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From The Players: Jordan Spieth's Lucky Bounce, Glacial Pace Of Play And Collin Morikawa's Secret Sauce

Richard Heathcote. Getty Images.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Jordan Spieth's not a huge fan of this golf course. It's long been one of the more difficult tournaments to predict—a peek at the list of past winners shows TPC Sawgrass has bias toward any specific type of player—and guys who come in playing well seem to get their teeth kicked in. On the flip side, guys who come in off a bunch of missed cuts in a row seem to find some magic. Spieth has noticed.

"I don't particularly love this place," he said after a three-over 75 that has him at even par, eight back of Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Svensson when play was suspended for inclement weather at 4:27 p.m. local time. "When you say it like that, that's not exactly a good thing I don't think. Do you think? I mean, I guess if you're not playing well, you could always say, hey, this course yields an opportunity. But you'd like to see people who are in form, shots get rewarded…It's extremely tricky. There's not really one shot that's not tricky because even the ones that seem so basic, if you don't hit it into that section, it just starts to -- everything kind of funnels away from holes here, and that just gets really odd."

Spieth is polite as they come. He doesn't curse. That, then, is as strong a rebuke as he'll offer. He will, however, get two more cracks at it thanks to an extremely lucky bounce on the par-5 9th, his last hole of the day. 

Spieth found himself five over for his round and three over total, likely needing a birdie to make the weekend. (Though even guys who don't make the cut play on Saturdays these days—more on that in a second). He block-sliced his tee shot toward the water hazard right of the fairway. It then one-hopped off the cart path into a fan's knee and, somehow, kicked forward and into the fairway. From there, he flushed a 3-wood to just short-right of the green and chipped in for a tournament-boosting eagle. 

"I got an extremely lucky break on 9 or I wouldn't be playing the weekend. Trying to get that guy's information and see literally whatever he wants this weekend because everything from here on out is because it hit him. Yeah, very fortunate. Can't say I deserved it, but I tried to hold my attitude together and just keep on focusing trying one foot in front of the other. I don't know if that means I got rewarded for that or what, but overall I got very, very fortunate on 9."

With this week's $25 million purse, every person who makes the cut will bring it at least $50,000. If that man wants a new iPhone, he's getting one. 

They simply can't finish a second round on Friday

Let's rewind to 2018—simpler times on the PGA Tour, before the professional game plunged into an existential crisis. Back then, pace of play was all the rage. Brooks Koepka had not-so-subtley called out Bryson DeChambeau, kicking off their feud that lasted far too long. As a response, the PGA Tour instituted a new pace-of-play policy in 2020 that would, in theory, speed things up. 

It hasn't worked. At all. The PGA Tour has not finished a second round of competition since the American Express in January. Granted, there were some weather delays in there, but there were none at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and even with a 120-man field players had to come back Saturday morning to finish their rounds. The Saturday cut has become a weekly occurence, and there was precisely zero chance the second round would've been finished today even if there was no rain delay. 

"This might be the slowest round in the history of the PGA Tour," is how Collin Morikawa's caddie, J.J. Jakovac, described it while walking up the 11th fairway. "The front nine took us three hours."

Indeed it did. There are multiple culprits. Guys are playing for more money than ever, so they're more careful. Plenty are told by sports psychologists to check out in between shots, which probably helps performance as no person can focus for 5 hours straight, but in turn plenty of guys aren't calculating their numbers and preparing while their playing partners are hitting. There's also the aimpoint putting technique that more and more guys are using—they walk toward the hole, they feel the putt with their feet, then they feel it again with their feet, then they walk behind the ball and use their fingers to determine where to start the ball, and the whole thing takes a good while. It's hard to blame the players for taking their time. It should be on the PGA Tour to police pace, because playing golf in a timely manner is part of the game's challenge. But the PGA Tour never hands out slow-play penalties. A warning is about as far as they'll go.

Still, PGA Tour rules official Gary Young didn't seem to have a solution when asked about the Saturday-morning-cut problem. 

We're a membership organization. We try to maximize the starts for our members. That's always been a priority, and we just understand that we will, unfortunately, have to finish sometimes on Saturday morning. That's just the way it is. The numbers are the numbers. It's a mathematical equation. You can figure it out. There's just, you know, at times there is too many groups. So we're comfortable with that, and until that changes, we will continue doing that.

Collin's secret

On Wednesday afternoon, Collin Morikawa made a cameo appearance on the Fore Play podcast to share some news: he'd found something. 

He then fired a seven-under 65 on Thursday, and while he was one over through 11 holes on Friday, he still feels like whatever he found out is working. And he's still not going to tell you what it is. 

"Once again, I'm not telling you the secret. I'm going to stick to what I've been doing, and to know that I've kind of seen it two days now in tournament play, knowing that it's kind of headed the right direction, I think I just get a few of those putts to drop, we could be in the lead, if not have a little lead margin, if we can get those going come early tomorrow."

He says he's swinging it as well as he has since 2019. And, if the putter cooperates, he feels more than ready to end a winning drought that extends back to the 2021 Open Championship. With only Bezuidenhout and Svensson ahead of him, it sure feels like Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler (-5) have the inside path toward winning this. No matter how long it takes.