Jordan Spieth mounted a valiant charge, but there was no stopping Collin Morikawa at the 149th British Open in Sandwich, England.
Spieth, who trailed by three strokes entering the final round, fired a 4-under 66 at Royal St. George’s to finish at 13-under 267, two strokes behind the champion, and tied for the lowest 72-hole total by a runner-up (Phil Mickelson, 2016).
“I’m proud of going 6 under in the last 12 in this golf tournament and putting some pressure on Collin,” Spieth said. “It’s hard to be upset when I was a couple over through 6. I couldn’t have really done much more after that point.”
Spieth rued the finish to his third round when he made bogey at 17 from 60 yards, taking three putts on the green to get down, and missed a 2-foot par putt at the last. That dropped him out of the final group and those two strokes ended up being the difference between a potential playoff.
“The finish yesterday, was about as upset as I’ve taken a finish of a round to the house,” Spieth said. “I walked in and I said, ‘Is there something that I can break?’ I knew that was so important because I would have been in the final group.”
Spieth didn’t cool down until after dinner. He skipped speaking to the media after his round and headed straight to the putting green to iron out his putting deficiencies. But he wasn’t done yet. He and caddie Michael Greller shared a house this week and before Greller left early for the course, Spieth grabbed his putter to continue his prep.
“I wanted to hit some putts on a putting rail that you can’t use on the greens here because there’s too much – you need flat surface,” he explained. “It’s not uncommon for me to do that.”
Spieth’s hopes for winning the Claret Jug for a second time – he previously won the title in 2017 at Royal Birkdale – took a hit when he made bogeys at the fourth and sixth holes, the latter resulting from his tee shot coming up way short in the front greenside bunker.
“It’s OK if you’re leading by three like I was in 2017, but probably very difficult when someone is going to play very well,” he said. “Kind of fatted it off 6 and went to 7 thinking, ‘OK, now we’re going for everything, and we’re going to see what happens.”
Spieth dropped to 7 under for the championship, but he was far from done. He made eagle at the par-5 seventh to erase the bogeys in one fell swoop and played flawlessly from there. He tacked on a birdie at nine to tour the front in 1-under 34 despite hitting only four greens in regulation. He added birdies at Nos. 10, 13 and 14, but mis-read a makeable 15-foot birdie putt at 15 that left him staring at his green book trying to figure out what went wrong.
“My putting is not where I want to be at all,” he said. “I say at all. It’s progressing the right direction, but it’s not where it has been. And I know what needs to do to get there, and it’s just very difficult to do.”
But even as Spieth played Nos. 6 through 14 in 6 under to apply heat to Morikawa, the 24-year-old Californian never buckled.
“I needed a break, and I didn’t get it from him,” Spieth said. “I did all I could.”
Spieth posted four rounds in the 60s, proved to himself that his swing held up under major-championship pressure and shed some scar tissue. His finish on Saturday will sting for some time, but Spieth preferred to focus on the positives.
“I 100 percent felt like I played good enough to win this week and I haven’t felt that way in a while,” he said.