Jordan Spieth rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the 18th on Saturday to maintain his one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak heading into the final round of the US PGA Tour Charles Schwab Challenge.
Spieth hit just five of 15 fairways in regulation at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, but his putter helped him stay in front with a four-under par 66 for a 15-under total of 195.
Kokrak, who had pulled level with a 14-foot birdie putt at 17, also signed for a 66 to remain one-back on 196.
“I think it was just kind of one of those days where I made kind of one not-so-good swing and then I was just protecting against some stuff,” Spieth said of his troubles off the tee.
“It’s hard, if you get a little off out here, you get pretty exposed because you have to be so precise.”
Spieth said that accepting the fact that he was “off” on the back nine helped him manage to pick up some strokes anyway, as he made sure to miss in the right spot to give himself a chance to recover.
“(I) was able to make a few birdies on the back nine with what felt like very little when I was over the ball,” Spieth said. “I think that was just a position play and a lot of patience.”
An up-and-down for par at the ninth, where he had to punch out of the right rough, was a momentum booster, Spieth said.
He’d made three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, but was bogey free coming in with a nine-foot birdie at the 13th and an 11-footer at 15 before his birdie at the last.
Kokrak, who started the day one off Spieth’s lead, got going quickly with a birdie from a greenside bunker at the first and a four-foot birdie at the second.
Back to back bogeys at five and six slowed his challenge, but he put some pressure on Spieth with birdies at 12, 14 and 15 before gaining a share of the lead at the 17th.
Kokrak was in the fairway at the 18th, but his approach left him 54 feet while Spieth’s shot out of the right rough gave him an eight-foot birdie chance that he converted.
“(I) played solid golf on the back nine,” Kokrak said. “A little uncomfortable on the green speed, was a little off — missed a couple of putts in the middle of the round just with speed and different things like that.
“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway more often, give myself some short irons into these holes, attack some of these pins, we’ll be in the mix with Jordan tomorrow,” added Kokrak, who claimed the first US PGA Tour title of his career at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek this season.
Spieth, a three-time major winner who snapped a four-year PGA Tour title drought in April, is chasing a 13th PGA Tour title on a course where he won in 2016.
The native of nearby Dallas was buoyed by the support of hometown fans, a big change from the silence at Colonial last season when it was the first tournament after the tour’s coronavirus hiatus and was played without spectators.
“It was a really good atmosphere out here,” Spieth said. “It’s crazy to think we were here one year ago with not a person following.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who won his first US tour title at Colonial in 2001, was alone in third — four shots behind Kokrak after a 68 for 200.
England’s Ian Poulter had the round of the day, a six-under 64 to share fourth with Colombian Sebastian Munoz (70) on eight-under 202.