Jordan Spieth: Runaway train at Hero World Challenge

Jordan Spieth continued to press deep into the netherworld of really low golf rounds with a third-round 9-under, 63 in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Orlando. He did it with an emphatic, flawless card with nine birdies and not a smudge on any hole.

It was a dream round, the kind of round we dream about when we think about how easy golf is on the face of it: hit every green and make all of the putts you’re left with. It was the kind of dream that Annika had: birdie every hole for a 54. Spieth only needed nine more. But that’s the kind of possibility that pops into our heads when we let the mind wander. If it all got timed up right, it’s possible, right?

He began his day with a long chip shot and a 5-foot putt to finish Friday’s round. That simple putt locked up a 67 and a 2-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and a lot of momentum rolling into Saturday. He described his day: 

“Very pleased.  I was trying to go out today, I was in the lead by two, but obviously with a golf course that’s receptive I knew that there were low scores out there.”

“So wanted to go out and get off to a good start and just post a solid round.  I wanted to keep the lead and then kind of keep the same attitude, mental kind of strategy that I had last week.”

“Then got off to a dream start with a 20‑footer and a then a good bounce on 2 and a birdie on 3.  Yeah, from there it was rolling.”

“Played the par‑5s well, which was important.  Played the easier holes well other than 16, and was able to hit some wedges in close and play some of the slopes. I didn’t have to make a lot of putts after really 1, and then the one on 14 and 18 were the ones that weren’t really tap‑ins.  That’s about it.”

“So that was good, but that may not be the case tomorrow.  I really got to get out there and grind and keep my head down and focus on a number.”

Paired with Stenson on Saturday, Stenson shot a fine, 4-under 68…and lost five shots to Spieth’s 63. That’s the kind of thing that can be very demoralizing if you let it. Stenson made a credible effort with his 68 but was left with the question, “How do you catch a freight train going 75 miles per hour?” That had to have been the feel of it.

“Jordan played fantastic.  He didn’t miss too many shots and had some great pitching around the greens and good putts. Extremely solid on his behalf.  I don’t think anybody is going to catch him tomorrow unless he’s having a really bad day.  Seems to be a one‑horse race going into Sunday.”

Keegan Bradley gave it his best effort with a fine 65, but he started in a 5-shot hole…and now it’s a 7-shot hole. Nevertheless, he’ll be paired with Spieth in the final round.

“I got to shoot a low one and get some help from Jordan.  He’s such a good player I don’t expect that.  I’m going to have to shoot a really low one.”

On another note, Bradley has transitioned from his belly putter to a shorter putter that’s not anchored. To his delight, he said this was the three best putting days he’s had in a couple of years.

“Yeah, it’s nerve wracking, for sure.  I’ve had five years and hours and hours of practice [with the belly putter] that are now taken away from me.”

“But it’s fun to come out here and prove to everybody and myself that it’s not a big deal.  This is probably the best three days of putting I’ve had in a couple years.”

Spieth’s impressive victory in the Australian Open has been well documented by now. But what might have gotten lost in that glory was his performance the week before at the Japan Golf Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix. He shot 69-64-68-69 to finish T3 to Hideki Matsuyama.

In that context, this whole week in Orlando has a strong feeling of inevitability about it.

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