Texan sets 36-hole record, five-shot lead
By DOUG FERGUSON
AUGUSTA — Jordan Spieth is making the Masters look easy.
He opened with a 64 despite making a bogey at the easiest hole on the course. He followed with a bogey-free 66 in which he missed a pair of 6-foot birdie putts. He still broke the 36-hole Masters record that had stood for 39 years. His five-shot lead matched another Masters record.
For two rounds, he has 15 birdies, one bogey and no worries.
The plan Friday for the 21-year-old Texan was to hang out with his family and some high school friends from Dallas, “taking it easy and hopefully just acting like nothing’s going on.”
Don’t be fooled. He knows exactly what’s happened at Augusta National. And he knows the hard work is about to start.
“This is just the halfway point,” Spieth said.
He was at 14-under 130, a two-day total matched by one three other players in major championship history and breaking the Masters mark set by Raymond Floyd in 1976. His five-shot lead over Charley Hoffman looked even larger considering that Spieth was a runner-up in his Masters debut a year ago, and he came to Augusta this year as the hottest player in the game.
It sure got the attention of the best player in the game.
Rory McIlroy went from trying to complete the career Grand Slam to trying to stick around for the weekend after a 40 on the front nine. He rallied with a 31 on the back nine to make it easily, though he was still 12 shots behind Spieth.
“It’s really, really impressive,” McIlroy said. “I think a few guys can still catch him. It will take, obviously, something extraordinary from myself to get up there, but you never know. I know better than most people what can happen with the lead around here.”
McIlroy lost a four-shot lead in the final round in 2011.
Tiger Woods broke 70 at Augusta National for the first time since 2011. He had a 69 and joined McIlroy at 142, only his outlook was more upbeat.
“I’m still right there,” Woods said. “I’m 12 back, but there’s not a lot of guys ahead of me. And with 36 holes here to go, anything can happen — 1996 proved that. So we have a long way to go.”
He was referring to Greg Norman losing a six-shot lead on the final day in 1996.
Spieth might find comfort in another reference.
The three other players who had a five-shot lead after 36 holes at Augusta — Herman Keiser in 1946, Jack Nicklaus in 1975 and Floyd in 1976. All went on to win.
Spieth sure looked like a winner, even though it was just Friday. The fans treated him like one.
They rose to their feet and applauded when Spieth walked onto the 12th tee, and for the next two hours, ovations greeted him on tee boxes and greens. The red number next to his name on the leaderboard — 14-under par — was better than 11 of the last 13 winners.
“I got standing ovations walking to multiple greens,” Spieth said. “I mean, that’s something you can only dream about. It’s Friday, too. I’d like to have the same thing happening on Sunday. Got a lot of work to do before that happens.”
Hoffman tried to keep pace with Spieth and ran off three birdies on the back nine until closing with a bogey for a 68. He was five shots behind at 135, a score that would have been leading at 36 holes in the last three Masters. Hoffman didn’t care about that.
“It’s this year. It’s not any other year,” he said. “I’m just playing golf and I’ve only played 36 holes. And we’ve got a lot of golf left.”
Dustin Johnson opened with a double bogey, and then became the first player in Masters history to make three eagles in one round. A bogey from the trees on the last hole gave him a 67, and he was seven shots behind, along with Justin Rose (70) and Paul Casey (68). Phil Mickelson (68) was eight behind.
One score that didn’t matter belonged to Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion playing in his 44th and final competitive round on the course. He missed the cut and in a poignant moment, longtime Augusta caddie Carl Jackson came onto the 18th green for a long, warm embrace.
“I feel like I’ve won the tournament,” Crenshaw said.
Spieth thought he could have won it last year when he had a two-shot lead with 11 holes to play until a two-shot swing on No. 8, another one on No. 9, and failing to get any closer to Bubba Watson the rest of the way. But the kid learned, and now he gets a major test.
“The hardest thing to do is put aside wanting to win so bad, and just kind of going through the motion and letting my ball striking and putting happen,” Spieth said. “I got off to a great start and had a chance to win last year on Sunday. I’d like to have that same opportunity this year. Again, this is only the halfway point and I’m aware of that. I’m going to try and stay ... very patient these last two days and understand it’s going to feel like a whole ‘nother tournament.”
Much like his opening round of 64, his second round was without much stress — it even included one unlikely birdie.
Spieth hit into a bunker on the par-5 eighth hole, so close to the lip that he could only advance it some 30 yards and still had 235 yards left for his third shot. Spieth hit a hybrid that caught the contours perfectly and settled 2 feet from the cup for a birdie.
Billy Horschel walked up to the green and saw the ball. Turning back toward the fairway, with Spieth still 100 yards away, Horschel held up his hands a yard apart to indicate to Spieth what he had left. Horschel smile and eventually started laughing.
He’s seen enough of this for two days. He’s come to expect it. Everyone has.
“It’s a long, long way from being finished,” Ernie Els said after a 72 put him nine shots back. “A lot of work still to be done, so we’ll see. But he’s very, very impressive.”