A closing birdie gave the defending champion a third round of one under par 70 and moved Spieth to two under for the tournament and eight shots behind home favourite Jason Day heading into Sunday.
While Day thrilled the crowd at The Australian Golf Club on Saturday with a hard-fought 69 to build a one-shot leader over young Victorian Lucas Herbert, Spieth was left to lament a day of missed chances as he struggled to adjust to greens which have dried out as the week has gone on.
“What’s weird to me is these mid-range putts,” Spieth said shortly after his round.
“It’s one thing if they’re lipping out, and I did have quite a few lip out that would have gathered some momentum, but quite a few of them were missed significantly on bad reads, and that’s rare for me.”
“I felt like I lost a lot of coin flips in the putts that could break off the right edge or the left edge, and I seemed to just guess wrong each time. Normally, you’re 50/50 on them.”
Beginning the day eight shots behind overnight leader Herbert, Spieth needed a fast start and didn’t get it, mixing bogeys at the fourth and ninth with a lone front nine birdie at the par-four sixth to turn one over for the day.
The three-time major winner did bounce back with a back nine of two under 34 set up by birdies on the two par-fives – the 14th and 18th holes.
Three years ago, Spieth won his first Australian Open title at The Australian by six shots after a legendary final round of 63 in difficult windy conditions.
Spieth played with teenage amateur Min Woo Lee on Saturday.
The 24-year-old said he will draw on that experience leading into tomorrow and hasn’t given up hope of a barnstorming Sunday charge.
“We need 8-under; that would probably be enough given the conditions for tomorrow, may not even need that much but it’s going to be so difficult tomorrow that I’ll go out and try and get under par early and just see what the golf course gets to.
“If there’s any place to come from way behind, it’s here, from where I’ve seen. Here or even like a US Open, a course that yields higher scores and knowing that tomorrow’s going to be a grind for the leaders, going off even later - and I’m not going to be that far ahead of them.
“It’s going to be so difficult to have a lot of chances. If I can sneak a few breaks in, you know, get a couple of long putts to go or chip in or something like that. I’m going to have to have some magic.”
And while Saturday may not go down as one of the 24-year-old’s most memorable rounds in his career, it will for his exceptionally talented amateur playing partner Min Woo Lee.
The 19-year-old Western Australian struggled to a 3-over 74 to fall out of contention but made a real impression on Spieth.
“He has incredible talent that has an upside, tremendous upside, that he could certainly win on any tour at any point in time. He’s got all the shots.
“Absolutely crushes the golf ball, which is a really intangible trait to have.”
2018 US OPEN AT SHINNECOCK HILLS
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