Jordan Spieth surges into six-shot lead at Pebble Beach

By Art Spander, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 12, 2017 at 2:26 AM
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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- It's a cliche, but also an unavoidable fact of the game, that in golf one drives for show and, yes, putts for dough. A two-foot miss counts as much -- if not more psychologically -- as a 300-yard tee shot, one stroke.

So when Jordan Spieth, who even at the young age of 23 is one of golf's brilliant putters, said his game on the greens hadn't met expectations, others could only shake their heads.

They knew what he had accomplished -- no one takes the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year without excellent putting. When one has the touch, well, he always has it, even if his mind things could be better.

On Saturday, when the sun came out on the Monterey Peninsula, Spieth knocked in virtually everything, one-putting 13 holes at Pebble Beach, and probably knocked everyone out of chance for a win.

Spieth, with 23 putts total on greens far from perfect because of rain the previous three days, shot a 7-under par 65 for a 17-under total of 198, and a commanding lead that was six strokes over Brandt Snedeker, who won the AT&T in 2013 and 2015, and seven over Dustin Johnson, current U.S. Open champion, who also has two AT&T victories.

"I rolled the ball beautifully on the greens," said Spieth. "Made some nice clutch par saves in the midst of the birdie putts. I couldn't have asked for a better putting day on greens that are poa annua and have had a lot of traffic.

"I hit my lines today, and they rolled right there, which is a huge confidence boost. It's been something I've been struggling with, my putter this year, compared to, I guess, I would call standard for myself."

Among those tied for fourth at 206 were Rob Oppenheim and Kevin Chappell while 2006 U.S Open Geoff Ogilvy was in a group at 2107, along with Derek Fathauer, who began the round tied for first with Spieth at 10-undder and then stumbled to a 73 at Monterey Peninsula.

Jason Day, very much in contention halfway through, soared to a 75. Starting the third round on the back nine, he had double bogey his first six holes.

The cut, which because of the size of the field on the three courses, was to the low 60 and ties, came at even-par 215. Webb Simpson, U.S. Open champ in 2012, and Vaughn Taylor, last year's AT&T winner both missed.

Snedeker, 31, and Spieth, 23, will be grouped together in Sunday's final round, played only at Pebble. "The front nine will be huge (Sunday)," said Snedeker, well aware the first seven holes at Pebble are those most receptive to scoring -- and then the course grows tougher.

"I got to go out and make some birdies," he said, "and put some pressure on (Spieth). If you don't get the first seven holes at Pebble, you're going to have a long day.

"So I know what I have to do. Jordan's been playing all year. I've seen it up close and personal, and we're good friends. We're going to have some fun, but I'm definitely going to put pressure on him."

Fun was Spieth said he wanted to have Saturday, and he met the promise.

"There will be a lot of noise and a lot of laughs," Spieth said about playing among celebrity amateurs that included Bill Murray -- who was dressed in denim overalls -- Bill Belichick, Giants pitcher Matt Cain. quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and actor Ray Romano.

Beginning the round at a cumulative 10-under and tied for first with Fathauer, who in part due to a double-bogey on the eighth hole shot a two-over 73 at Monterey Peninsula.

"I'm just going to try and go make a check," said a resigned Fathauer.

Spieth, who conveniently is sponsored by AT&T is going to try to get first win in the tournament. He's entered five times."

Saturdays out here are really fun," said Spieth. Now he wants to have a great time on Sunday.

NOTES: Even Pebble Beach's holes where Carmel Bay doesn't come into play can be problems, as Jason Day, the world's No. 1-ranked player found out Saturday. He hit his second shot on the par-5 14th out-of-bounds and made double-bogey 7. That came after bogies at 11 and 12, a loss of four shots in four holes. ... Retired quarterback great Peyton Manning, who has teamed with pro Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open winner, told the San Francisco Chronicle, he saw a parallel between his situation, neck problems that led to football retirement at age 39, and Tiger Woods back ailments. "Football and golf are hard games even when you're 22 and perfectly healthy," Manning said. "It gets harder as you get older and when you're dealing with injuries. Only Tiger can speak for his specific injury, but I'm pulling for him to get back out there." ... Pro golfers sometimes look like racing cars. Jim Furyk, captain of the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team and an entrant in the AT&T, has four corporate logos on his shirt and another on his cap. ... Phil Mickelson's caddie, Bones McKay, is working the third event this calendar year after undergoing double knee replacement on Oct. 19, the same day Mickelson had the first of two sports hernia surgeries. ... Toby Keith, the country western singer-songwriter who is playing to a 13-handicap, has a cap endorsing Waffle House. He is paired with pro Steve Stricker, who turns 50 in less than two weeks.

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