Jordan Spieth shot 63 on Saturday in the third round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but he almost didn’t complete the first nine. After his drive on the eighth hole went too far through the fairway, it came to rest on the literal edge of a cliff, which meant Spieth had a decision to make.
He could take an unplayable, assume the penalty stroke and drop away from the edge of the cliff. Or, you know, he could hit it. The views on television made the decision seem easy, and yet Spieth went against what most would consider rational and decided to hit it anyway.
” … It was like, ‘Well if I can get a swing on it and I can hit it then why would I take a drop?’ You’re never over … a 65-foot cliff. So it’s an unusual situation, normally if you’re walking into a hazard, you see a ball, you hit it out. [Caddie] Michael [Greller] hated it. He tried to talk me out of it three times. I don’t blame him, looking back. I’m just glad I made the par to make it worth it because I don’t think I would have made par with a drop, but if I made bogey it would have really not been worth it”
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am results: Tom Hoge wins as Spieth fades down the stretch
The par was part of a 31 on the front to go with a 32 on the back that has him T4 with just 18 holes to go at a tournament he’s dominated before. A year after he broke into the mix here at Pebble, he’s right there again just a stroke back of the trio of Tom Hoge, Andrew Putnam and Beau Hossler, who hold the co-lead.
Spieth explained the mechanics of the shot he pulled off on the dodgy eighth in Round 3.
” … Footing was solid, but I didn’t have much room past where my left foot was, and the problem was it’s downsloped,” said Spieth. “Like, if it was flat, it’s no issue at all. It’s the downslope that worries you because you’re going to try and, you’re getting more forward to your left side on a downslope in order to get the strike, right? You want your weight with the slope. I didn’t want my weight with the slope that time.
“I was almost sitting there going, ‘Is it worth it because, yes, I can get a strike on it, but am I going to back up out of fear and just kind of thin this in the water, you know, like kind of top it’ So I was just kind of trying to weigh it for a minute and Michael … continued to try and talk me out of it, I was just trying to, I was just trying to think clearly, like, what are the options here.
“If I felt like I was in real true danger of losing my life if I would have pulled the ball back and dropped it. It wasn’t quite that severe. But it was enough to where I certainly couldn’t put a normal swing or shot on it.”
Listening to Spieth talk me through his process is nearly as terrifying as watching it play out on television. Every angle is scarier than the last, and every quote is more amazing than the one before it.
“[Greller] said, ‘I just don’t, I just don’t see the point. I don’t think it’s worth it. I just don’t see the point.’ Stuff like that, I think. He said that next, if that were to happen again he’ll walk up, grab my ball and throw it in the water so that I can’t hit it. He said, ‘I should have done that.’ He was like, ‘I just didn’t know what to do myself.'”
Spieth went on to say that he told Greller he didn’t want him to approach the ball and see just how dramatic the drop was because he definitely would not have let him hit the shot. But that may have been minuscule compared to what the rest of his family was thinking.”
“I’m not really sure what’s going to happen there [when I have to explain it to my wife],” he said. “I just saw the blimp shot from overhead and it really bothered me. So I can’t imagine while she was watching that live. They actually came out, my son was out for the first time ever on 3 and 4 and I don’t know where they went from there. And I don’t know if they were over off the AT&T hospitality or anything. So, yeah, I mean, my parents are here too, so not only do I have to explain to my wife, I got to explain to my mom, my dad”
One thing is for sure with Spieth in the mix on Sunday at Pebble: even if the setups and shots aren’t as dramatic and wild as they were at No. 8 on Saturday, the entire experience will be. Metaphor became reality in Round 3 on Saturday as the best high-wire act in sports sidled up to the side of an abyss. This is how he’s played golf for the last 10 years. Now we just have the footage to prove it.