SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Another storm blew through Whistling Straits Saturday at the PGA Championship.
This time the lightning bolts came crashing out of a clear blue sky.
Jordan Spieth was a human tempest making one of the best back-nine charges you’ll ever see in the third round of a major championship, in any round of a major for that matter.
With six birdies over the final eight holes, Spieth jolted the grounds here with his hard climb up the leaderboard. His bogey-free 7-under-par 65 moved him into position to make history. He’ll tee it up Sunday looking to join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players in the modern era to win three major championships in a single season.
At 15-under 201, Jason Day is the man Spieth will be chasing in their Sunday final pairing together. Spieth’s two shots back.
Spieth closed his charge with three consecutive birdies.
“Very, very pleased to have a chance to win another major,” he said.
A day after a thunderstorm ripped through this area, causing the suspension of the second round, Spieth reveled in a warm, sunny Wisconsin afternoon. At 22, he’s turning these majors into his playgrounds. He’s already drawing on major championship experience that players twice his age don’t have. He’s squeezed a lifetime of experience from his victories this year at the Masters and U.S. Open and even from his near miss at the Open Championship last month.
Spieth might be just one missed putt at St. Andrews away from trying to become the first player to claim the Grand Slam with victories in all four professional majors in a single season.
Don’t think that missed chance at the British Open doesn’t fuel him and his caddie Michael Greller.
“I certainly have a little chip on my shoulder this week, but that won't be in my head tomorrow” Spieth said. “Tomorrow it will be drawing all the positives that we've done, when we did win.”
Spieth said he battled impatience on the front nine Saturday, but he learned something winning the first two majors this year.
“In the majors we've won, the putts have fallen on the weekend, strictly by just letting it happen,” Spieth said. “By giving yourself opportunities, believing that it will fall, being stubborn on the greens, is what Michael likes to say.”
Spieth made his Saturday charge fueled with the confidence won under major championship pressure.
“I would draw back on past major weekends as a different type of experience than any other experience that you can have,” Spieth said. “Luckily, that hole looks big recently for us on major weekends, and that's what we just had to keep believing today.”
Frustrated from missing chances on the front nine Saturday, Spieth lit a fire under himself after missing a 15-foot birdie chance at the 10th hole. He stepped to the 11th tee having slipped five shots off the lead.
“I was pissed, so I swung really hard,” Spieth cracked. “I lined up over a bunker and said let’s try to kill this.”
Spieth did. He isn’t a long hitter, but he crushed a 343-yard drive, helping him reach that par 5 in two and make the first of his back-nine birdies.
You wouldn’t know the major championship was building with Spieth mounting his charge. He looks totally immersed in the thrill of it. He looked comfortable. He hit 11 of 14 fairways. He hit 16 greens in regulation.
“I really, thoroughly enjoy playing in majors,” Spieth said.
After that birdie at the 11th, Spieth carved his tee shot at the 12th to 4 feet to setup up another.
“The holes started to look bigger,” Spieth said. “A lot of times it just takes one to go for me to really find that extra confidence, that extra little pop in my stroke.”
The closer Spieth got to the lead, the better he played. He reached the 16th in two and two-putted for birdie. He carved a 4-iron to 12 feet at the 17th for another, and he stiffed a 6-iron at the last to 7 feet for yet another.
While Spieth knows his history, he already seems to know how it’s best pursued.
“Just to try to get my name on the Wanamaker Trophy, that's about it,” Spieth said. “That’s the only history I'll be thinking of when we step on the first tee, is we can hoist that trophy tomorrow, and make it happen.
“I'll go into tomorrow strictly for the history piece of trying to get my name on a different major. It's a goal of mine to capture all four throughout my career. I've got a great opportunity to get the third right now.”