Jordan Spieth could have let his round unravel after making a double-bogey on the par-4 18th, followed by a poor drive on the par-5 1st hole. However, as he and his caddie Michael Greller walked up the first hole, Greller gave Spieth a little pep talk, which helped to calm down the young Masters champion and stay the course.
Going into his ninth hole, the 18th, which doubles as a par-4 and par-5 depending on how the USGA decides to set it up, Spieth had made four birdies and taken the outright lead at that moment. However, he pushed his drive into the right fairway bunker off the tee and ended up in a poor position close to the lip with 230 yards left to the hole.
Spieth admittedly made a bad decision and tried to hit a longer club out, so he could carry the infamous 10-foot deep bunker, dubbed Chambers Basement, in the middle of the 18th fairway, about 60 yards short of the green. He barely got the sand shot out of the bunker and his ball advanced only about 15 yards into the fescue.
After the shoddy shot from the sand, he uttered, “This is the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life!” At the time, we weren’t sure if he was talking about the 18th hole as a par-4 or his course management. Following his round when he faced the media, he didn’t back down from the comment and he was indeed speaking about the hole.
“I think 18 as a par-4 doesn’t make much sense,” said Spieth. “Of course at the moment when I didn’t hit the right shots it’s going to make less sense. And whatever, if microphones are going to pick up, they’re going to pick it up. I’m not going to put a smile on and be happy with the way I played the hole. I am who I am. I think the hole doesn’t make sense because you can hit it down the left center of the fairway and still end up in the right bunker in trouble. There’s a group of about 10, 12 guys that can fly at 310 yards that have an entirely different hole to play there. For anybody else you have to hit it in a 5- or 6-yard area. And if it’s going to be a par-4 and you’re going to bring that other bunker into play,
“I think the tee should have been moved up more. But I’m not the one that’s putting the course together. I wasn’t pleased with — I just didn’t know where I could hit that tee shot. And I wasn’t going to hit a 3-iron into a 550 yard par-4. I wasn’t going to hit 3-iron off the tee and then hit 3-wood.
“So all in all, I thought it was a dumb hole today, but I think we’re going to play it from there again, so I’ve got to get over that.”
Spieth, however, didn’t let the double-bogey kill his momentum, but he did let it impact his next tee shot.
“I was really frustrated walking off the tee box, and Michael did a great job coming in and telling me, sit back, you’re still very much in this tournament, don’t let this get to you,” said Spieth, who was still four-under for the championship at the time despite the double. “The second something gets to you, you’re in trouble in a U.S. Open.”
The pep talk worked and Spieth regrouped and made birdie on no. 1 to regain some momentum.
The front nine is more difficult than the back nine, so Spieth had his work cut out for him. But he made a goal for himself — to grind it out and shoot one-under coming in on his second nine. And that’s exactly what he did, thanks to a birdie on his last hole, the par-3 no. 9.
Despite the distraction his playing partner Jason Day collapsing near the green and lying on the ground for around 10 minutes, Spieth managed to wait it out and refocus for his birdie putt, which he holed to get back to five-under for the championship.
“That was one of the better birdies I’ve ever made given all the situation,” said the reigning Masters champion.
He made a bogey on no. 7 and had a good look for birdie on no. 8, but missed the putt.
“You’re going to make bogeys at a U.S. Open no matter where you are,” said Spieth. “I wasn’t too bummed there (on 7). I hit a good putt on 8, too, it just slid right by the hole, I thought it would break more. All in all, I went to the 9th tee, saying let’s hit a solid shot on the green, two putts later and that’s still another good score. I said right here yesterday that I’d take 2-under every round.
“I fed a 5-iron in and cut it a little bit with the wind (on 9). And it fed above the slope and I had a dead straight putt from there to about 8 feet. So obviously there was some wait time in between, but I actually got somewhat of a read off Jason’s putt and was able to knock it in.”
Spieth felt like he hit the ball better on Friday compared to Thursday, particularly with his irons. His putting also improved — he needed 28 putts today compared to 31 on the day prior. The problem, however, is with his driver.
“It’s something so minor, maybe ball position,” said Spieth. “I’ll find it on the range, I think. I just needed a little time, I didn’t have much time yesterday evening to figure it out.
“I was able to find some fairways with it even on the misses. But as this course gets harder, I’m going to want to strike it better so I can hit less club into these greens.”
With the afternoon wave still out on the golf course, Spieth is currently tied for second, and no surprise, he’ll be in contention at yet another major over the weekend.