DMN: Nichols: Frustrated Jordan Spieth loses composure during 22-hour round, faces major test at British Open

From the Dallas Morning News:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/golf/headlines/20150718-nichols-after-22-hour-up-and-down-round-jordan-spieth-criticizes-british-open-officials.ece

Jordan Spieth tee time for Sunday: 7:30 a.m. CDT

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Jordan Spieth got up at 4:30 a.m. to resume his suspended second round at 7 a.m.

Man, was he cranky.

In trying to become the second player to win the first three majors, Spieth took a grand slam from the Old Course, as did most of the field. Delays for wind and rain the last two days forced the first Monday finish of the British Open since 1988.

He weathered 40 mph winds and a 10 ½ hour delay to complete his second round of the British Open, which had been suspended Friday by darkness after more than three hours of delays.

He looks different than the cool and calm 21-year-old who went wire-to-wire at the Masters and then calmly birdied the 72nd hole to beat Johnson at the U.S. Open.

Halfway through the third leg of his Grand Slam quest, Spieth is showing signs of frustration.

With flagsticks bending like Beckham in strong winds off the North Sea, Spieth has uncharacteristically lost his composure a few times.

On Saturday morning, he took a full swing with his putter after a three-putt on his first hole. And the TV mic picked up his criticism of the R&A’s decision to send players out in 40 mph winds: “We never should have started,” he said.

His point was valid and his opinion shared by virtually every player because some played more holes before the R&A suspended play after 32 minutes.

“I don’t believe that had the R&A known what was going to happen, they certainly wouldn’t have started us,” Spieth said afterward. “The only thing they were able to go off of was what the officials themselves saw when they were out there before we even got out to the golf course.”

Finally, after about 22 hours, Spieth had completed the round. He walked off the hallowed grounds with an even-72, which put him at 5 under.

With the world’s oldest tournament being extended to a Monday finish for the first time since 1988, Spieth has little time to waste. He needs an efficient assault on the house that Old Tom Morris rebuilt to maintain his Grand Slam hope.

He enters the third round at five strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson, his playing partner the first two days.

Considering that he was on the wrong side of the draw on a brutal Friday afternoon, Spieth could have caught a big break with calm skies on Saturday.

Instead, conditions were worse, and after cutting his deficit by one through the first 14 holes of round two, Spieth finished where he started on Friday, five back.

Still, Spieth wields the confidence of a young player with no fear, one that has quickly risen to No. 2 in the world rankings and has shown a penchant for going low. He will need that on Sunday.

“I believe I’m still in contention,” said Speith, a four-time winner this season. “I still believe I can win this tournament. I really need a solid round tomorrow, though, because Dustin is not letting up.”

Johnson seems mostly oblivious to the tough conditions. The tour’s longest hitter has pierced the wind with booming drives, often flying over the dangerous pot bunkers ala Tiger Woods in 2000.

“Dustin is going to shoot a good round tomorrow with less wind, and I’m going to need to shoot a great round to really give myself a chance.”

For Spieth to match the only player to claim the first three legs of the slam (Ben Hogan), he will need to fix the primary cause of his putting woes. He will also need to regain his composure on the unpredictable links.

The world’s best putter suffered five three-putts, finishing the round with 37. Those are staggering numbers considering he ranks first on tour at 27.72 putts per round and ninth in three-putt avoidance at 1.82.

His first three-putt on Saturday led to his full swing of his Texas wedge. The difficulty of the quick greens have been magnified by the severe winds, especially those closest to the seas.

The group the 11th green couldn’t even attempt a putt for fear their ball would move before being struck, resulting in a penalty. That created a log jam on the tee.

“They were out there and balls were not moving … so that means that it’s playable,” Spieth said. “From what I saw first-hand with Dustin when we got out there, it wasn’t the case.”

Johnson, who began the day tied for the lead at 9 under, chunked his chip on 14. Before he could place his marker, the ball moved, resulting in a bogey on the par-5. Hideki Matsuyama, playing in the same group, also required three putts.

After 32 minutes, play was suspended. The wind continued unabated until players finally returned to the course at 6 p.m.

An R&A spokesman defended the decision to start play as scheduled:

“We spent an hour at the far end of the course, before play started, assessing whether the course was playable. Balls were not moving on the greens and, while the conditions were extremely difficult, we considered the golf course to be playable. Gusts of wind increased in speed by 10 to 15 percent after play resumed. This could not be foreseen.”

Spieth usually thrives under pressure. The bigger the challenge, the better he seems to play.

He faces a major test the next two days.

“When we’re on the course inside the ropes, it’s just another event, and working as hard as I can to get into contention and beat the best players in the world,” he said.

“I understand where we’re at off the course, but it doesn’t do any good thinking about that. It does better for me focusing on the task at hand. That’s what we did in the first two majors.”

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