SAN FRANCISCO – Jordan Spieth got a rude welcome to the new WGC-Cadillac Match Play format.
He shot 16 under par over three days here.
At one point he had a seven-shot lead on the field.
The three players he faced combined to make only two bogeys against him.
But none of that mattered Friday. After a wildly entertaining elimination match against Lee Westwood at Harding Park, Spieth is heading home.
“That’s a little messed up,” he said, shaking his head, after he lost, 2 up.
Going up against a player half his age, Westwood clawed back from an early deficit and combined with the world No. 2 to put on the best show of the week.
The fun began on the 14th, where Spieth rolled in a 10-footer for par to remain all square.
On 15, Spieth drove into an old pitch mark in the fairway, came up 40 feet short with his second shot and pitched in for birdie. Westwood countered with an 8-foot birdie of his own.
Then came the drivable 16th. Westwood’s tee shot climbed onto the downslope of the greenside bunker, and with little sand around his ball he bladed his second shot over the green. He flubbed the pitch and appeared on his way to losing a crucial hole, but then he chipped in from just off the green for an improbable par.
Westwood took the late lead by pouring in a 12-foot birdie putt on 17, then put pressure on Spieth with a drive down the fairway on the last. Spieth drove into the left rough and could only muscle a second shot 60 yards short of the green. His third shot came out low and checked up too quickly, and his last-gasp 27-footer slid by.
“It just came down to those two holes, who was going to hit the most clutch shots,” Spieth said. “And he did today.”
Westwood, who shot 4 under (including the usual concessions) on the third day of pool play, took a lot of pride in going 3-0 in his group and knocking off whom he considered to be the No. 1 player on the planet at the moment.
“It’s nice being the underdog for a change,” he said. “I went out there with a bit of freedom.”
As for Spieth, he became yet another hard-luck loser in a tournament full of them.
“The only thing I take out of that is that I’m ready for next week,” he said.