AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Jordan Spieth felt it on the practice range, and he said it on the golf course.
Behind in a match for the first time all week, Spieth went from a fairway bunker on the right to the gallery on the left at the par-5 sixth hole. He hit wedge 12 feet left of the hole and then turned to caddie Michael Greller and said, “I just have no control right now.”
And he had no chance against Louis Oosthuizen on Saturday at the Dell Match Play.
Spieth managed to keep it close until he hit 8-iron into the water on the par-3 11th and slammed his club into the bag. Oosthuizen followed him into the water, but his next shot from the drop area stopped a foot from the cup to win the hole with a bogey. The South African won the next two holes and was on his way to a 3-and-2 victory.
“I got to the range this morning and I was hitting slices with my irons, which is bizarre,” Spieth said. “I tried to fix it on the range, didn’t know what was up. … I just tried to compensate some on the golf course, got away with it the first couple of holes and then it got the best of me. I’m not really sure what happened. Just really an off day. I’d like my off days to be a little more consistent.”
Spieth gets credit for a tie for ninth, his first top 10 since he was runner-up in the Singapore Open two months ago.
Along with losing a chance to advance before a gallery that remembers when he led Texas to a national title in 2012, Spieth lost his No. 1 ranking when Jason Day reached the semifinals.
That didn’t seem to bother him as much as his play.
“I figured he probably already was going to No. 1, finishing ahead of me,” Spieth said. “To be honest, it could be a good thing for me going into the Masters.”
Spieth still has the Shell Houston Open next week before defending his title at Augusta National.
He started the year with an eight-shot victory at Kapalua and raised his own expectations too high, believing golf would always feel that easy. That hasn’t been the case lately, though even in defeat Spieth felt his game was rounding into form for the Masters.
He was making putts again, many for birdies.
And while Oosthuizen had control of the match so much of the day, it could have been even worse. Spieth took that swing from the range and sliced his tee shot into the trees. He punched out short of the green, chipped weakly to 12 feet and made the putt to halve the hole. On the second hole, Oosthuizen’s approach rolled down a slope and stopped 4 inches from the hole. Spieth made a 25-foot birdie to halve another hole.
But that was never going to last, and it didn’t.
Equally disappointing in his departure was the place he was leaving. Spieth had the largest crowds of the week, many of them in the burnt orange of Texas. Austin Country Club is where Longhorn golfers would qualify for tournaments. Spieth smiled when asked if it was his first loss in Austin.
“I’ve played a lot here in junior golf and certainly didn’t win each time,” he said. “No, it’s not the first time I’ve lost here. But I did not deserve to win today.”