Spieth, Palmer try to capitalize on ball-striking as they chase Zurich Classic win
The Texas duo will chase from behind in Round 4, but they could be in for an epic day
There are a few ways to look at what Ryan Palmer and Jordan Spieth have done over the first three days at the Zurich Classic. The duo fired a 2-under 70 on Saturday in Round 3 to get to 14 under on the week, five back of leaders Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith. That's the good.
The bad is that in the tough alternate shot format on Saturday, that 70 probably should have been more like a 65. Spieth and Palmer hit 17 of 18 greens and just could not make a putt to save their lives. This was epitomized on No. 18, the final hole of the day, when Palmer hit their third shot close on the par-5 and Spieth missed a fairly straightforward putt pretty badly.
It was not a mistake you normally see Spieth make. The swirling winds and tough greens certainly contributed to their putting woes, but Spieth and Palmer know they should have scored better than they did. They made four birdies and two bogeys but missed a handful of short putts (including the one on No. 18 for birdie) that they'd love to have back.
"We struck the ball beautifully and only missed one green, and that's when I missed the green on 9," said Spieth. "If we said we were going to hit 17 greens today -- that would have been ridiculous, and it was. We just didn't have it going.
"It's very difficult out here with these grainy greens when you get the wind going one way in the hill and the grain the other, and you are trying to figure out, because the wind gusts, the putt breaks an entire cup different amount."
Because the two are hitting it so beautifully, it sets up for what should be a fascinating Sunday. The format on Sunday returns to best ball which yielded an average score in the mid 60s on Friday. Some team will shoot a 61 or 62 on Sunday which could make for great theater if that team is currently in the top 10.
"We're both hitting it well," said Palmer. "We get the putter going tomorrow, we're going to make a lot of birdies I think. A little sluggish on Friday in four ball but tomorrow, we're going to come out and stay aggressive."
Spieth and Palmer are in fourth place alone with two teams one stroke ahead of them and the Cameron-Blixt duo five in front.
"Cameron and Jonas, seem to be in full control," said Spieth. "They shot 10-under yesterday in that format, and you've got to ham-and-egg it, too. You can make five birdies each and only make five birdies in the round for the team."
The chase is on in New Orleans, and with the way this Texas twosome is currently hitting the ball, it could be a great one in Round 4. At the very least this team format has turned a mediocre tournament into must-see TV on Sunday.
"I think it's great," Palmer said of the format changes. "You see the fans in New Orleans who came out to support the Zurich this week, it's awesome what they did with the tournament, what the Tour did. You have to applaud them very much for making this change. I think this tournament will get better and better each year. We're both excited about tomorrow ... We'll just go for broke tomorrow. We have a good chance."
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