Jordan Spieth relived that 2nd shot on the 13th at Royal Birkdale at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
If you watched this year’s Open Championship – and let’s face it, everybody with half a golf brain did – you know that Jordan Spieth hit a ridiculously bad tee shot to the right on the 13th in the final round. It cost him the lead, and it looked like it was going to cost him the tournament. Yet, he contends it wasn’t that bad. He feels that the television crews and inaccurate reporting made it look and sound worse than it was.
“It was not 100 yards right because our fairway is the right rough on that hole,” he insisted at Firestone CC in a pre-tournament media interview for the WGC Bridgestone. Some media outlets said he hit it 100 yards right.
So, despite what you might have read or heard, he did not hit a tee shot onto the driving range.
So how did he get to the driving range?
He got to the range by taking a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie from a grassy dune, and then, under the rules, by going back as far as he wanted in line with the flagstick and the location of his ball to hit his next shot. Unfortunately, that put him squarely in the middle of or behind some tractor trailer rigs, the kind that visit tournaments to provide services for players or services for the tournament. The rigs were parked on the range. Again, under the rules, he got line of sight relief from the trucks, which put him on the range. So he did not hit a tee shot onto the range.
As far as the errant tee shot, he said he was aiming for the right rough, but the wind and water and the bounce the ball took, plus the ball striking a spectator, combined to cause ball to land where it did.
What really went wrong with the tee shot?
He revisited what he’d been thinking at Royal Birkdale at his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational media interview:
"The other days (on that hole), I was playing a draw off that right side (of the fairway) that would hold the wind and stay there, I felt that anything that I held out that also got water on the face would start and stay way right. So, in my mind I’ve got to start this ball left and hit a fade, and just kind of cut it over there."
Unfortunately, he said, he bailed out on the shot and hit the ball with an open clubface. He verified that by watching a DVR of the tournament when he returned home to Dallas. In addition, the water on the club, he said, caused it to go even farther right.
"I played a slap cut that the face opened up a little too early on, and it was raining, and it just squirted even further, then it ricocheted, like it hit the cart path essentially. Then it went into an unplayable lie."
He was a little defensive about his bad shot.
"It really wasn’t that bad. I mean, it wasn’t a good shot. It was a foul ball to the right, but I need to back myself up here in saying that I’m capable of hitting worse shots than that, okay?"
The 2nd shot: lucky or shrewd course management?
OK, Jordan, first, nobody, except the guys you play against wants to see a worse shot from you, and, second, the viewing public gives you a pass. It was exciting golf, maybe not like making an eagle, but it was edge of the sofa stuff.
"I’m a little sensitive to it, but yeah, Birkdale asked for my 3‑iron or a replica of, which means that’s going to be the shot that’s pictured there and remembered there."
It wasn’t just the 3-iron that was an oh-my-gosh moment.
It was amazing that he was smart enough at rules to ask if the range was in play or out-of-bounds, smart enough to ask for a drop back into the trailers, smart enough to ask for line-of-sight relief from the trailers, patient enough to wait for all the answers and take the appropriate drops and appropriate relief.
Then he hit what seemed to be a miracle blind shot – with the distance based on geometry calculations of the Pythagorean theorem done by caddie Michael Greller – that somehow missed all the pot bunkers and rough. You had to wonder if someone above was in his corner. Maybe it was just Pythagoras who was so excited when he created the formula that he sacrificed an ox.
Yet, Spieth insisted the miracle 3-iron wasn’t his best shot on that hole.
"The up and down (from right of the 13th green) was much harder than the 3‑iron was. . ."
Spieth added that it was a great break for his second shot to land where it did.
Back on track for the win
Once he got to the 14th tee, he said he thought he was out of the worst of the predicament. It was a better result, in his mind, to save bogey than if he had been required to go back to the 13th tee. However, he knew he was in a hole.
“I felt like I was six back,” he added.
Nevertheless, Jordan Spieth somehow gained confidence that he could make up the shot deficit in the remaining five holes and still have a chance to win the tournament. After the victory, he credited a lot of that belief to encouragement he received from Greller.
Going forward, Spieth feels as though his form is still good this week, and believes it can last through the PGA Championship and a potential fourth major.
"I feel like I’m playing well enough and should be having better results for more chances to win, and I get off to two good starts in tournaments and been able to close them out."
And, just to show that Jordan Spieth hasn’t lost his sense of humor, he added, “If we just continue with the same process, get the right breaks and driving ranges are in play, then I’ve got a good shot at number four.”