Jordan Spieth struggles with ballstriking, still shoots 67 at Nelson

ByJason Sobel ESPN logo
Saturday, May 21, 2016

IRVING, Texas -- On a day when spectators were given bobbleheads of his likeness and waved handheld fans featuring his face, it should come as little surprise that Jordan Spieth received the largest ovation during the AT&T Byron Nelson third round.

Perhaps the only surprise was that he wasn't leading at day's end.

Spieth rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to raucous celebration from the gallery on the 17th hole, only to bogey the last for a 3-under 67 that left him 2 strokes behind leader Brooks Koepka entering the final round.

Even so, he again wasn't pleased with his ballstriking.

"It was a very stressful round of golf to play because I just don't have confidence over the ball right now," he said. "It's very frustrating, and actually [I'm] putting incredible to still be in this tournament."

For the round, Spieth hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation -- each number down from his first two rounds, when he posted scores of 64 and 65.

"It's very difficult for me to stand up here and not be positive, given I'm at 14 under and contending in this tournament," he said, "but if you guys knew the kind of stress I felt over the golf ball right now, trying to put my swing in the right position ... It is a challenge, especially with the amount of difficult tee shots out here and trouble that guard at least one side of most of the fairways."

This is all a stark contrast from last week's Players Championship, in which Spieth was pleased with the way he hit the ball but frustrated on the greens.

On this day, his wedge game and putter saved even more valuable strokes than the previous two.

"I was just even further off today, ballstriking-wise, and even better putting," he said.

As for what he needs to overtake Koepka and claim his eighth career PGA Tour title on Sunday, Spieth knows a less stressful round is in order.

"I'm looking for boring golf tomorrow, back to those. I hit 33 out of 36 greens the first two days," he said. "Something like that would be nice, especially the way I feel on the greens."