As the wheels popped off Jordan Spieth on Saturday at the PGA Championship, his playing partner and old pal Justin Thomas sprung a flat tire.
After Spieth snuck into the weekend by a hair after a pair of lackluster rounds, he imploded on moving day. Eight bogeys, only a pair of birdies and a half-dozen shows of frustration later, the three
-time major champion carded a third-round 76 and moved to dead-last in the field at seven over.
Things were better for Thomas, but not by much. The newly crowned world No. 1 burned out after a blistering start, spurning five birdies on the front nine by shooting one over on the back. Thomas finished the day six strokes back of the lead at two under, sensing his window had closed.
“I’m pissed off, that’s really the best way to describe it,” Thomas said after the round. “I let a really good round go, and really had a great opportunity to put myself in a good position going into tomorrow. I just didn’t capitalize on the back nine.”
In short, Saturday wasn’t kind to Thomas or Spieth. But were things bad for Thomas because of Spieth?
As the pair of major champions walked off the 18th green after their round, television microphones picked up Jordan apologizing for his own performance and that of his friend.
“He said walking off 18, he’s like, ‘I’m sorry, man. I just didn’t really give you any momentum,’ and that’s a good friend trying to take the blame,” Thomas said.
The idea of contagious bad golf is hardly a new one, even for the game’s best players. And while Thomas certainly didn’t blame Spieth for his performance, he admitted he’s been on the other side of an 18th-hole mea culpa.
“I remember I said that to him walking off 18 at Augusta in 2018 when he was, what, nine under coming up 18,” Thomas said. “I four-putted 16, I bogeyed 17, and I just really was trying to stay out of the way because I wanted him to birdie 18 and have a chance to shoot 10-under. I felt terrible, I kind of scraped it up the hole and he missed an 8-footer and I told him, ‘I’m sorry, man, I kind of screwed that up for you.'”
Jordan Spieth’s high-profile struggles have been one of golf’s hot-button issues for years. But even as he stretches past three years without a professional victory, Thomas was bullish over the state of his friend’s game.
“I know he’s going to be fine,” Thomas said. “I’m not just saying it because he’s one of my best friends. I’ve seen him get it around when he’s not playing well. I’ve seen him play well when he is playing well. All of us go through little spurts. It’s just for him, this has just been a tough one.”
It’s anyone’s guess whether Spieth’s Sunday performance will motivate or discourage him (he didn’t talk to the press after his round). But Thomas feels confident that it’s only a matter of time before the Spieth apology tour turns into the Spieth redemption tour.
“He’s going to be fine,” Thomas said. “All it takes sometimes is one week and all your confidence gets back. So, that’s golf.”