Knee-ded it: Jordan Spieth saved by fan, then chips in to safely make Players cut
The cut line has been a hot-button issue in recent weeks, ever since the PGA Tour rolled out next year's plan for its designated events, which will include eight limited-field, no-cut tournaments. Those in favor of the changes cite the importance of the Tour's stars being present on the weekend for the sponsors and fans. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan added that the qualification process for these big-money events serves as the new cut while the chance for a player to rally from last and into the top 10 would be "very compelling."
Cut purists, however, argue that not having a cut strips away a big part of the Tour's meritocratic roots and takes away one of the biggest storylines on a Friday.
Score one for the purists.
Jordan Spieth was among a slew of stars sweating out a potential early exit from The Players Championship on Friday at TPC Sawgrass. Spieth had opened the tournament in 3-under 69 and then birdied each of his first two holes of the second round, but he quickly got off the rails. He played his next 14 holes birdie-less and in 7 over, and suddenly, with one hole to play, he found himself below the projected cut line at 2 over.
"Most every hole kind of hit it in the wrong spot," Spieth said.
Spieth's driver, an instigator all day, tried to offer a parting gift on the par-5 ninth, Spieth's final hole of the round. As Spieth explained it, during his transition, his left foot "grabbed ... like pain," and caught his tee ball a little thin and fanned it right, the wind quickly taking it directly toward the water.
It wouldn't been wet, too, if not for a lucky break off a spectator.
Spieth's ball flew one pond before striking the spectator, who was standing on the cart path, a like right behind him.
"It was going in one of the waters, and I guess it hit the cart path and short-hopped off the guy's knee and then went out in the fairway forward, as well," Spieth further explained, "and it must have been – the way for it to go off of him, it also then went off his knee, up in the air, over some of the water. I mean, it's the equivalent of flying a green toward a hazard and hitting a grandstand and coming back on the green in a way."
Likely needing a birdie to make the cut, Spieth couldn't afford to take a penalty.
A birdie after a drop in the right rough, hitting three from some 270 yards out? "It would have been a one in a million make," Spieth reckoned.
Instead, Spieth came up just short of the green with his second shot, a 3-wood, and then chipped in for eagle.
What are the odds?! @JordanSpieth’s tee shot was heading into the water before his ball hit a fan and ricocheted back in the fairway.
It likely would have made the difference in Spieth making the cut @THEPLAYERSChamp. https://t.co/W3dqAnl30I pic.twitter.com/IRiHzRS30N
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 10, 2023
At even par, Spieth, who shot 73, would be sticking around for 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," Spieth said.
As for some other stars, the drama may bleed into Saturday morning, as pace of play likely will push Round 2 into an extra day. Xander Schauffele, who birdied the ninth to finish at 1 over, is among those on the current cut line. Will Zalatoris also in the the clubhouse at 1 over.
Justin Thomas, playing with Spieth, parred the last to remain at 2 over, which may have a chance. Matt Fitzpatrick is done at 3 over. And Rory McIlroy, with holes still to play, was 5 over at last check.
Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama are also among the bigger names fighting to make the cut in the afternoon wave.
Next year at the eight designated events (The Players not one of them), they won't have to worry about that. Fine by Spieth.
"Not at all," Spieth replied when asked if the threat of a cut changed his mindset on Friday. "I enjoy nothing about being at the cut line."