Jordan Spieth, once considered by many as the man on Tour you'd trust must with the putter in his hand, has developed a devastating recent penchant for inexplicably butchering gimmies even weekend warriors would have no trouble conceding to the worst player in their group. It's been a vexing microcosm of his relative inconsistency this season in which he's shown real flashes of being the elite contender he once was and flashes of someone who might keep falling just short over and over again. So it wasn't as shocking as usual to see him blow an 18-incher on No. 18 on Saturday, sullying what had been a third straight sub-70 round to set up decent position among a densely-packed lead group.
On his 56th hole he found himself 57 feet from the hole in a greenside bunker and announced his intention to win by rolling in the first of his eagles. On No. 5 he bombed in a 24-footer for his second one of the day and rocketed to the top of the scoreboard. Another birdie at No. 8 closed his hot stretch before a bogey at No. 9 forced him back to reality. A largely uneventful back nine found him facing No. 18 desperately needing a birdie to post a number that could withstand feverish pushes from a handful of others.
Spieth uncorked a drive right in the heart of the fairway but needed to cover 202 yards. A majestic heave bounced within 10 feet and gave him the chance he needed. And so he turned to that putter, which has betrayed him as of late, and found the dead center of the cup. One by one those seeking to best his tally fell apart, save for Patrick Cantlay, who narrowly missed the clincher to enact a playoff.
Both Spieth and Cantlay found the sand once again. The former climbed in and authored the clincher, a stone-cold escape that died just shy of target. A tap-in and Cantlay overcooked sand wedge and unanswered miracle later, and the man who had melted down at that dreaded Amen Corner last week had his return to the winner's circle.
It was the first win for Spieth since last Easter, when he put together a two-shot victory at the Valero Texas Open.
"Last week was really a killer for me: my favorite tournament in the world, not getting to play the weekend," he told CBS after the round. So, I came in and worked extra hard here. ... Felt really good to make a putt that mattered on 18 in regulation there. It feels amazing."
"I won this golf tournament without a putter," he continued, pointing out the irony. "This is one of the worst tournaments I've putted that I've been in contention in. I just tried to stay gritty with it, be really positive on the back nine today. After a couple missed shortish puts, I made one on 13, and that really settled me back down and just gave me the chance on 18. I'm most proud of the way -- I'm pretty negative after missing a tap-in here, getting lazy yesterday -- I'm glad it didn't affect it [today]."
This was a needed and welcome reminder that he has high peaks that come with his valleys. That on any given weekend he can summon the physical and mental toughness needed to earn a win by sheer force. That he can be trusted with the big moments and produce consecutive magic tricks. That he can find a way to get the job done even if his tool of choice isn't working.