There were incredible picks of the ball from off the desert hardpan. There was a chip-in, a couple of putting bombs and, of course, a few lucky bounces.
Jordan Spieth’s third-round show in the Waste Management Phoenix Open had it all, and with the exception of one missed four-footer for birdie that would have given him a shot at scoring 59 on the closing hole, it was near perfection from the man who a few months ago seemed lost in the wilderness with no map.
Trying to win for the first time in 3½ years, Spieth made a career-best 10 birdies in tying his career low with an 10-under 61 at TPC Scottsdale that has him tied for the lead at 16 under with Xander Schauffele.
Spieth kept the PGA Tour’s social-media team busy with highlight after highlight, pouring in 125 feet, 7 inches of putts—obviously, the best among the field for the day. We offer the best of his day here—all birdies, of course. We’re pretty confident that there hasn’t been a better highlight reel this season, and maybe for a number of years on tour.
No. 6: The first great shot from the hardpan
Already two under on the day through five, drove it onto the decomposed granite left of the cart path, but only had 104 yards to the hole and perfectly picked a wedge that stopped three feet from the flag.
No. 10: Chip-in to tie for the lead
After a front-nine four-under 32, Spieth started the back with a wild birdie. He missed the 10th fairway far to the left, and then missed the green long and left with his approach. But his chip from 66 feet had the perfect speed, caught the downhill ridge, drifted to the left and dropped into the hole without any backstop help from the pin. Now he was tied for the lead on a Saturday for the first time in forever.
No. 11: A laser to kick-in range
This was one of those beautiful instances when TV’s laser technology tells you all you need to know. After splitting the fairway, Spieth’s approach was like a guided missile, never leaving the flagstick. The ball bounced softly and stopped about 10 inches from the hole.
No. 13: Another desert miracle
Spieth got a bit unlucky with a 337-yard drive that rolled into the native area (but not far enough to get into any cactus trouble). Then came the break of the day. His approach from 207—with Spieth begging “Tilt right!—had ears and perfectly of a mound in front of the green and rolling up to just three feet from the hole.
No. 16: Stirring up a roar
There is only a fraction of the fans at the stadium par 3 because of COVID-19, but Spieth helped produce the biggest cheer of the day when he drained a 36-footer for birdie. The NBC graphic affirmed how good it was: Only 5 percent of putts on the tour are made from that length.
The make also deserved a Jack Nicklaus Masters ’86 like putter wave.. Spieth, who drew boos on Friday when he three-putted 16 for bogey, told Golf Channel, “I only wish this was last year. It was loud [on Saturday], Last year this would have been another level.”
No. 17: Another bomb—for the solo lead
It can very right or very wrong at TPC Scottsdale’s brilliant, drivable 17th. Spieth avoided horrible—a hook into the water left of the green—by pushed his drive far to the right. With the water still in mind, he hit a safe pitch to 29 feet. But then, of course, he rolled in another putt that reminded us of the Jordan of old. Who’s he pointing to after making the putt? Friend? Sponsor? Spieth said afterward that a fan had fallen out of his chair as he lined up his putt (we’re thinking maybe alcohol played a role?) and Jordy wanted to give him some love.
The birdie—his sixth in eight holes—gave Spieth the solo lead, though Schauffele would answer with his own birdie at 17 to tie him and set up a massive Sunday showdown between two 27-year-old stars who are starving for their next win. If there are half the great shots that were produced on Saturday, it could still be epic.