As a concession to the Biblical rains that have been unleashed lately on our once-parched village, PGA Tour officials announced Sunday that Colonial’s final-round threesomes would be allowed to lift and clean their wet and muddy golf shots.
Judge Smails rules, in other words, on everything except balls hit into the hazards.
The ensuing tee-it-up fest turned the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial’s final-round leader board into a virtual pinball machine.
The players loved it. The mud-stained gallery applauded it. The predicted afternoon showers even seemed to stop to watch it.
The only thing missing from the 2015 Colonial, as it turned out, was the storybook ending.
Jordan Spieth certainly tried. The product of Dallas’ Jesuit Prep was tied for the tournament lead when he missed a 7-foot putt on the 16th hole.
“At the beginning of the day, I thought I needed to shoot 7-under to win, and I did need to shoot 7-under to win,” said Spieth, whose 5-under 65 left him one stroke behind the champion, Chris Kirk.
But so went the wet day. The guy that did shoot a 7-under 63, Jason Bohn, didn’t win the tournament, either.
Of the top 26 finishers, only one — Kevin Na, who led the tournament after each of the first three rounds — failed to equal or break par. Once Na lost the lead on No. 9, five different golfers either shared and held first place.
Kirk didn’t join that group until the tournament’s 84th hole, then scrambled for a par to seal his victory on No. 18.
With birdies there for the lifting, cleaning and placing, it’s worth noting that Kirk began his day by sinking a 5-foot putt for an eagle on the day’s first hole.
In winning, Kirk, a University of Georgia product who just turned 30, became the first Ben Hogan Award winner to capture the Colonial plaid jacket. The Hogan Award is college golf’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
“Unbelievable,” Kirk said, graciously.
He called the Colonial layout “my favorite place to come year in and year out.”
But the gallery, frankly, seemed to want a more fairytale hero. All day long, Spieth, still just 21, seemed to draw the bulk of the crowd and the majority of the echoing cheers.
Curiously, he has yet to win a professional tournament in his home state of Texas, though he’s now finished in ties for second place three times.
On the 16th hole Sunday, Spieth said he found himself caught between choosing a 7- or 8-iron.
“Right in-between,” he said. “And when that’s the case, 99 percent of the time I make the right decision and stay below the hole.
“We made the wrong decision today, and it cost us.”
Spieth called it a “rookie mistake.”
“For being on my third year and being in that position a lot, it was a mistake that shouldn’t happen,” he said.
On a day when there were so many properly struck golf shots, it was telling to hear a near-winner talk about the one par that got away.
Bohn, who shot a 58 once in Canada, carded six birdies in a row Sunday and also didn’t win the tournament.
Pat Perez, whose 65 earned him only a tie for fifth, saw both the blessing and the bane in the day’s conditions.
“It sucked — beyond sucked,” Perez said. “Ruined my pants, shoes, the whole deal.
“But ball-in-hand was smart. They were smart doing it, but it sucked.”
Britain’s Ian Poulter, who’s been on either the PGA or world tours for 20 years, said it was the first time he’s ever played under “lift, clean and place through the green” conditions. His final-round even-par 70 left him in a tie for fifth.
Rain pelted, but never halted play during the final round. Mud and puddles were everywhere. Slacks were splattered. Shoes were ruined.
Yet, even though the sun had peeked through by the time the final threesome reached the 18th green, the damp gallery seemed only to politely embrace the end result.
The shifting scores on the leader board had left them giddy.
They wanted a storybook ending. They wanted the local kid to validate their day spent in the mud and slush.
For Jordan Spieth, there’s another chapter coming next week.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697