Cam Cole: Jordan Spieth sinks his teeth into Augusta

 

Record rounds: With a five-shot lead after 36 holes, nerves and patience may be tougher to fend off on weekend than his rivals

 
 
 
 
Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after a birdie on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
 
 

Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after a birdie on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.

Photograph by: Charlie Riedel, AP

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The 10-shot rule has often been the salvation of players who wouldn’t otherwise qualify to play the weekend at major golf championships.

But here at Augusta National this Boy Wonder week, it’s only because the cut lets in the top 50 and ties that the weekend tournament leaderboard will be more than one page long.

At the moment when the runaway train that is Jordan Spieth stepped off the 18th green Friday with a 36-hole Masters and major championship scoring record of 14-under-par, if the 10-shot rule had been the only criterion, the Saturday-Sunday field would have consisted of exactly four players: Spieth, Charley Hoffman, Ernie Els and Paul Casey.

Even after the dust settled on a day of generous scoring conditions, only a handful of players could convince themselves they still had a chance. That’s how completely the 21-year-old Texan has dominated the golf course for two rounds.

He had no number larger than a four on his card Friday, didn’t make a bogey — has only made one in two rounds — and just kept hitting fairways and greens.

In fact, though these things always even out, if he’d made short birdie putts at the ninth, where he almost holed it from the fairway, and 18th holes, they might have taken a vote in the players’ lounge and run up the white flag.

As it is, Spieth’s Friday 66 staked him to a five-stroke lead over Hoffman, seven over Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey, eight over Phil Mickelson, nine over Ernie Els, 10 over Kevin Na, Bill Haas, par-3 contest winner Kevin Streelman and Ryan Moore.

Johnson’s 67 included three eagles, at the second, eighth and 15th holes — no one ever had three in a single round here before — and a birdie at the 13th, meaning he played the par-fives seven under par.

Spieth, who was tied for the 54-hole lead with eventual winner Bubba Watson a year ago, said the tough part begins now. His biggest hurdle?

“Scoreboard watching. I just need to keep my head down, set a goal for myself,” said Spieth, who broke the Masters 36-hole scoring record of 131, which had been co-held by Herman Keiser (1937), Jack Nicklaus (1965) and Raymond Floyd (1966).

Though he only tied the best 36-hole score, 130, ever shot in a major championship (Nick Faldo, Martin Kaymer, Brandt Snedeker), no one has been 14-under-par before at the halfway mark.

“Obviously Charley’s playing great,” he said, “so it depends what they do on the weekend. I’m sure they don’t like seeing low scores here.”

By “they” he means the tournament committee, who will set the pins and decide how hard and fast to make the course play. Weather has not been a factor.

Hoffman, who was the only player able to keep some semblance of a rein on Spieth’s lead, waved off questions about how strange it was to be nine-under-par and still five shots back.

“It’s this year; it’s not any other year,” he said. “We’ve only played 36 holes and there’s a lot of golf left.”

Spieth knows it.

“What I learned (last year) was patience. That the weekend of a major, those rounds can feel like two rounds, with what’s running through your head. The stress is higher … hardest thing is to keep from wanting to win so bad,” he said. “I’d like to have that same opportunity again this year, but it’s only the halfway point and I’m aware of that.”

He is, truly, an old head on a young body, which may be why he hasn’t followed the usual learning curve at Augusta, a course that requires some experience.

“I don’t know. Seems like there’s been quite a few guys who’ve had success at a young age here. I think Seve (Ballesteros) won it when he was 23, and Tiger at 21,” Spieth said.

“And I’m not comparing myself to those guys in any way, but I’m saying it’s only taken them a time or two to figure it out and get into contention and close out the tournament. It means that it can be done.”

Woods made the cut comfortably, shooting 69, but he’s 12 shots back, as is world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who salvaged his Masters by shooting a back-nine 31.

Two-time champion Ben Crenshaw — whose swan song after 44 Masters appearances ended with a long and emotional hug with his longtime caddy, Carl Jackson, who was too ill to carry the bag this time — said he thought Spieth was up to the task of holding on.

“I’m looking forward to the next two days because most everybody knows Jordan is entirely capable, it’s keeping his emotions in check,” said Crenshaw, who has been a mentor to Spieth, especially with the ins and outs of this golf course.

“He’s in a real hot streak, very confident, he’s a great scorer — God, can he score! If he doesn’t get ahead of himself this week, and I think he’s mature enough he won’t, I’ve got to pull for my Longhorn, I’ll tell you that.”

ccole@vancouversun.comTwitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after a birdie on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
 

Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after a birdie on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.

Photograph by: Charlie Riedel, AP

 
Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after a birdie on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Jordan Spieth tosses his ball on the third green at Augusta National Golf Club Friday during his record-setting round. Spieth fired a 66 for a two-day total of 130 — the lowest two-day total in Masters history.
Jordan Spieth acknowledges applause after a birdie on the 10th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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