Spieth's 61 shows he is back in the groove

SILVIS (Illinois) • Reigning Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth eagled twice in shooting a stunning 10-under 61 on Saturday to seize the lead in his final tune-up event before the British Open.

The 21-year-old American prodigy fired six birdies in his lowest career PGA Tour round to stand on 17-under 196 after 54 holes at the John Deere Classic in Illinois, the event he won in 2013 to earn his spot on tour as a teenager.

Spieth, seeking his fourth win of the year, said: "I've just been trying to roll with the momentum. It's just incredible. I could never have imagined two years ago sitting here."

He travels to St Andrews to try to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the first three Majors in a season. He was only the sixth to win the US Open and Masters in the same year, the first since Tiger Woods in 2002.

New Zealand's Danny Lee, who won his first PGA title in a play-off at the Greenbrier Classic earlier this month, fired a 62 to stand second on 198, but knew his impressive round was overshadowed by playing partner Spieth.

On a day when heavy rain kept the leaders from starting until late afternoon, Shawn Stefani fired a 64 to share third on 199 alongside fellow Americans Johnson Wagner (68) and Justin Thomas (69).

Coming off a Bahamas vacation after his US Open victory last month, Spieth struggled in Thursday's first round but found his form on Friday and surged to a second-round 64.

"I think it was just on-course repetitions," he said. "Thursday was rough. For whatever reason just started to pick it up on the range.

"Once you see a couple (putts) go in, that turning point in the middle of the round yesterday, that gave me a lot of confidence. The hole looked a lot bigger from there.

"For me right now it's about having faith on control and impact."

Both his eagles were jaw-dropping stuff. On the par-five second hole, he drilled his 260-yard approach two feet from the cup.

That was nothing compared to the 17th hole when his tee shot went left into the trees and he blasted out towards the hole into the fairway, then holed out his approach from 106 yards, rolling the ball back into the cup on a shot that he was unhappy with at first.

He said: "It was a couple of grooves low but that somehow works out for me at this tournament. I hit it thin and it goes in."

It was "ridiculous", said the South Korean-born Kiwi Lee.

Zach Johnson, four behind Spieth, was on an adjacent hole and heard the crowd roar for Spieth's eagle at No. 17. He said it sounded like those elicited by such legends as Jack Nicklaus and Woods.

"I was wondering if it was a double eagle (albatross)," Johnson said. "We talk about Jack roars and Tiger roars but I think that young man has some roars of his own."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Spieth's 61 shows he is back in the groove'. Print Edition | Subscribe