Players 2023: The man who saved Jordan Spieth’s week is a Marine who wanted nothing in return
PONTE VEDRA BEACH — With Jordan Spieth, there’s always a twist. On Friday at the Players Championship, the three-time major champion was sitting at two over par and right on the cutline when he blocked a drive way right off the par-5 ninth, his 18th hole of the day at TPC Sawgrass. Spieth’s ball was rocketing toward a water hazard with conviction.
It looked as if Spieth was going to join a list of high-profile players, including Rory McIlroy and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, in missing the 36-hole cut, which fell at two over.
Only, Spieth’s drive ricocheted off a fan’s knee and landed back into the fairway. Then, Spieth muscled a fairway metal from 272 yards up to the rough just right of the green. He chipped in for eagle, made the cut easily(*) at even par. Now he’s six under courtesy of a third-round 66.
“I got an extremely lucky break on 9, or I wouldn’t be playing the weekend,” Spieth said Friday. “Trying to get that guy’s information and see literally whatever he wants this weekend because everything from here on out is because it hit him.”
Turns out “that guy” is Lt. Col. Matt Cutler, a 47-year-old Marine from Colorado Springs. He’s performed tours in Okinawa, Japan, Germany and multiple tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The PGA Tour approached Cutler and offered him tickets for the third round.
“He's over there right now,” Spieth said Saturday pointing to Cutler. “He's an active Marine. His name is Matt. I spent a little time with him yesterday. He didn't want anything, but I thought if I could do anything for him I'd try to and the tour stepped in and hooked him up, too. So hopefully he's having a good weekend. And his knee, I mean, once I found out he was an active Marine I don't really think getting hit in the knee really does much to those guys.”
Other than the personal pride of wanting to make the cut at the tour’s flagship event, the good break is significant financially for Spieth given the Players Championship purse this year is $25 million. If Spieth were to hold his current position of T-14 through the final round his earnings would be around $400,000.
It’s safe to say Cutler’s knee contributed to keeping one of the biggest stars around for the weekend.
“I would like to say once the cut moved to two over I felt like I could have still finagled my way through,” Spieth said. “It's still two shots that it saved me at least. That will make a difference regardless tomorrow.”