SAN ANTONIO — The co-leaders after three rounds at the Valero Texas Open spoke on a darkening Saturday night about their hopes to play hard and well for one more day.
Neither mentioned the personal stakes. One wants to win for the first time in 83 starts on the PGA TOUR. The other wants to win for the first time period.
The last group in the final round of the oldest professional tournament in Texas, the one celebrating its 99th year on the TOUR, will feature Jordan Spieth and Matt Wallace at 12 under par, with Charley Hoffman two strokes behind them. Spieth, a Texan who has yet to triumph in his home state, looks to summon the brilliance of his first five seasons, when he won 11 times, including three majors. Wallace, an Englishman with 36 TOUR starts since 2017, has never finished better than third. Hoffman has no victories since the 2016. That was right here at TPC San Antonio, in the sixth-oldest professional golf tournament in the world.
The three of them separated themselves on a cool, gloomy afternoon after rain postponed play for two and a half hours. Spieth and Wallace shot 5-under 67. Hoffman shot 65.
They played the back nine in a combined 14 strokes under par, which bodes well for those who believe in momentum carried over.
Spieth has had his opportunities in a resurgent 2021 season. He held a share of the 54-hole lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his first since 2018. He finished tied for fourth. He did the same thing a week later, at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but this time he had the 36–hole, too. He tied for third there.
“I was pretty anxious to start that next day” in Phoenix, said Spieth, whose struggles since 2017 have been documented well and discussed widely, including after his even-par 72 in the fourth round in the desert. “I felt really calm at Pebble,” he said, “and then been in contention a few times since.”
In his five starts in stroke-play tournaments since a missed cut in January at the Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has had a reasonable chance to win four (he tied for 48th at THE PLAYERS Championship). In every one of them, he failed to break 70 in the final round. That pattern must end.
“The goal this week was to get myself into contention and have a chance to win,” Spieth said. “The next goal is to try and get myself into position to be in control on the back nine.”