It was a shot that most of those watching knew only too well. An ugly hooking thing that dumped sharply into a bunker guarding Bethpage Black’s 9th green. Jordan Spieth slumped to his knees, yelling at anyone and no one, as the ball traced its desperate arc.
Both he, and those New Yorkers now unsympathetically cat-calling, knew what being in there meant.
The explosion from the sand sailed over the flag. Two putts later – the latter a short stabby effort that screamed ‘decel’ – and two days of optimism appeared punctured by one double bogey.
It had taken just that pair of sub 70 rounds at the PGA Championship and people were all but bringing out their sick desperate for a touch of Jordan’s healing hands.
This was a resurrection – there could be no doubt – and the Texan would soon be leading his flock back to the promised land of major glory.
Reality and fantasy, though, are rather distant bedmates. Spieth is still a work in progress, and a 72 that dropped him into a tie for 8th only reinforced that.
He knows it too, preaching a moderate tone even when so many superlatives were being offered his way on Friday evening.
“I’m not quite at that point, no,” he said when asked if the things he was working on in practice were ingrained. “I mean, I’m still really thinking through swings, but I have to because if I don’t, it gets into the wrong position.
“I played most of 2017 with just one swing thought ‘be reactive’ and it was as good as anybody that year.
“So it’s working back in that direction, but it was far enough off to make it pretty difficult, especially to trust it in certain situations in majors. It’s just harder on the tees to sit there and fully trust it.”
The grandstands were desperate for him to be the one that chased down Brooks Koepka, and the man who has been an instrument of blunt force on Long Island at least looked human in an even-par 70.
They were tougher conditions than we’ve seen in the first two days no doubt, but it was Spieth’s iron play that hurt him most. And the worst of his shots came from the fairway.
A fanned wedge on the 2nd fell 50 feet away and a swipe left brought only a fried egg at the 5th.
? – "I can't believe he's spun it out of there – incredible!"
Jordan Spieth has dropped down to joint-sixth on four-under, but the 2015 runner-up has just come within a whisker of a remarkable eagle at the sixth!
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) May 18, 2019
Even when he did pure one, a strike on the 6th that almost dived straight into the cup, he jabbed the birdie putt wide.
So by the time he doubled the 9th, you feared that fragile confidence would be ready to unravel.
But if Koepka destroys a golf course, then Spieth battles it and what should give him most cause for optimism is that those qualities were there in abundance on the back nine.
— PGA of America (@PGA) May 15, 2019
The driver that’s barely kept a ball on the property this year is starting to behave itself. And when it does, he can put together the impressive birdies that arrived on 12 and 13.
That even the prospect of the Grand Slam – a mere afterthought coming into this week for Spieth when it was all anyone talked about with Rory McIlroy for eight months before the Masters – should be seen as at least a measure of progress.
But roads have a habit, as the songs go, of being ‘long’. Spieth is on the right path. He’s just not quite reached his destination yet.