Jordan Spieth got a bad break, took a bad swing and got one more bad break after that. He also had a lot to say about it all, because, well, he’s Jordan Spieth, and he likes to talk (err, vent?). It all resulted in one lengthy, confusing, entertaining, really good bogey at the PGA Championship on Friday afternoon.
Spieth stepped to the tee box of the short par-4 14th at Oak Hill Country Club at five over for the tournament, which was right on the cut line. Five holes to play, he had moves to make.
The 14th is drivable, but it’s uphill, there are bunkers guarding the front, the green is two-tiered and it drops off with a steep run-off area to discard anything long. Spieth decided against laying up and drove it into the middle of the three front bunkers for the second day in a row. Only this time he couldn’t believe his ball ended up there. (Here’s where the fun starts.)
Afterward, Spieth told reporters his ball nearly landed in between the bunkers and might have kicked up onto the green, but instead it settled in an ominous spot, half plugged and under the lip of the bunker. He said the lie was “one of the worst” he’d ever seen and that he couldn’t imagine he’d even advance it past the front half of the green.
But in the moment, Spieth was heated.
“I don’t understand physically how it, how could it actually get here?” he told caddie Michael Greller. “How’s that happen?”
In vintage Spieth fashion, he was letting us all in on it. Perplexed, he stood back and even stuttered at one point. He gestured toward the ball with both hands. He pointed to where he thought the ball had landed and traced it back to the sand, flabbergasted by how it settled where it did.
Greller asked him a question. Spieth said, “No.” He was quiet for a moment, hands on hips, staring at the ball, and then took his hat off, fixed it and plopped it back on.
“I’ll go,” he said. He took one monster cut and the ball flew over the green and out of bounds. He didn’t bother watching it land; he already knew.
There’s an important caveat to all this. Spieth nearly didn’t play this week. A hand injury kept him out of his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson last week, and he wasn’t even sure he would be able to go this week. Standing over that shot in the bunker, it was on his mind.
“If I were to commit to hitting into it, I would have smashed the lip. It would have hurt,” he said afterward. “I pulled up hard, and I think I thinned it and hit it about 120 yards. There’s no doubt that that doesn’t happen if I’m at full strength there and not worried about it a bit, so that kind of stinks. There was really no other play though. I had no other play on to the green anywhere, and going back in the bunker, I knew I could get out of the bunker. I was maybe trying to hit it a little far, but regardless, just to get it out on to the green would have required me hitting right into the lip, and it just didn’t sound like a good idea at the time. I didn’t think I could possibly hit it over the green.”
So now, Spieth had to drop in the same bunker from which he’d just played; dropping anywhere is never fun but doing so in sand is especially not good. He dropped twice and both times his ball rolled out beyond a club length, so he was forced to place the ball in his pitch mark. A rules official watched as it played out.
“Sick,” he said, stepping out of the sand. “Now this one’s plugged too. I mean, I did everything right.”
He walked up to the green to survey his shot, and Greller, being the trusty caddie that he is, tried to change the mood, break the silence. “All right, come on,” he said.
We’ll let Spieth explain how it finished: “So it was back embedded slightly and I took a 52-degree and got that up and down and birdied the next and parred the last three.”
Not bad, right? Spieth hit his second bunker shot to six feet and made the putt for a clutch bogey. The bounce-back birdie on the 15th got him back on the cut line, and his pars over the last three secured his spot for the weekend. Although he’s got work to do. After his 72 on Friday, he’s five over and 10 back of the leaders.
“There’s a lot I can take in positives to finishing that round,” he said. “I don’t ever want to feel like it’s a good thing to be around the cut line, though. I was out of it. Vegas would have had me favored to miss when I was about to play that shot on 14. I stole some shots at the end there.”