AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Jordan Spieth spent his day fighting from behind. By the time he came to the 18th green Friday, he didn’t have enough shots left to make to the weekend.
By only a matter of inches.
Spieth rallied from 4 down after four holes to push all the way to the final green against Bubba Watson. But a blind bunker shot off a downhill lie rolled just wide of the cup and the local favorite was eliminated from the Dell Technologies Match Play.
Spieth called it a lucky shot that just wasn’t lucky enough to extend his tournament.
“If I had a bucket of balls, that’s probably the only one that gets on the green,” Spieth said
Spieth hasn’t made it to the round of 16 at this tournament since 2016. But his ability to fight back from two poor starts this week and the big lead he built early in a win Thursday over Kevin Na, had Spieth believing his game shaping up for The Masters in two weeks.
Spieth’s 2015 Masters victory was the first of his three major championships. The former world No. 1 was the No. 28 seed this week. He hasn’t won since 2017.
“I think if this were a 72-hole event, I have a chance to win based on the way I’ve played the last three days,” Spieth said. “These are the best players in the world. So saying that, yeah, I feel as good as I have in a while about my game.”
Spieth won the NCAA championship at the University of Texas and enjoys probably the most spirited gallery at the Match Play tournament other than Tiger Woods. Friday’s gallery even included Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, an Austin native who went to rival Oklahoma. He followed the round inside the ropes.
Watson, last year’s champion, had already been eliminated. But Spieth’s slow start Friday quickly deflated the crowd and the string of bogeys through the first four holes nearly buried him.
Spieth got within two by the turn but missed a short birdie putt on the par-5 12that could have swung momentum his way. After the miss, Spieth looked up at the sky and a call from the gallery asked “Hook’em horns?”
More frustration followed.
Spieth shaved the hole on No. 15 and said “Wow!” in disbelief. Another close miss on No. 16 left him swinging his club in anger after Watson muffed a short putt that would have won the hole.
Still down just one heading into No. 18, Spieth’s tee-shot steamed toward the front-side bunker. The ball nearly ran past and onto the green before catching the lip and rolling backward.
Watson then caught a break when his tee shot flew into a tree but fell straight down and nestled into a perfect lie. Watson bumped his second shot to within inches of the cup.
Spieth still made him putt it to close the match, hoping to get a little luck that had eluded him.
Watson didn’t miss.
“It was almost there,” Spieth said. “I had my chances after that start to still be able to win the match.”