KAPALUA, Maui >> Jordan Spieth made nine birdies today with the kind of round that should have put him in contention at the SBS Tournament of Champions.
Except for two holes, he might have been.
Instead, Spieth left Kapalua thinking more about a high finish than a title defense.
He made a double bogey on the par-3 eighth when his ball caught a wicked lie in the bunker and his next shot buried in deep rough. What really irritated him was a bad drive on the 17th, compounded by not getting the right yardage and laying up into a hazard, leading to triple bogey.
“I’ll struggle for the next couple hours getting over 17 kind of throwing me out of the tournament,” Spieth said after his 69. “Just feel like it’s going to be too big of an uphill battle. But I can get myself probably 12- to 14-under par the next two days and finish in the top five. So that becomes the next goal.”
He spoke outside the scoring trailer, still running hot enough to rule himself out so quickly. Spieth was at 5-under 141. By the end of the round, he was seven shots behind leaders Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore with 36 holes remaining.
His words illustrated the irritation.
Spieth thought his 7-iron on No. 8 had a chance to be close until it took a hop into bunker on the downslope. He blasted out across the green, and the ball had so much spin that it buried in the rough. He couldn’t control the spin on that one as it raced across the green into the rough. Spieth had to make a 5-footer for double bogey.
His caddie, Michael Greller, set a short goal of making five birdies the rest of the way.
“We got five on the next five,” Spieth said after rolling in four birdies from inside 10 feet and one from about 35 feet across the 11th green. He missed a couple of other chances on the 14th and 15th, but still was only one shot behind until the 17th.
Trying to hammer a tee shot, he hit a toe-hook into the hazard.
“Hitting a ball where I did on 17 with about a 95-yard fairway is as bad a shot as I’ll hit this year,” he said.
And then he compounded the mistake. Spieth said he and Greller rushed the next one and didn’t get the right yardage, and it didn’t help that he caught a flier with a 7-iron out of the rough. It bounded into the gorge dividing the fairway and green for another penalty shot.
Spieth rebounded with a fifth shot to about 4 feet, and then he missed the putt.
“What we should have done was take the time for us to sit back, look at the options, make sure that this next shot’s in play and have Michael maybe walk off the 185-, 190-some-odd yards we had to the end and say, ‘Hey, this needs to pitch at 160.’ I just took a 7-iron, caught a flier and ripped it, thinking I had way more than I did,” he said.
“It was kind of a rookie move.”
For the second round of the year, there were plenty of positives, starting with those nine birdies set up by an impeccable wedge game. Even so, it was difficult to ignore a double bogey and triple bogey that wrecked a round that otherwise matched the brilliant weather.
“Just because we were in contention,” Spieth said, “and now pretty surely out of it.”