Jordan Spieth fell victim, as so many have, to the final brushstrokes of the Renaissance Club on Friday afternoon, posting back-to-back bogeys to enter the weekend even Steven and with a seaside cliff measuring seven shots to summit. He stayed on campus at Scottish Open headquarters, perhaps because he understandably feels at home there. His many magical moments on the peninsula hang on the rented wall. Saturday morning held with it the promise of a fresh slate and new opportunity to succeed big or fail big. Because he is a swinging pendulum, shape-shifting between every round. At some times between every hole. At others between every shot. Sometimes while deciding his attack as he provides running commentary with caddie Michael Greller, himself, or just the world.
On one hand Spieth is the most reliable things in sports. His ride, though, screams along the track of unpredictability. That's what he's going to give. It is vexxing and exhilarating to watch from afar and he has the rarest of athletic gifts: the ability to take the viewer inside his mind and to live vicariously.
Saturday announced itself as the Good Jordan variety as a 19-footer yielded an opening-hole birdie. The friendly third offered up another realized score. An uneven approach steered into a bogey at No. 6 and on his next trip to the green, an 8-footer stared him down and offered to lure him into danger like a more picturesque Pennywise. Spieth centered it and stayed on the safe road with three straight pars.
Still six shots behind Cameron Tringale, Spieth needed something special. It came in the form of a second shot on the par-5 No. 10 that veered right and found a secret pathway to the pin and an eagle. Links golf taketh and giveth away. At No. 15 he stood 108 yards from the cup and discovered the exact right distance and direction. It was the first time he'd holed out from triple-digits since last year's hole-in-one at the Arnold Palmer.
It was sight for sore eyes and opened them to the very real possibility that the springboard into next week's Open could be fully utilized. That Sunday would reveal an opportunity to win in comeback fashion, showing the very guile on display across the pond when he was at his very best.
Seventeen and 18 loomed, and so too the memory of the dropped shots 24 hours ago. Spieth calmly saved par with a 14-footer on the former, and rattled a 37-footer off the rim for another par on the latter. With the North Sea tide changing and the wind playing tricks, it was a lofty number to chase. Sixty-six today. Four-under for the tournament.
And surely — not so much slowly — Tringale came back to Earth after an early bogey. Those who entered the day looking down from the scoreboard at Spieth dropped to him, then past him. Xander Schauffele, who has rounded into his most consistent form, could sleep on the lead. Yet he can't sleep on whatever version comes out wearing Under Armor for crunch time.
What will the final round hold for Spieth? We don't know. Hell, he can never know. The valleys are so dark yet the peaks basked in bright sunshine. The journey can be unsettling yet is always a joy to view.