Jordan Spieth goes from cliff’s edge to contention at Pebble Beach
Any other time Jordan Spieth can see the golf ball sitting up on grass inside a red hazard line, it’s a simple choice: Hit the shot.
Saturday at Pebble Beach was different.
He could see the ball. He could also see a 60-foot drop off the cliff onto the ocean rocks below the edge of the eighth fairway.
His caddie tried to talk him out of it three times. Spieth decided to hit a seven-iron from 162 yards, a real cliff-hanger of a shot, and he lived to tell about it.
“If I felt like I was in real, true danger of losing my life, I would have pulled the ball back and dropped it,” Spieth said. “It wasn’t quite that severe. But it was enough to where I certainly couldn’t put a normal swing on it.”
He wound up with a par, the signature shot Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am that was more memorable than anything Bill Murray, Macklemore of the other celebrities did. And it ultimately put Spieth right in the mix for another title at Pebble Beach with a nine-under-par 63, his best score in the tournament and leaving him one stroke behind a trio at the top.
On a day when Seamus Power went backward to allow Spieth and a half-dozen others back into the mix, Spieth’s best move was going backward to avoid falling over the cliff.
Seamus Power shot another eight-under 64 on Friday to set a 36-hold record at 16-under 128 in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and lead by five strokes.
He normally would put his weight in the direction of the slope — bad idea in this case. So he kept the weight on his right leg, floated the seven-iron just long and left of the green, and immediately backpedaled away from the edge.
“That was by far the most nerve-wracking shot I’ve ever hit in my life,” Spieth said to caddie Michael Greller after his shot went just left of the green.
For all the spectacular views when the sun is shining over the Monterey Peninsula, this one is more on the frightening side. Spieth said he was walking toward the ball and found himself inching forward while leaning back.
He has heard the tale of a golf cart that once plunged over the cliff years ago. Only after he pulled off the shot and was headed toward the green did he look back across the water to the cliff. That caused more anxiety than the actual shot.
Equally unnerving was seeing video from the blimp overhead, and then realizing his wife and parents were watching. His 3-month-old son made his tournament debut, though Spieth wasn’t sure whether they were on the eighth hole.
“Not worth it, to be honest,” he said. “I guess it was a weird situation. It was like, ‘Well, if I can hit it, then just hit it.’ ”
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Typical of Spieth, he holed an 18-foot putt for par. So that helped him believe it was worth it.
Equally special, but not nearly as dramatic, was the rest of his round, his best by two shots on any course in the 10 years he has been playing the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
It’s hard to imagine anything topping that shot Sunday. Even so, the final round was loaded with possibilities.
Beau Hossler played at Pebble Beach, narrowly missing a second eagle of the round on the 18th hole. He was the first to reach 15-under 200.
Andrew Putnam started on the back nine at Pebble Beach and ran off five straight birdies with hardly anyone watching, finishing with a par for a 68 at Pebble Beach to tie for the lead. Tom Hoge was at Spyglass Hill and shot a 68 to join them.
Patrick Cantlay, a former UCLA standout who at No. 4 is the highest-ranked player in the field, started and finished his round with a pair of birdies and didn’t do a lot in between. He had a 68 and was one stroke behind, along with Spieth and Joel Dahmen (66 at Spyglass).
“I’m in great position, and I love this golf course and everyone will be playing on the same golf course tomorrow, so it should be fun,” Cantlay said.
A key figure in all this fun was Power, a 34-year-old Irishman who set the 36-hole tournament record at 128 and looked as though he could do wrong.
He had a five-stroke lead to par and a four-shot lead on strokes, but his round at par-71 Monterey Peninsula became a struggle off the tee and around the greens. Power had consecutive birdies to get back to 16 under — even for the day — until bogeys on two of his last three holes for a 74.
Even so, he was only two strokes behind going into the final round.
Spieth went out in 31, highlighted by a seven-iron up the hill to three feet on the par-five sixth for an eagle and his two 18-footers to close out the front nine, the par on No. 8 and a birdie on No. 9.
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He finished with a tee shot on the par-three 17th that took a hard bounce off the springy green, grazed the flag and settled eight feet away for a birdie. On the iconic par-five closing hole, his second shot tumbled onto the green and ran near the hole until it stopped on the fringe, leaving 20 feet and two putts for a final birdie.
Jason Day, who tied for third third at Torrey Pines as the former No. 1 player in the world tries to regain his form, kept alive his hopes with a 70 at Spyglass. He was four strokes behind.
Hossler and Hoge are the only players among the leading seven who have yet to win on the PGA Tour. Hoge had a chance two weeks ago in the California desert.
Hossler was bogey-free, a steady round with very little stress.
“Pebble can give and take so quickly, right? I was glad to be on the receiving end today,” he said. “I hit it well, played really conservatively, frankly, even though it might not look like it, and was fortunate to not have any misses really get me in significant trouble.”
Leona Maguire first Irish winner on LPGA Tour
Leona Maguire became the first Irish winner in LPGA Tour history, closing with a five-under 67 for a three-stroke victory in the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony in Fort Myers, Fla.
“It’s huge for Irish golf,” Maguire said. “There was never an Irish player on the tour, let alone a winner. Hopefully, there is a lot of people watching at home tonight with big smiles on their faces and little girls watching knowing they can do that too.”
Tied with Marina Alex for the second-round lead after a 65 on Friday, Maguire had seven birdies and two bogeys — the last on the par-five 18th with the outcome decided. The 27-year-old former Duke star finished at 18-under 198.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Maguire said. “It’s been 17 years in the making, and you kind of wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Just really proud of how I played all week, especially today. Dermot [Byrne] was incredible on the bag.”
Lexi Thompson was second after a 65.
Sarah Schmelzel had a 64 to finish third at 14 under, and Alex (72) was another stroke back with Stacy Lewis (68), Patty Tavatanakit (67), Xiyu Lin (63) and Brittany Altomare (68).
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