Spi­eth seizes lead in Hous­ton Open ahead of Piercy, Wag­ner and Cook

The China Post - - SPORTS -

With an­other crack at the Masters loom­ing, ris­ing U.S. star Jor­dan Spi­eth fired a five-un­der par 67 on Satur­day to grab a one-stroke lead af­ter three rounds of the Hous­ton Open.

Spi­eth fin­ished with six birdies and one bo­gey to build the 54-hole to­tal of a 14-un­der 202 and was one stroke in front of Amer­i­cans Scott Piercy, John­son Wag­ner and Austin Cook.

Piercy, who matched the course record with a 63 on Thurs­day be­fore bal­loon­ing to a 74 on Fri­day, re­bounded with a six-un­der par 66. Wag­ner also signed for a 66 while Cook carded a two-un­der 70 to round out the group on a 203.

English­men Kelvin Day and Paul Casey both shot 68s to head a group on 205, where they were joined by Charles How­ell (69) and Rus­sell Hen­ley (68).

Phil Mick­el­son, whose game ap­peared to be com­ing around just in time for a run at a fourth Masters ti­tle, en­dured a tough day that in­cluded a dou­ble bo­gey and four back-nine bo­geys — three in a row to end his three-over 75.

He was in a group on 208, six shots off the pace.

“I didn’t play well to­day,” Mick­el­son said. “The last three bo­geys hurt. I fought all day with­out re­ally play­ing well to keep it at even par and then the last three holes got me.”

Spi­eth in­sisted that the avail­abil­ity of birdies on the Golf Club of Hous­ton course meant his one-shot lead would mean lit­tle on Sun­day.

“I’m not go­ing to think about be­ing up one, I’m go­ing to think about play­ing the golf course,” said the 21-year-old.

“It’s a bunched leader­board with a lot of guys mak­ing birdies. I’m not nec­es­sar­ily the fa­vorite to­mor­row just be­ing up one.”

If Spi­eth can hang on for a third U.S. PGA Tour ti­tle, it will give him mas­sive mo­men­tum head­ing into the first ma­jor of the year at Au­gusta Na­tional next week.

Last year Spi­eth led by two strokes with 11 holes to play on Sun­day at Au­gusta, but mid-round bo­geys opened the door to even­tual win­ner Bubba Wat­son.

Driver Key for Spi­eth

Since

then he has notched vic­to­ries at the Aus­tralian Open and the unof­fi­cial Hero World Chal­lenge hosted by Tiger Woods be­fore adding a sec­ond U. S. Tour ti­tle at the Valspar Cham­pi­onship and fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Texas Open this month.

Spi­eth said ac­cu­racy off the tee was the key on Satur­day. He hit 13 of 14 fair­ways in reg­u­la­tion and 16 of 18 greens.

“I fig­ured start­ing out to­day that the course would play tougher with this north­east­erly wind,” he said. “So I put a pre­mium on driv­ing the ball. I drove the ball ex­tremely well to give my­self some chances com­ing in.”

Af­ter two birdies on the front nine, Spi­eth stepped it up com­ing in.

He rolled in birdie putts of three feet and seven feet at 10 and 11, and picked up an­other stroke at the par-five 13th with a five-foot birdie.

A three-putt bo­gey at the parthree 14th was the only blem­ish on Spi­eth’s card, and he pulled the shot back with a 41-foot putt from just off the green at the par-three 16th.

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