by four strokes going into the final round at a tournament that moves much faster this year without amateur partners creating groups of four players.
Spieth expects there to be nerves, just like always. He’s equally excited about the process as the position.
“I don’t really care about the time-frame stuff,” he said about the 43-month drought without a win. “I’m really just going to throw that out of my head because I’m finally consistently doing things over the last two weeks that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think, obviously, the more you continue to do that, the bounces go your way, like the hole-out did today on 16.
“Someone may do that to me tomorrow or come shoot a 64 or something. I mean, it’s golf and it’s Pebble Beach.”
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