ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Jordan Spieth has experienced some drama on the ninth tee at the Abu Dhabi Championship this week.
It was there where he received a warning for slow play on Thursday. The following day, he hooked a drive into the backside of a spectator walking alongside the edge of a large lake.
On Saturday, he was shouting ”Woohoo” and high-fiving his caddie after blasting away his tee shot to beat the horn that sounded at the top of his backswing, announcing a suspension in play. It was Spieth’s 18th hole, and meant he was able to complete his third round – unlike most others in the field – and avoid an early morning return to Abu Dhabi Golf Club to finish up.
”We were very relieved,” Spieth said. ”It saved us about five-plus hours in arriving at the course tomorrow. I’m just fortunate my ball just got in the air.”
The fun and games didn’t end on the tee box for the world’s top-ranked player.
He played the hole in a six-ball, with Spieth and playing partners Soren Kjeldsen and Pablo Larrazabal joining on the green the trio ahead of them – Eddie Pepperell, Tyrrell Hatton, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Spieth parred the hole for a 4-under 68, which left him three shots off the lead held by Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Branden Grace, Joost Luiten and Ian Poulter on 10-under par. Those five players still have to complete their third rounds, so Spieth could be further behind when he starts his final round.
”I’ve not played a six-ball before, that was a first,” Spieth said with a smile. ”We didn’t really know what to do. We kind of felt bad because we were asking the guys in front of us if they wanted to go finish, we’ll play behind you because that’s the way it’s got to be.
”Pablo just decided to hit, so we just decided to just hit with them.”
Spieth arrived in the Middle East fresh from an eight-shot victory in Hawaii, which followed his brilliant form from 2015 when he won two majors and the FedEx Cup title, and reached No. 1 in the world.
His game’s not been quite there this week, struggling off the tee in his first round, and then having problems with his short game in the second round.
”That happens in long travel and limited practice. I’m not going to make any excuses,” Spieth said. ”It can all come together. It’s happened before in random rounds so why not here? Each day should be a little easier to get adjusted.
”I’m struggling with my alignment, so I’m just not getting those extra chances. Still, at 7 under, some crazy round tomorrow has got a chance.”