DUBLIN, Ohio – Jordan Spieth found the front bunker at the par-3 12th at Muirfield Village, his third hole of the day, and started forming a plan with caddie Michael Greller.
“I told Michael, I’m going to aim for the steepest slope, get it to about 15-18 feet and knock it in there from there,” Spieth said after his round Thursday.
But he wouldn’t need the putter.
“The last thing I said before I hit it was, ‘The idea is to have the pin stop it.’ And I hit it and it landed right in the hole. I’ve never done that before.
“So that was awesome.”
The hole-out was one of the highlights of a round of 6-under 66 that put Spieth just one off the early lead held by David Lingmerth and Jason Dufner at the Memorial. But Spieth could only enjoy his good fortune for a moment, because he knew what was coming from his playing partners, Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner.
“I knew that I would immediately take crap from Kis and Justin. Justin said he was so flustered that he wanted Kis to putt first. They already give me the nickname ‘Golden Child,’ so they were feeding off that from that hole on.”
If Thomas was actually flustered, it was only for a moment. He rolled in an 18-footer for birdie on the 12th as part of a four-birdie run from Nos. 11-14.
Later on, as Golden Child was detailing his hole-out, Thomas was just a few feet away, working through his own round of interviews following his round of 5-under 67.
Spieth, Thomas and Kisner, who signed for 2-under 70, are all friends. Spieth and Thomas’ relationship dates back to their time as junior golfers. In their short PGA Tour careers, the duo has combined for 13 wins, two Spring Break trips, and one round of 59, fired by Thomas earlier this year in Hawaii, when he was playing in the same group with – guess who – Spieth.
“I don’t know, I guess [it helps],” Thomas answered when asked about playing with Spieth. “It’s easy to say that since I’ve had some good rounds and success with him. But I’ve had poor rounds with him, too.
“The easiest part is just between the shots and being able to talk and catch up because there’s not too often we get to sit down and relax. But that’s kind of the closest thing we have to it is walking the fairways and … just kind of BS-ing a little bit and having fun. Between him and Kis, we had a good time out there today.”
While Thomas started hot early, Spieth made the turn just 1 under after back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18. But he “stayed patient, set a goal for the back nine,” and circled five holes on his second nine, including four of his last five, to close in 5-under 31.
As he was waiting to clean-up a 2-footer for birdie at the par-4 ninth, the group’s final hole of the day, Spieth watched as Thomas tried to finish with a birdie of his own from 20 feet. When the ball just missed on the high side, Spieth’s knees buckled as if he was watching his own ball miss the hole.
“I guess at times you can get caught up,” Spieth said, “but that’s also really fun. Thursday, Friday, the intensity is not quite as high. It’s more fun-loving. And Kis, coming off the win last week, and all of us kind of having good years, it was pretty even-keeled out there and a lot of fun to be playing.”
The group has enjoyed its fair share of success this season.
Kisner is coming off a victory last week at Colonial, where he edged Spieth by a shot when he got up and down for par on the 72nd hole.
Spieth, who won at Pebble Beach, has enjoyed success on this golf course. He's never missed the cut and finished T-3 during his stellar run in 2015.
But Thomas, who won three times in the early part of the season, has missed the Memorial cut the last two years. That said, he was once victorious on another Columbus-area track, when he won the Web.com Tour’s 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University Golf Club.
“I’ve had success in Columbus, but not at this event, for sure,” he mused. “It’s just nice being here. This is as close I can get to a hometown event, unfortunately. And I’m very fortunate to have some friends come up, and my mom and dad. It’s an easy drive for them and my grandparents. I don’t get to see them very often. It’s a lot of fun."
Spieth, Thomas and Kisner will continue their good-time-had-by-all on Friday when they rejoin for their second round at 1:16 p.m.
“Playing with both of those guys, you have to back off a little bit and get refocused,” Thomas said, “because you’re joking around and trying to enjoy it, and almost forget that you’re in the middle of a golf tournament. There’s times like that where it’s difficult.
“But it’s easy walking down the fairways and having conversation. It keeps the mood light.”