Jordan Spieth was living thrill ride at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, Fla. — Space Mountain, the iconic twisting-in-darkness Disney World roller coaster, is 13 miles away from Bay Hill.

Also 13 miles from the golf course Arnold Palmer developed for his annual tournament is a place called Blizzard Beach, home of a ride called the Summit Plummet, a 120-foot free-fall slide.

Twelve miles away is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where the thrill ride of choice is the Tower of Terror, a free-fall elevator.

SeaWorld is 6 miles away. That’s where you’ll find the Ice Breaker, a roller coaster that boasts the steepest drop in Florida; the Mako, which is the tallest coaster in the state; and the Kraken, a floorless coaster.

Just 4 miles away is Universal Studios and the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, which features corkscrew turns and zero gravity.

Over at Bay Hill in Sunday’s final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Jordan Spieth was a living, breathing thrill ride.

In the world we live with up-charges for nearly everything, the PGA Tour should invoke surge pricing when Spieth is in contention at tournaments and bill it as “The Jordan Spieth Experience.’’

Jordan Spieth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.
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Spieth was at his thrill-a-minute finest on Sunday and it was positively fitting considering the region this tournament is played in is the theme park capital of the planet.

Spieth didn’t win the golf tournament Sunday. Kurt Kitayama, a 30-year-old journeyman who’s played on 11 different tours around the world, was fitted for the Palmer cardigan sweater as the victor at 9-under par, two shots better than Spieth.

But Spieth was the show. If you were there in person, it was something to see, watching him get up-and-down to save par from everywhere but Arnie’s former townhouse down the street from the clubhouse and lodge. If you were at home watching, it was must-see TV.

Phil Mickelson, one of the great shot-making showmen in the history of the sport, used to be stimulated by his ability as one of the great magicians with a golf club in his hands, constantly extricating himself from trouble.

Even though Spieth surely has that same Houdini gene, he doesn’t necessarily embrace it.

When I asked him after his round if there was a certain rush to making the round-saving shots he makes, Spieth said, “I would say that the least stress I’ve ever had was when I hit 17 of 18 greens at Pebble in a final round and won the tournament (the 2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am). And that’s what I’m trying to do every single time.

“I appreciate my ability to not give up and to see a shot where others may not see it and go ahead and go for it to pull it off.’’

There was a “but’’ somewhere in there after that sentence.

When Spieth one-putted for par on the 11th he’d taken just 12 putts on the first 11 holes in the round. When he one-putted for birdie on the 13th hole, he took the outright tournament lead at 10-under par and the “Jordan Spieth Experience’’ was in overdrive.

Then it all went inexplicably wrong for him.

He burned the right edge of the cup with a 5-foot par putt par-3 14th.

Jordan Spieth reacts after his punt on the 11th hole on Sunday.
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Then he tugged his tee shot to the left rough near a boundary fence on 15, punched out and delivered an elegant chip to inside of 4 feet on the 15th green and again pushed his par putt just right of the hole.

Spieth’s tee shot on the par-5 16th hole also went left, forcing him to lay up with his second shot and yet, with a marvelous wedge shot onto the green he still earned himself a 5-foot putt for birdie. But he burned the edge on that putt, too, settling for a par that felt like a bogey.

At that point, Spieth had missed 9 of 13 fairways and yet was still a mere one shot out of the lead with two holes to play.

The “Jordan Spieth Experience.’’

Spieth would miss the green on 17 and fail to get up-and-down for par, falling to 7-under. On 18, he piped his drive to the center of the fairway but couldn’t birdie the hole and was on the outside looking in.

Jordan Spieth reacts on the 15th hole at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.
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When he walked to the scoring area across the street from the 18th green, Spieth was greeted by his wife, Annie, and their 1-year-old son, Sammy, who ran into his arms. Spieth picked him up and disappeared into the scoring trailer with him for a few minutes.

When Spieth emerged from the trailer and spoke to reporters, he did his best to put his roller-coaster day into perspective.

“I’m pleased to be back in the thick of things,’’ Spieth said. “I’ve felt this coming. So, I feel really good about where things are.’’

With that, Spieth signed some autographs for his adoring fans, got into his courtesy car with Annie and Sammy and drove off, the “Jordan Spieth Experience’’ having gone dark until the next stop: TPC Sawgrass this week for the Players Championship.