Amid a downpour of rain and needing some momentum, Jordan Spieth lined up a 36-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth green at Austin Country Club. He had just watched his opponent Ryan Moore go 1 up in the match after a birdie at the par-4 fifth.
As Spieth studied the putt, the rain began to come down even harder. The former Longhorn looked around with almost a baffling look on his face. But after a long standoff with mother nature, with no apparent let-up in the precipitation, Spieth finally stood in and delivered some magic.
He drilled the 36-footer, shocking not only the crowd but himself. Spieth looked back at his caddie, Michael Greller, in astonishment as the fans cheered frantically.
It was one of the louder roars Friday at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, the final day of group play before the knockout rounds begin Saturday morning. But Spieth won’t be around this weekend to hear any more roars like the one he heard at the sixth hole.
After halving his match with Moore and Hideto Tanihara’s win on Friday, Spieth will not be around for the knockout rounds. He’ll head to Houston for the Shell Houston Open next week, a final tune-up before the Masters.
“All in all, I’m very, very happy right now going forward,” Spieth said. “Going to try and build on this momentum in Houston.”
Spieth led Moore 1 up with three holes to play. But at the par-5 16th, Moore birdied to square the match. At the par-3 17th, Moore and Spieth stuck their tee shots to eight feet, but both missed the ensuing birdie putts. The par-4 18th was left for the taking.
After two well-placed drives in the fairway, Spieth and Moore each hit mediocre iron shots into the green, leaving two long, difficult putts. Spieth’s birdie putt from 41 feet looked good, but just missed to the right. Moore’s uphill putt from 30 feet also missed.
“It looked like going into it, it was going to be a pride match with Ryan,” Spieth said, “but throughout the match I didn’t look at a scoreboard (and) pretended like the winner was advancing. And that’s what brought those nerves and that adrenaline to me.”
Entering Friday, Spieth needed to beat Moore and then hope for a loss or halve by Tanihara to have any hope of advancing to Saturday. With Tanihara’s 3 and 1 win over Yuta Ikeda, Spieth and Moore’s match was effectively meaningless. Tanihara, who beat Spieth Wednesday, finished 2-0-1 in group play while Spieth finished 1-1-1.
“I like playing against people who are good, and it’s really enjoying,” Tanihara said. “I’m just glad that I’m playing well and moving forward.”
Despite failing to advance to the knockout rounds this weekend, after his match Spieth was still very upbeat about his game with the Masters looming.
“I made some good progress the last couple of days,” Spieth said. “After a two-week break, historically, I’ve been a little rough to start. Then it gets better.”
It will have to get better, with a trip to Augusta National less than two weeks away.