UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) — Jordan Spieth began the day as if he was going to run away with the U.S. Open.
He ended it with in a logjam with three others who will have a lot to say Sunday about his chances of adding a second major to the Masters title he already owns.
The putter that was so magical early in the third round turned balky on the closing holes Saturday, preventing Spieth from carrying a big lead into the final day of the Open the way he did at the Masters.
He’ll have to win this one the old-fashioned way — in a fight on a course where getting separation from the field has proved to be tricky.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today but still tied for the lead,” Spieth said. “I’m pretty sure I know where it is and how to get it tomorrow and get ready to go.
“I started to really strike the ball well right at the end of the round today and I can take a lot of momentum from that.”
On a marathon day on a course drying out by the minute, Spieth finished with a 1-over 71 that left him tied with three others for the lead at 4 under. He did it after making back-to-back long putts early for a three-shot lead, then failing to convert three straight shorter ones coming in.
Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Branden Grace also were at 4 under, and a missed 12-footer on the 18th hole meant Spieth won’t be playing in the final group.
No matter, because he is brimming with the confidence of a major champion who knows precisely what he has to do on Sunday in the Open.
“I feel like we have a winning formula to close the deal in a major championship, whether that was the most recent major or it was 20 years ago, we’ve still done it as a team,” Spieth said. “We know the formula and that’s the only impact it’s going to have as far as consecutive ones, that’s just something I think to be proud of after the fact, if I can get the job done tomorrow. But that’s going to have no bearing when I tee it up. It’s just going to be how I tackle Chambers Bay.”
Trying to become the first player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in one year since Tiger Woods in 2002 — and get halfway to the Grand Slam not even Woods was able to pull off in one calendar year — Spieth used birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 to get to 7 under and open a three-shot lead.
But just as quickly he made back-to-back bogeys and settled back into a pack of leaders that kept changing as the afternoon gave way to early evening on the links-style course.
The culprit was the greens that have been widely panned by many players, though Spieth said his issue was more with speed than the quality of the putting surface.
“I need a little better speed control,” he said. “I made a lot of second putts from the ranges of 2 to 8 feet this week, and even a couple beyond that. And if I can lower that number to a good 3-foot circle it’s going to make a huge difference.”
With another chance to separate himself on the last three holes, Spieth missed three straight putts under 12 feet. It left him a bit frustrated, but still pleased with his position after three rounds.
“To be at 7 under at one point today and to finish at 4 is a little disappointing when you look at it that way, but I also finished 1 under on the last four and it really could have been 4 under,” he said. “I hit a few good putts that didn’t go in. So, yeah, I’m just going to take the positives off the end of the round and very pleased with the position I’m in.”
Spieth said he will draw on his experiences at Augusta National as he chases his second straight major title. He said he already feels calmer than he did after the third round of the Masters, and believes his preparation could win the day — and the Open.
“I think I’ll be a little bit less anxious,” he said. “I feel a little more relaxed right now after finishing the round versus when I finished Saturday at Augusta.”
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