Jhonattan Vegas faced a seemingly simple task on the par-3 17th tee box of his match with Thomas Pieters. Hit the ball to the center of the green, two-putt and close out the match.
But golf is rarely a simple game.
With the wind swirling high above, Vegas misclubbed and hit a low, penetrating shot that landed in a greenside bunker behind the green.
High winds were a theme all day at Austin Country Club. But Vegas seemed to embrace the difficult conditions.
“This is what makes this tournament and this course absolutely great, having all kinds of winds,” Vegas said. “Welcome to Texas, I guess.”
Luckily the mistake wouldn’t cost him – but not without drama.
From the bunker, Vegas splashed a shot that rolled off the front edge of the green, dangerously close to the lateral hazard. Fortunately, Pieters had already hit in the hazard and Vegas two-putted to a 3 and 1 victory.
The win keeps the feel-good homecoming for the former Texas Longhorn alive for at least another day. But for it to continue into the weekend, Vegas will need some help.
First, he has to win his match against Scott Piercy. Then, he needs Pieters to defeat Bubba Watson to force a three-way tie atop Group 13. But Vegas is taking it one step at a time.
“I’ve got to try and get a big one tomorrow and see what happens at the end,” he said.
Fellow Texas Ex Jordan Spieth also doesn’t control his own destiny heading into his final match of the group stage. He will need a victory against Ryan Moore, and a loss from Hideto Tanihara to force a play-off to advance to the knockout rounds.
“Ryan is a very difficult opponent,” Spieth said. “So I’ve got to play better than I did the last two days and I know that.”
Spieth looked much more comfortable during his 4 and 2 dismantling of Yuta Ikeda on Friday – despite the difficult conditions.
The 13th hole in particular gave the Spieth and Ikeda fits late in the afternoon. Both players found the water with their tee shots and subsequently missed the green with their next approach shots. Spieth characterized the hole as a “mess,” but overall he was happy with his play in the windy conditions.
“It's about as tough as I think I've ever seen it,” Spieth said. “One-on-one I think the tougher the conditions the better for us… Kind of hope tomorrow we get a little bit of the same.”