Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth of the United States went careening down a hillside and nearly stumbled into Lake Michigan during a foursomes loss at the Ryder Cup on Friday morning.
The bizarre scene came on the decisive par-3 17th hole at Whistling Straits as Spieth and Justin Thomas lost 3&1 in the opening match to Europe’s Spanish duo of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.
The formidable course, carved into a hillside along the lakeshore, features slopes and cliffs and treacherous areas for errant balls along the shoreline.
In the alternate shot format, Thomas teed off into deep rough on a hillside at the 17th and the ball bounced onto the cliffside green, rolled across the putting area and hopped over the bank.
Spieth was left with a side-slope shot and somehow managed to blast the ball out of deep grass above him and onto the green six feet from the hole.
Spieth, meanwhile, went stumbling back down the hillside after making contact, turned as he tried to regain his balance.
He slowed his out-of-control momentum just in time to avoid a splashdown into Lake Michigan.
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“I would like to say I don’t think I exaggerated that fall,” Spieth said. “You know how steep that is. Once I started moving, I was like, ‘I’ve got to keep moving until I find a flat spot.'”
In three days of practice, Spieth never dreamed he would have to work on such an unlikely shot as a ball clinging to a hillside in dense grass.
“Yeah, it’s kind of one of those shots that you practice as a kid for fun, and you don’t ultimately want to have it,” Spieth said. “And the chances of it going there – you could roll a thousand balls off the green and it’s not going it stay where it was.”
Spieth selected his wedge with concern he might make matters worse.
“I hit like a 52-degree because a 60 might have gone over the back of my head, and just tried to flick it right underneath and hit it as hard as I could, as high as I could,” Spieth said.
The ball ended up near the hole, although Spieth never saw the landing from the bottom of the hillside, his back to the upper-level green during most of his stumble. As it turned out, Thomas missed the par putt and Rahm and Garcia parred to claim the victory.
“It ended up right on a crown where it was a tough putt,” Spieth said. “I think it was maybe a situation where first one in wins and we just got a really tough break there.”
All in all, Spieth was happy with how he and Thomas performed.
“Played well,” he said. “Would have won a lot of matches the way we played today.”
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