Jordan Spieth holds large lead at The Northern Trust after three rounds
The No. 3 player in the world is cruising in New York
On a Saturday that begged for a superstar to take over a golf tournament with Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson all tied for the lead going into the third round at The Northern Trust, Spieth was the one who obliged with a 6-under 64 to get to 12 under overall. He leads by three going into Sunday in the first event of the 2016-17 FedEx Cup Playoffs.
For the second straight day, Spieth torched the back nine at Glen Oaks with a 31 on Saturday to follow up his 30 on Friday. That's 61 strokes over the final nine holes in the last two days. In a week when several golfers have mentioned how tough this new track is playing, Spieth has manhandled it over the last two days.
Spieth said he likes having a lead because he can focus on speed with his putts.
"A lot of times, that's when I can make more putts than normal," Spieth told CBS Sports. And he's made plenty of them. He's made 15 birdies in the last two days and leads the field this week with 18 overall. That included, incredibly, over 225 feet of putts made over his last round and a half.
"(This course is) pretty straightforward," Spieth said. "It's very much in front of you. I'm going to need to (drive it better) tomorrow to make it easier on myself."
Spieth is No. 13 in the field in strokes gained off the tee, but he's made up for it on approaches (No. 2) and putting (No. 7). Give that combination to any top 10 player in the world, and it's going to be a quick walk to the ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
He's also 5 for 5 on wins in his career with a 54-hole lead of two shots or more.
"It's easier to win from that position (out in front)," Spieth said. "You have an advantage on the field. Anything can happen on a Sunday. You go out and try to set a goal. After the last two days I'm not expecting 5 or 6 under. If I can hit 15, 16 greens like I've been doing and give myself opportunities ... the putter is heating up."
One of the misperceptions about Spieth that prevails for some reason is that he's only an elite putter. He's been a fine putter this year (No. 49 on the PGA Tour), but his bread is buttered on approach shots (No. 2). When the putts start dropping, that's when Spieth starts galloping away from the likes of Johnson (who shot a 67) and Fowler (who shot a 73) as well as a fourth co-leader in Jhonattan Vegas (who shot 72).
And this is Spieth's M.O. He is a superstar among superstars. His historical trajectory is better than those of historically great players around him. He is inserting himself into the PGA Tour Player of the Year race in a season in which many were asking just three months ago, "What's wrong with Jordan Spieth?"
All of this would would normally be enough through three rounds to all but put the trophy in Spieth's carry-on luggage for the short trip to Boston next week. But this is not a normal week. This is Round 1 of the playoffs, and Johnson (3 back), Patrick Reed (5 back), Matt Kuchar (5 back), Paul Casey (5 back) and Jon Rahm (5 back) are all stars or superstars. All of them could absolutely run Spieth down if he falters on Sunday.
Faltering, though, is not what Jordan Spieth does. Not at this stage in his career. Not with a slot at No. 1 in the FedEx Cup points race on the line at a sweet track with so much star power in the mix. There's a reason Spieth is the -250 favorite in Vegas heading into Round 4, and there is a reason Spieth is on the cusp of win No. 12 at the age of 24.
Don't be fooled by the current resumes. Spieth, who has rocked through the first three quizzes at Glen Oaks, will likely ace the final on Sunday. And he will do so because he's an all-time great, even if none of us have realized it yet.
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