Spieth beats Cantlay with playoff bunker shot to 7 inches
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Thinking he might have a chance for a playoff, Jordan Spieth rolled in a 10-foot birdie on the 18th hole in regulation. He made an even bigger shot at Habour Town’s signature hole in a playoff to win the RBC Heritage.
Spieth’s 56-foot shot from a greenside bunker stopped 7 inches away and he beat Patrick Cantlay with a tap-in par Sunday on the lighthouse hole for his 13th career PGA Tour title — and second straight on Easter Sunday.
Sometimes, Spieth said, there’s a tournament where you feel you’ve played well, yet not good enough to win. “I honestly felt like this was that week,” he said with a grin. “I needed a lot of things to go right.”
And he got them all.
Spieth, at 13 under after his 5-under 66, finished four groups ahead of Cantlay and waited out the stellar field that had several chances to tie or move in front. But all except Cantlay could not chase down Spieth, who stayed away from watching too much of the action once he finished.
“Every single putt looks like it’s going in,” Spieth said. “It was way more nerve-racking than actually playing.”
Spieth was certain he’d get passed by Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion; past British Open winner Shane Lowry or third-round leader Harold Varner III. When all three parred the par-5, 15th, the best chance for birdie on the back nine, Spieth felt his chances improve.
When Spieth finished, he was a stroke behind Shane Lowry. But Lowry’s chip on the par-3 14th raced across the green and into the water, leading to double bogey. He finished a stroke back after a 69.
After Cantlay, tied for the lead after a birdie on the 17th, hit his approach on the green on his closing hole of regulation, Spieth headed out to loosen up, certain he’d be called back after Cantley made the winning putt.
Instead, Cantlay slid it by right to set up the playoff.
In the playoff, Cantlay also hit into the front bunker, with his lie looking like a fried egg. He blasted 35 feet past the cup and missed the par putt.
Cantlay was 179 yards from the hole in the playoff and used a 9-iron as he did a short time earlier in regulation. This shot, came up short of the green and in an awful position.
“Obviously, with it plugged like that, it’s darn near impossible to get it close,” Cantlay said.
Three strokes behind Varner entering the round, Spieth eagled both front-nine par 5s to get into the mix.
Spieth had won his last event, the Valero Texas Open, on Easter to end a four-year winless drought.
Next Easter Sunday? The final round of the Masters.
“That’s good vibes,” said Spieth, a three-time major champion.
Cam Davis (63) also was a stroke back with Varner (70), J.T. Poston (64), Cameron Young (66), Sepp Straka (68), Matt Kuchar (68).
Spieth has won from the bunker before. He beat Daniel Berger with greenside bunker shot on first extra hole at the 2017 Travelers Championship.
Others besides Cantlay, who missed a 15-footer for birdie on his 72nd hole, had a chance to catch Spieth. Straka tied Spieth at 13 under with a birdie on the 17th, then bogeyed the final hole after his approach found some gnarly long grass in front of the green. Varner had birdie chances on each of his last four holes, yet could not convert any of them.
Spieth took off with the early eagles. On the second hole, he holed out from a greenside bunker. On the fifth hole, he reached the green in two and rolled in a 24-footer as the gallery erupted in cheers.
Spieth reached 13 under with a birdie on the eighth before falling back to 11 under with bogeys on the ninth and 11th. He moved into striking position with a birdie on the 13th, then struck his approach to the drama-filled lighthouse hole to 10 feet and posted at 13 under.
He came in this week bothered about missing the cut last week at Augusta National. “I hated it,” he said. “It was the worst feeling. It was the worst feeling as a golfer than I can remember.”
That turned around at Harbour Town in front a happy, sold-out crowd that Spieth said was four-deep during his pro-am round Wednesday.
“I was actually very surprised by the amount of support that everyone had this week, and I felt a lot of it personally,” Spieth said. “These crowds were just fantastic for it being a non-major.”
Spieth had only played the tournament three times since 2015 because it falls after the always grueling Masters week.
“What a great tournament to win,” Spieth said. “It’s an amazing golf course.”
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