Jordan Spieth is the indomitable. Three over par through four holes at The Australian today, he refused to let his round unravel. By day's end, he had tapped in for birdie at the 18th and a 67, leaving him in the last group for tomorrow's climax of the Emirates Australian Open.
He is in with a great chance of defending his Open title, up against Matt Jones, whom he thought all week would be tough to beat, his practice partner in the lead-up.
"It's one of the best-fought rounds that I've had that I can remember,'' said Spieth, who made bogeys at the first, third and fourth holes, where he knocked his approach into the pond on the right of the green.
"(I was) completely out of sync, just lazy in my decision making and my swings,'' he said.
It was a mini-spray from caddie Michael Greller that turned it. After Spieth walked back to the fifth tee to hit his driver, he met Greller back down the fairway where the bagmen were waiting.
"Michael did a great of setting the goal for me there,'' he said. "I hit my tee shot on five and when I got to the fairway he met me there and said: 'Right, let's get to even par for the day by the time we step on 18 tee box. That way we can shoot under par and move on'. He said: 'Enough of this crap. No bad self-talk. Let's hit some greens, you've got some easy holes coming up'. That's all I really needed to hear to help turn it around.''
From that point, he was seven under. Yet he was back in the pack until he slapped a long iron tee shot at the par-four 17th down the fairway, leaving himself 170 metres to a flag cut on the front with hardly any landing room. Spieth his his high fade with an eight iron; it landed on the front edge, hopped a couple of times, and disappeared for an eagle.
Suddenly he was within a shot of the lead. "I flushed it and I looked up and it was right on line,'' he said later. "I was just hoping … if that lands three yards farther it takes a hop and a good chance it's off the green there. It's such a tough pin to go at.''
He was not done there. At the 18th, he hit a gorgeous three iron shot over the pond to give himself an eagle chance, ultimately two-putting for another birdie. Ironically he had changed mind while he was over the ball, having talked to Greller about hitting a safer shot to the left greenside trap. "We decided to just go at the (left) bunker. I got over it, it's a good line, it's a good club, you know what, 'screw this' and I adjusted my alignment to go right at the hole.''
It was some sort of shot. He's some sort of player.
Afterward, he was asked if his No. 1 world ranking had impacted his status when in contention. "I think you can take something positive in and learn something to improve on each time you're in the position, but that's just a label. It's a label that looks better when you guys are writing it. For me, Matt Jones has played the best golf through three rounds. He's played better golf than I have and I have to somehow play better golf but play better golf by multiple shots in order to win the tournament tomorrow.''