KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — One tournament into the new year and Jordan Spieth already is facing a new adventure in his young and wonderful world of golf.
What he thought might be a tap-in birdie turned into a maddening struggle for par on the final hole Sunday in the Tournament of Championship, but that 8-foot par putt gave him a 4-under 69 and a share of the 54-hole lead with defending champion Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson.
"This is a new position for me," Spieth said. "I've never slept on a 54-hole lead. I'm excited about it and it's going to be a fun time tomorrow."
Spieth was five shots behind going into the last round when he rallied to catch, and then beat, Zach Johnson in a playoff at the John Deere Classic that put him on the fast track. He was one shot back at Greensboro, where he lost in a playoff. He has played in the Tour Championship, played in the Presidents Cup, two majors, one World Golf Championship.
So no, he doesn't blink in the presence of a powerful figure like Dustin Johnson, or a former U.S. Open champion like Webb Simpson.
That doesn't make Monday any easier.
Spieth headed off to the practice green before the sun started dropping over the west end of Maui. He wants some confidence back on the tough putting surfaces at Kapalua, and then he'll devise a game plan going into the last day. Spieth said he'll lean on his experience in college, which was just more than a year ago.
"The biggest key when I was in this position ... was not to try and win by one. It was to try to get out there, get way ahead and you almost have the mindset that you want to go out there and try to win by five shots," he said. "That's the only way that I think you can break open and really make some birdies."
No matter who was in contention in the first PGA Tour event of the year — more than just the co-leaders — one thing was clear. It was key to take advantage of the par 5s and short par 4s — as many as six of them, all with tricky approach shots — and post something low.
And that's why Dustin Johnson was running hot.
He played the two par 5s in 3-under on the front, including a second shot to tap-in range for eagle on the par-5 ninth hole, but from prime position in the fairway, he had to settle for pars on the back nine for a 68.