Jordan Spieth was marching up to one of the world’s most iconic golf holes, and into a wind so healthy that it was testing the viability of the flagstick some 110 yards away, when the devil-may-care star said what you would think he would say.
With one caveat.
“Well, I always said I wanted to play this hole this way,” Spieth said, a microphone from the PGA Tour picking up his words.
“I just hoped it would be a practice-round day.”
No such luck. Though you were in for a treat.
Play, in short, on Saturday at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was wicked, though not totally unexpected. At the gem alongside the Pacific Ocean, the weather can change quicker than you can say Michael Greller, and so it went during the third round, where golf was eventually postponed, and it was decided the final round will be played Monday. Though not before Spieth had a go at 7.
To set this up, we’ll start with Spieth. And if you are new here, all you really must know is that last year at this tournament, during the same third round and just one hole ahead, the Texan nearly fell off a cliff trying to hit a shot. The internet can point you to other such treats, but your takeaway is that in those moments where others may see difficulty, Spieth sees only opportunity. Or a gap in the trees. It’s endearing, really.
Ahead of him on Saturday was only a football field, though the hole’s defense can be as stout as the ‘85 Bears. On the downhill, 113-yard, par-3 7th at Pebble, there are six bunkers that surround a green no bigger than a pool table, there is the Pacific to the right, there is the Pacific behind the green. And that’s all on a good day. There’s often the wind. Remember the viral video a few weeks back of the unlucky soul knocking driver (!) on the hole?
Saturday wasn’t that gusty, but the winds blowing from green-to-tee were still around 40 mph, and if you hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, you would wobble backward. So Spieth went to work. He said this to Greller, his caddie: “Could be the hardest hole on the course today.” He said this to Jake Owen, the musician who was his amateur playing partner: “I could hit one of five clubs.”
Club selection did take a while. As playing partner Ryan Palmer stood at the tee, Spieth started doing yardage algebra with Greller. Essentially, a higher-lofted club would keep the ball in the air longer, and a lower-lofted club shorter, and the mental yardage would have to adjust accordingly. Later, to Owen, he explained his formula.
“It’s playing 137 with a 7-iron, it’s playing 152 with an 8, it’s playing 170 with a 9.”
As Spieth calculated, Palmer backed off his ball a couple times. “Golly,” he said at one point. He eventually hit a 7-iron with an abbreviated finish, and his ball landed right, in between the bunkers. Spieth told him, as he walked off the tee, that it’s “actually kind of nice there.”
Now it was his at-bat. Golf Channel announcer Colt Knost said Spieth went with an 8-iron, which he typically hits about 170 yards, with the thought being that he’d play his ball somewhat lower. On the tee box, Spieth shouted to Greller to confirm the move.
“I don’t even think a full one goes over the green,” he said. “Just like a nice, solid punch.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Greller said.
Spieth hit, and his ball hung up. One PGA Tour Live announcer said the “ball was in the air forever.” Another said it was “like hitting into a wall.” Spieth, meanwhile, cheered his shot on.
“Get to the green.”
“Get to it.”
“Get to it.”
It did, settling 20 feet to the left of the hole.
His work was done, though he two-putted for a par. Off the tee, he laughed with Greller, Owen and Palmer.
“That’s so good,” Knost said on the broadcast of the tee shot.
“That’s so fun to watch.”