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Spieth, Fowler take step back on Day 3 in Houston

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HUMBLE, Texas – There were plenty of low scores and birdie roars during the third round of the Houston Open, but the two biggest names near the top of the leaderboard actually went in the opposite direction.

Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth appeared set for a pre-Masters showdown at the Golf Club of Houston, with Fowler one shot off the lead and Spieth two shots behind after 36 holes. But two of the highest-ranked players in the field stumbled during the third round, combining to shoot even par on a day when the leaderboard was painted red.

For Spieth, the issue was easy to identify as a streaky putter quickly went south. A three-putt on the opening hole set the tone for the round, as he three-putted four of his first eight holes and needed 32 total putts to complete his round.

Spieth hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, but with a frustrating round on the greens he only mustered a 1-under 71 to fall into a tie for 13th, four shots behind Ian Poulter and Beau Hossler.

“It’s one of those where you look at the scoreboard and you’re like man, what if,” Spieth said. “It was mainly just a speed thing that was off. You can’t continue to have 4- and 5-footers for par out here. I’ve hit something like 40 of my last 41 greens and I’ve played those holes in 7 under. I mean, that’s frustrating.”

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In the case of Fowler, the struggles were confined to a pair of holes. After taking sole possession of the lead with birdies on three of his first four holes, Fowler doubled No. 6 and later made a triple bogey on the par-5 13th after pulling his tee shot into a hazard. A 1-over 73 dropped him back to 9 under for the week, five shots off the pace.

“I really just had the two holes that obviously cost me a few shots there and kept me from being in a real good spot for tomorrow,” Fowler said. “We’ll put those two behind us and go get a low one tomorrow. Still really pleased with where the game’s at.”

Despite a frustrating round, Spieth echoed Fowler’s optimism as the two men head into their final competitive preparation before traveling down Magnolia Lane.

“Ball-striking wise, man, it’s right where it needs to be,” Spieth said. “It’s just about kind of capitalizing, being patient enough today. I just wasn’t patient enough with the golf course. I tried to do too much early in the round.”