Spi­eth has a prob­lem with No. 18

He doesn’t like the setup as a par-four, but he’s go­ing to have to deal with it again.

Los Angeles Times - - GOLF: U.S. OPEN - By Teddy Green­stein tgreen­stein@tribpub.com

UNIVER­SITY PLACE, Wash. — In about the time it takes for a yel­low light to turn red, Jor­dan Spi­eth went from heaven to hell.

That’s golf — es­pe­cially U.S. Open golf.

Spi­eth knocked home an 11-foot birdie putt on No. 17, his eighth hole of the sec­ond round Fri­day, to take the out­right lead at six un­der par. The sun was shin­ing at Cham­bers Bay. Puget Sound, just to the right of the 17th green, pro­vided a cool breeze. Spi­eth grinned and nod­ded at the ador­ing spec­ta­tors in the grand­stand. And then … &$%@%#&*! Spi­eth hooked his tee shot into a fair­way bunker on the 18th, which played Fri­day as a nar­row, 514-yard par-four. He barely cleared the lip with his sec­ond shot. Next came his loose lips.

“This is the dumb­est hole I’ve ever seen in my life,” he barked to cad­die Michael Greller.

Af­ter his round, the ever-pre­pared Spi­eth was ready for the ques­tion re­gard­ing his out­burst. To his credit, he did not back down.

“I think 18 as a par-four doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Of course at the mo­ment when I didn’t hit the right shots, it’s go­ing to make less sense. And what­ever, if mi­cro­phones are go­ing to pick up [what I say], they’re go­ing to pick it up. I’m not go­ing to put a smile on and be happy with the way I played the hole. I am who I am.”

The schiz­o­phrenic 18th played as a par-five Thurs­day and will do so again Satur­day. As a par-four, play­ers ei­ther have to fly the fair­way bunkers on the left or stay short of a cross-bunker on the right that’s 325 yards from the tee. The hole was down­wind Satur­day, bring­ing the cross-bunker well into play.

“I just didn’t know where I could hit that tee shot,” Spi­eth said. “And I wasn’t go­ing to hit a three-iron off the tee and then hit three­wood [for his sec­ond shot]. So all in all, I thought it was a dumb hole to­day. But I think we’re go­ing to play it from there again, so I have to get over that.”

Per­fect re­ac­tion: Make your point. Then move on.

Spi­eth, off a down­hill lie from wispy fes­cue, dumped his third shot into a bunker short of the green, lead­ing to a dou­ble-bo­gey six. But he got one back with a birdie on the par-five first.

His drive found the left rough on No. 1, and steam was com­ing from his ears as he walked to his ball with Greller.

“I was re­ally frus­trated,” he re­called, “and Michael did a great job of telling me: ‘Don’t let this get to you. You’re still very much in this tour­na­ment.’ If the sec­ond some­thing gets to you, you’re in trou­ble in a U.S. Open.”

Spi­eth gets it. He’s only 21 and al­ready has a com­plete un­der­stand­ing of how to win ma­jors. A U.S. Open vic­tory — he’s tied for the lead with Pa­trick Reed — would be two straight af­ter his Mas­ters run­away.

His wedge on No. 1 left him with 13 feet. He drained it to move to five un­der. Just like that, his self-de­scribed “bad de­ci­sion” to hit nine­iron in­stead of sand wedge out of the fair­way bunker on 18 had been min­i­mized. He made one birdie and one bo­gey over his fi­nal eight holes.

He had given up two runs in the top of the in­ning but re­sponded with a solo bomb in the bot­tom half. He was still alive and well.

“The front nine, I be­lieve, is the harder of the two nines,” he said. “I told Michael when we were walk­ing down [No. 1], let’s try to get one birdie on this nine [be­cause] there are not many chances. Ac­cept that three un­der is about the low­est score that was pos­si­ble.” He shot three un­der. He is Jor­dan Spi­eth.

Harry How Getty Im­ages

JOR­DAN SPI­ETH HAD THE LEAD to him­self be­fore mak­ing a dou­ble bo­gey on his ninth hole of the day, No. 18, which played as a par-five in the first round.

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