UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) — One major apparently isn’t enough to satisfy Masters champion Jordan Spieth.
Spieth set the target Friday at Chambers Bay by surging into the lead with birdies, overcoming a double bogey that tested his patience and closing with a birdie during a chaotic final hole. He wound up with a 3-under 67 and a one-shot lead among the early finishers.
Not since Tiger Woods has anyone won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
Spieth still has a long way to go, and he realizes it will only get harder on a course that already is perplexing. At times, it was even scary.
Jason Day, playing alongside Spieth, was doing his best to keep pace until a frightening finish to his round. Day was headed down to the ninth green — a drop of some 100 feet in elevation — when he fell to the ground and lay on his back for several minutes.
Day, who had coped with vertigo recently, eventually was helped to his feet. His hands were still shaking as he went into a bunker, blasted out to 10 feet and made bogey. He still shot a 70 and was three shots behind Spieth.
He was being treated at Chambers Bay. There was no immediate information on his condition.
His caddie and longtime coach, Colin Swatton, said that it was similar to an episode Day had last year at Firestone when he withdrew after only two holes in the final round with what later was diagnosed as vertigo.
Woods, meanwhile, had the highest 36-hole score of his pro career when he shot 76 to miss the cut at 16-over 156. It was the second time in his last three majors that Woods missed the cut. He has one more start, The Greenbrier Classic in two weeks, before going to St. Andrews for the British Open.
“Obviously, I need to get a little better for the British Open, and I’ll keep working at it,” Woods said.
Spieth can lean on the experience as a Masters champion, but this major is nothing alike in every way.
For starters, he had a five-shot lead going into the weekend at Augusta National. He was at 5-under 135 at Chambers Bay, tied with Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson as they were just beginning their round in the sun-baked afternoon along Puget Sound.
Branden Grace of South Africa, one of several power players who are thriving at Chambers Bay, had a 67 and was one shot behind.
It all seems to be working for Spieth, a 21-year-old Texan who made the fans sense they were watching something special this week. But this is not a runaway like it was at the Masters. And this golf course can be as hard as the USGA wants to make it.
“It’s playing different,” Spieth said. “And I’m in a very different position. I’m not going to have a five-shot lead. So given it’s a U.S. Open, I imagine they’re going to try to bring us back to par. … So I’ll draw some on Augusta, but at the same time, my patience level has to be even that much higher.”
Spieth hit his stride with an approach that rolled right by the pin on the 14th and led to a 10-foot birdie. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie on the 15th, and then hit his tee shot to 5 feet for birdie on the 17th to reach 6 under and take the lead.
What followed was his biggest test of the week.
The tees on the 18th were moved forward, making it play 514 yards. Some players who had been at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Amateur were concerned about the USGA using a forward tee and changing it to a par 4 in the middle of the U.S. Open because of an awkward landing area.
Spieth tried to go left and found a bunker. Then he tried to take enough club to get past the 10-foot deep bunker that was added only recently, caught the top of the lip and stayed in the rough.
“This is the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life,” he said before hitting a 4-iron toward the green. That found a bunker and he made double bogey. And then he pulled his tee shot to the left on the par-5 first hole (which was a par 4 on Thursday). His caddie, Michael Greller, helped calm him down.
This is where Spieth can let his emotions affect him the wrong way.
“I was really frustrated walking off the tee box, and Michael did a great job coming in and telling me, ‘Sit back, you’re still very much in this tournament, don’t let this get to you,’” Spieth said.
He made birdie to steady himself, three-putted from long range on the tough seventh hole, and finished with a birdie.
But the real test awaits.
“At Augusta, I was finding fairways, hitting it on the green and I was making everything,” he said. “That would be nice here if I could do that, but it’s a harder golf course than the Masters played this year.”
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