Spieth off to positive start at Dell Match Play, defeats Charl Schwartzel

Trenton Daeschner

Jordan Spieth has been in some rather unusual places on a golf course in his life. 

Take last July for example, during the final round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Spieth, having blown a three-shot lead he began the day with, arrived at the 13th tee tied with Matt Kuchar. That’s when it got bizarre.

Spieth blew his tee shot at the 13th so far right that it cleared a massive dune. Twenty minutes passed before Spieth played his next shot. He marched around with rules officials searching for his nearest point of relief and scurried just to get a yardage number that sounded reasonable. He took an unplayable lie and ended up moving even further right and onto the adjacent practice range near equipment trucks.

Spieth, playing his third shot, got the ball back into play and somehow carded an other-wordly bogey on the hole to stay in the tournament. In hindsight, it was a huge moment in Spieth’s career, and he staged an epic rally late in the back nine to win the British Open that day.

Wednesday at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, on the first hole of his opening match with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, the former Longhorn found himself in another unusual place on a golf course.

His tee shot sailed far right again, took a hard bounce off the cart path and chased right into the thick of the concession and picnic area set up between the first fairway and the sixth green. The ball came to rest right next to a stand-up tabletop. Hoards of spectators darted toward the ball.

Workers at the nearby Torchy’s Tacos stand would’ve been remiss to mistake these fans for taco-crazed individuals looking for a quick snack. But they weren’t sprinting to order a ‘Trailer Park’ or a ‘Dirty Sanchez’ taco. They desired a glimpse of Spieth’s nearby Titleist Pro V1x golf ball, lying right next to a fan who continued to chow down on his lunch at the tabletop as marshals and spectators quickly gathered.

No, this setting came nowhere close to matching the shear drama and TV extravaganza that was Spieth’s adventure on the 13th hole at Royal Birkdale last summer.

“No flashbacks,” Spieth said.

But the gallery still got a kick out of this one. Fans seemed bewildered that a ball had made it this far right of the fairway. It was a tee shot you’d expect out of a member-guest tournament at Austin Country Club — not a World Golf Championships event.

Which made the situation all the more entertaining for the gallery. Spieth got free relief for his ball and had a good look at the green on his second shot.

“I actually got fortunate,” Spieth said. “I was in a great spot there.”

But Spieth hit it fat and came up short of the green.

“I hit a really, really horrible shot off of the mulch,” Spieth said. “It needed to be played like a fairway bunker shot-ish. I needed to hit it just crisp or a little bit thin … I was frustrated coming off of there.”

His competitor, Schwartzel, had made a mess of the hole himself. He, too, had sprayed his tee shot into the right trees but further back from where Spieth was. Both players halved the hole with bogeys — a sizzling start to the day.

Spieth took a 1-up lead at the second hole after another bogey from Schwartzel but surrendered it at the sixth with a bogey.

Spieth went 1 up at the par-5 12th after another ill-advised bogey by Schwartzel — and then Spieth put his foot on the gas.

He flipped a wedge to under three feet on No. 13 for a conceded birdie, then followed it up with another conceded birdie on No. 14 after stuffing it to 18 inches from 156 yards out.

Spieth was 3 up at that point and closed out Schwartzel on No. 17 to win the match 2 and 1.

“I got the job done today,” Spieth said. “Neither one of us played well on the front nine. I hit some solid shots there as we got to the middle of the back nine to build the lead up, which took some stress off for sure.”

Spieth faces China’s HaoTong Li, the No. 34-ranked player in the world, on Thursday.