Saturday 17 February 2018

Spieth fires out warning for St Andrews with play-off victory

Jordan Spieth celebrates his birdie on the 18th green during the third round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament
Jordan Spieth celebrates his birdie on the 18th green during the third round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament

James Corrigan

As if Jordan Spieth did not have enough going for him heading into the 144th Open, he will arrive at St Andrews this morning having just carded a 61, the best round of his career, and followed it up with a play-off victory at the John Deere Classic.

Spieth, who will this week aim to become just the second player in history to win the Masters, US Open and Open in the same season, was in remarkable form in the third round in Illinois.

Having begun with a mediocre 71, which left him in a tie for 101st, Spieth hurtled up the leaderboard with a second-round 64. But even that seven-under magnificence was put in the shade by his Saturday brilliance.

Spieth reeled off six birdies and two eagles in his bogeyless adventure. He left the best until last, finishing birdie-eagle-birdie, holing out with a wedge from 105 yards on the par-five 17th. Spieth prides himself on "staying in the moment" but on this occasion he found it impossible.

The 21-year-old admitted that he was desperate to record his lowest score on the PGA Tour as he made his way up the 18th and said as much to his caddie, Michael Greller, who is entrusted with ensuring that his boss never gets ahead of himself.

"Walking up after the second shot, I said, 'Mike, I just saw the leaderboard and I think this is for my best round on the PGA Tour'," Spieth said.

"Mike replied, 'It doesn't matter. Just keep on trekking'. I said, 'Yeah, but I appreciate this and I really want to make this thing'. "

When Spieth wants something he usually prevails - as anyone will testify who witnessed him winning at Augusta and then, last month, at Chambers Bay.

The 20-footer on the 18th green was no problem to this peerless putter and the fist-pump when it dropped said it all.

In many respects, the landing of a fourth title of the season did not matter as he had already sent out his warning to his St Andrews rivals - but just in case, Spieth rallied late in the final round to secure a play off.

Trailing by five shots at one stage of the final round, Spieth birdied four of his last six holes including a spectacular chip-in at the par three 16 to set up a play-off against Tom Gillis.

The 46-year-old Gillis, who was attempting to become the oldest first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 20 years, sent an approach into the water. Spieth - who was born in the year that Gillis was a rookie pro - made par for his second win at TPC Deere Run in three years.

Spieth and Gillis both finished the final round at 20-under 264. Zach Johnson and Danny Lee tied for third at 19 under. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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