Spieth suffers his ugliest round of the year

First question to Jordan Spieth Saturday: You OK?

“Feel fine. Why do you ask?” he answered.

Well, there was the matter of the 80 you just shot, your highest round of the year, second highest in two years as a pro.

For the 21-year-old who took the PGA Tour by storm last season, closing out with a second-place finish at the Tour Championship, Saturday was a puzzler. And for a young man getting ready to play in his first Ryder Cup, shooting 10 over was not the recommended kind of warmup.

The culprit was, as has been, an uncooperative driver. Spieth said he cracked his favorite driver way back in May in advance of the Players Championship. In this age of scientific club fitting, who know it would be this difficult to find a replacement?

Despite four months having passed without finding a driver to suit him, he maintained, “I’ll get it figured out before I get over there (Scotland).”

Overall, dismissing the 80 as an aberration, Spieth said, “I still think my game is trending upward.”

Since cracking his favorite club, Spieth estimated that his percentage of fairways hit probably dropped 20 percent. “That’s always been a strength of mine and now a strength has become average.” He was well below average Saturday, hitting just four of 14 fairways, tied for worst in the field.

Looking for a different ending: Turning the East Lake layout on its head has long been a popular notion. Jason Day raised the subject again. "(No. 18) is a tough par 3 to finish on," he said. "I think it would be great if they flipped the nines and finished on the par-5 ninth hole. I think it would be a lot more exiting for the fans and a lot more exciting for the golfers as well." That certainly would create a different kind of drama at the close. The difficult par-3 finishing hole has given up just seven birdies through three rounds.

Etc.: The struggles continue for the two Ryder Cup captains' picks. Hunter Mahan (71 Saturday) and Webb Simpson (72) have yet to break par through three rounds at East Lake. And it's not like Mahan is a stranger to these environs. He is the only player in the game to have made all 31 starts in the FedEx Cup playoffs since 2007. … Russell Henley is now the low Georgia/Georgia Tech player in the field after the former Bulldog shot a 31 on the back on the way to a Saturday 67 (5 under for the tournament). "I'm just going to try to learn from this experience," he said. "This is my first time here and I've played well so far, so I'm just going to try to have a nice Sunday." … With his 66 Saturday, Justin Rose rose to within three of the lead. "I've got to shoot something in the realm of 65 or better (to have a chance to win)," he figured. … Also from the ranks of the pursuers came this from Rickie Fowler (three back as well), "I'll be out there in front of (the leaders) and be able to see if we can get off to a good solid start and maybe show them we're ready to go play."

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