Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spieth leads by three from Johnson at Northern Trust tournament

OLD WESTBURY, New York – Engrave the trophy. It’s locked up. Jordan Spieth has won the Northern Trust tournament.
Having won nine of the last 10 times he’s led after 54 holes on the US PGA Tour, Spieth’s three-shot buffer over Dustin Johnson means it is statistically likely the Texan makes it win No. 4 for the year on Sunday and takes the lead in the FedExCup.
Rounds of 69-65-64 leave him at 12 under par at Glen Oaks Club with Johnson at 9 under.
Spieth is five shots clear of the four-way tie for third so the buffer is too significant, right?
We haven’t seen a front-runner like this since Tiger Woods, who was an incredible 51-4 when holding the lead or co-lead with a round to go on the US PGA Tour.
OK. OK. OK. Hold up. Let’s not get too crazy. This is golf after all. Spieth knows as well as anyone a tournament can turn on one bad swing – or one good one.
That one 54-hole lead he didn’t convert in the last 10? The 2016 Masters where he blew a 5-shot lead on the back nine. The vision of him painfully finding Raes Creek twice that day are still fresh scars for us all.
His most recent 54-hole lead came at The Open Championship this year where he lost his buffer early with some crazy play, famously hit the ball off the map and played from the driving range, before sensationally turning it back around with a blitz finish for victory.
The time before that it appeared he was going to let Daniel Berger get the better of him at the Travelers Championship in a playoff. Cue a sensational bunker hole-out in sudden death for the win.
You couldn’t really write the script for any of these occasions.
“I'd expect anything. I've kind of shown that anything can happen [laughing] unfortunately and fortunately,” Spieth said when asked to imagine what he would think if he was trying to chase down a front-runner with his record.
“So anything can happen tomorrow. I expect some swings but if we stay focused on a goal, keep playing the way we're playing, then should be fine.”
The chasing pack can look at things one of two ways.
They can go glass half-empty and lament the likelihood of Spieth’s steel to win and ability to get out of even tough situations.
Or they can go glass half-full and recall his shakiness at times, and back themselves to go head-to-head if they can get him near the ropes.
“I like coming from behind,” Johnson, fourth in the FedExCup, said.
“Let's be honest here. I'd rather have a three-shot lead. But it's not that bad coming from three shots back, either, because that can change in one hole.
“Obviously Jordan's playing really well, so he's going to be tough to beat tomorrow.”
Johnson wasn’t planning on being overly aggressive. Instead he plans to just rely on his long game to potentially give himself more birdie chances than the 24-year-old.
He will have to as Spieth’s putter has been a big part of the puzzle.
“Maybe some of his putting will rub off on me and I'll start holing them,” Johnson smiled.

“I think it's going to be a fun day. I think it's going to be a battle but we'll see who is on top at the end.”
For those further back – like Spaniard Jon Rahm who is part of the crowd at 7 under – aggression is going to be needed.
When the gap is five you must go super low or also hope for a stumble above.
“And Spieth is not known for being one to stumble. Last time he actually made a little bit of a mistake and ended up with a finish for the ages at The Open,” Rahm said.
“He's not going to give it to you. That guy can seriously close it out.

“We need to make up shots as fast as possible, as early as possible. Hopefully I can get off to a good start like I did today and make a few putts early and who knows.”
Spieth for his part expects them to come at him hard. He doesn’t believe the field is playing for second.
“I imagine it's not like guys that were chasing Tiger where you almost felt hopeless,” he said.
“I don't think DJ is really worried about much. We've battled it out quite a few times. He'll step up and just do his thing. I don't think he's going to think much about me, other than where he's at as we get down the stretch.”

Spieth, the 2015 FedExCup champion, hopes Johnson isn’t even in the hunt by the time they get down the stretch. The first of his three wins this season came at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he “cruised” along on Sunday.
“Pebble Beach was an absolute cruise,” he reminisced.
“It was a bogey-free 2-under round when I had a lead by a significant margin, and I think the longest par putt I had was 3 feet that day. So that's what I would obviously like tomorrow.”
Glen Oaks might not allow that. While the fairways are generous, the rough is thick.
“This is not a course you can stand on the first tee and think 65. It can happen but you force it out here you will have a big number,” former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said.
“It’s a U.S. Open with wide fairways. A good player is going to win here and if it’s not one of the really long hitters like Jordan than he’s done extremely well.”
Odds are he will do extremely well. Again.

Players from USA unless stated otherwise
198 J Spieth 69 65 64
201 D Johnson 65 69 67
203 P Casey (England) 69 68 66, P Reed 70 67 66, J Rahm (Spain) 68 68 67, M Kuchar 71 64 68

205 J Rose (England) 68 68 69 (T8)
207 M Laird (Scotland) 69 69 69 (T17)





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