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Thriller between Jordan Spieth, Matthew Wolff leaves both still in Dell Match Play contention

Thomas Jones
Austin American-Statesman
Jordan Spieth gets ready for his drive on the No. 1 tee box on the second day of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament Thursday at Austin Country Club. Spieth, a former star at Texas, tied Matthew Wolff to stay in contention for the elimination rounds this weekend.

Jordan Spieth’s second round Thursday at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play began with a forgettable tee shot and a quick glare at a photographer.

But it ended with a clear path to the round of 16 at the Austin Country Club event — and even a little smile, which qualifies as an emotional outburst for the stoic Spieth. 

Spieth, who helped the Texas men’s golf team win the 2012 NCAA national championship before turning pro, tied former Oklahoma State star Matthew Wolff in a wildly entertaining second-round matchup.

Spieth, the lowest seeded player in the group at No. 49, will enter the final first-round match Friday with a win and a tie, the same as Wolff. Although Spieth gave up two strokes over the last two holes to prevent the win, he knows a victory tomorrow over Canadian Corey Conners will give him at least a chance in a playoff and an opportunity to reach the elimination round for the first time since 2016 and just the second time in five appearances.

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The spirited duel seemed to rev up the crowd too — a welcome sight for Wolff, even if the gallery gave most of its support to the former Longhorn. 

Matthew Wolff hits his third shot on the third hole of Thursday's Dell Match Play round. The former Oklahoma State golfer tied UT ex Jordan Spieth.

“With all the crowds, that was really awesome to see,” the 21-year-old Wolff said. “I mean, I don't know if anyone has, but I definitely haven't experienced crowds like that since COVID, or as long as I can remember. So it was really awesome to see everyone out here.

“Obviously, Jordan was the favorite, but I got a lot of applause when I made putts, and they were very gracious. I thought being out here with the crowd, there were no problems at all, and I was really happy to see that.”

That opening hole produced moments both head-scratching and heart-pounding and set the tone for the thrilling matchup. Spieth’s first swing of the day sailed high and wobbled through the air with uncertainty, a pull-hook off the tee that traveled fewer than 200 yards and left him more than 200 yards from the green and in a jail of live oaks. To make matters worse, Spieth’s concentration seemed questionable after he shot a look at a photographer and his whirring camera.

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Any anxiety about that first swing disappeared with Spieth’s next shot, a punch-out over a bunker that skipped and hopped up the fairway onto the green and settled just 11 feet from the hole.

Spieth couldn’t sink the long birdie putt but did save par, something he did 10 more times with two birdies before Wolff stormed back from 2-down on the final two holes to salvage the tie.

Jordan Spieth hits his second shot on the second hole Thursday in the Dell Match Play tournament. He led most of the way but fell into a tie at the end.

“Nothing against Jordan, but I'm sure he's thinking he gave me that match, and he might have, but at the end of the day I got it up-and-down on 15 for par (and) then birdied 16,” Wolff said. “I'm sure he still thinks that he gave it to me, and we have different mindsets because we're different people, but felt like I did what I could to put that pressure on him and try to get that tie.”

And just maybe set up a playoff after round three, if both Wolff and Spieth win their Friday matchups.