Jordan Spieth’s last three starts have resulted in a win at the Valspar Championship, a runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open, and finally, a tied for second at the Shell Houston Open on Sunday. Spieth is undoubtedly the hottest player and arguably the most clutch golfer heading into this week’s Masters, the first major of the season.
Spieth, who was the 54-hole leader heading into the final round, had to par the testing par-4 18th at the Golf Club of Houston to get into a playoff with clubhouse leaders J.B. Holmes and Johnson Wagner, who had his own clutch moment playing in the group ahead. The 21-year-old Texan pushed his approach shot and it stopped on the downslope of the grass bordering the right greenside bunker. Spieth, who showed off his short-game heroics when he won in Tampa a few weeks ago, hit a decent chip to about 12 feet. Naturally, he hit the putt to the back of the cup to save par and join the sudden death playoff.
It was back to the 18th for the playoff, and while Wagner and Holmes were positioned perfectly in the middle of the fairway, Spieth initially thought he had pulled his drive into the water. When he approached near the spot of where his ball landed, he went to grab another ball from his bag to make a drop before he was informed that he had stayed dry. However, Spieth had a very difficult lie on the steep upslope on the bank of the water hazard. Since the severe lie would cause the ball to hook, he aimed to the right of the green and may have just misjudged it a bit, as it stayed right and ended up near the bank of the greenside bunker.
Faced with a difficult sand shot, Spieth hit a poor shot — he may have let a camera click from a fan in his backswing impact the result. Thus, he left himself with a long putt to save par, which he missed and ended his chance at winning for the second time in the last month.
“I had a really good lie, one that I was looking to fly halfway to the hole and get it to check up and I heard something,” said Spieth. I don’t know if it was me or if it actually happened. Either way, I still should be able to get down through the sand there. No excuse. But, you know, honestly I really didn’t miss many — I didn’t — that tee shot I hit perfect. I thought it was right next to their balls. I looked back up, it went 90 degrees onto the side slope. I’m happy with the way I played down the stretch.”
Spieth, who has two wins on the PGA Tour, was trying to become the second-youngest player after Tiger Woods with the most-career Tour wins before the age of 22.
Though he came up short for his third victory, Spieth still thinks he has momentum in his favor heading into Augusta National, where he contended last year before placing tied for second in his Masters debut.
“I feel as prepared as I think I could be,” he said. “These last three out of four weeks, three weeks that I played I felt very comfortable. I felt more and more comfortable with more and more pressure, you know, and that gives me a lot of confidence going into Augusta where you probably have the most pressure anywhere.”
That last clutch putt in regulation lends him the most confidence going into the season’s first major.
“The putt on 18 was really cool to get to the playoff,” he said. “Seeing a putt like that go in under that kind of pressure is going to give me a lot of momentum going into next week.”
He added: “To be able to get up and down again, just like Tampa and kind of finish strong the way I did last week in San Antonio, gives me a lot of confidence on the greens, and that’s obviously the most important place next week. But I am going to need to strike the ball a little better to have a chance to win.”
Spieth tweeted later on Sunday evening:
It’s Masters week.
— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) April 6, 2015
Where does Spieth’s short game and ability to make big putts under pressure rank for you compared to the best of the rest? How do you like his chances at Augusta National considering his strong form and history there?
Oh, by the way, ultimately, Holmes outlasted Wagner to win on the second playoff hole.