NORTON — Jordan Spieth started the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship two strokes behind leaders Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman on Monday. Then he opened birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie — say it out loud and it sounds like backup singers warming up — and by the fourth hole, Spieth was the leader of a rollicking run around TPC Boston at 15 under par.
But it didn’t last. Spieth finally missed a few shots and his good buddy Thomas came charging up from the final group and claimed the second leg of the FedExCup playoffs, shooting a 5-under 66 for a 17-under 267 total, leaving Spieth three shots back. Spieth shot 67.
“Obviously a dream start and you’re not going to keep pace and shoot 54,’’ Spieth said, “so at some point you’ve got to realize the difficult holes are coming up, and honestly it was just a difference — and it happened yesterday, too — my long irons fell off. I had three 5-irons out of four holes on the back nine, didn’t hit the green with any of them.”
It was the second straight runner-up finish for Spieth — who lost to Dustin Johnson in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open — but this one didn’t shake him.
“I’m not going to be as down on myself as I was last week,’’ said Spieth, who has pocketed three wins this season, including the British Open, and at 24 seems like a seasoned veteran after three years on the Tour.
“I beat myself up last week,’’ he said about the playoff loss. Then he hesitated and reconsidered, “Not beat myself up, but I was upset after last week, really having a good opportunity and felt like the shot I hit on 6 brought everyone back in when I could have cruised throughout the rest of the round.
“That wasn’t the case today. Came out firing like I said we had to do, and as we turned, 8 through 14 is the meat of the golf course, you want to get through even. I got through over par and didn’t get any coming in when I hit some good putts.”
After four birdies, an eagle, and a 30 on the front nine, Spieth’s run ran aground at No. 12. He knocked his tee shot into the rough on the left side of the fairway on the 486-yard hole, then sent his second shot over the green into pine bark mulch at the foot of some trees. From there he chipped short of the green in the rough, chipped again to 3 feet, and holed that for par. A lot of work and no reward.
“I didn’t think anything was going wrong,’’ said Spieth, who added another bogey at 14 when his approach to the green landed in the primary rough. He chipped to 15 feet, but his par-saving putt skimmed by the hole.
“I got unlucky on 12,’’ he said, “and from there, the one on 14 was just a bad swing and that one really hurt. Fourteen was the difference maker for me.’’
Moments later, Spieth was walking down the 15th fairway, and Thomas was walking by him on the adjacent 14th, going in the opposite direction.
Spieth, who later interrupted an interview to run and give Thomas a congratulatory hug as he came off the 18th green, has plenty to love about this season. He’s got three victories, he’s moved up to first in the FedExCup rankings (followed by Thomas), and he knows he’s playing really well.
“I’ve putted so much better from inside 10 feet this week than I have the entire year,’’ he said. “It’s a big confidence boost for me, so it’s very close. I’m very close to the level I played in 2015.’’