Young American surpasses Ray Floyd for greatest 36-hole start but Englishmen Justin Rose and Paul Casey remain in the hunt on seven under, reports James Corrigan
In 155 years of the majors, no golfer has played fewer shots in the first two rounds. Yes, Augusta has witnessed 21-year-old’s doing extraordinary deeds before, but nothing like this at this stage, nothing like Jordan Spieth at the halfway mark of the 79th Masters.
The young Texan who has been nicknamed “Wyatt Earp” is shooting down records as mercilessly as he is gunning down rivals. With his 14-under, 130-shot total, Spieth replace the revered name of Raymond Floyd in the Masters annals, the four-time major champion who played the first 36 holes in 131 strokes on his way to an eight-shot victory in 1976.
And in the tome of the majors, Spieth, with a 66 to go with the opening 64, put himself alongside Sir Nick Faldo, Brandt Snedeker and Martin Kaymer. Spieth actually missed an eight-footer on the last which would have seen him wipe out that trio as well, and break the 130 barrier. But still, let’s call it history for the 2014 runner-up who is merely continuing a great run of form which has brought three titles and two second places in his last 10 results.
“It’s cool. Any time you can set a record here is pretty awesome,” Spieth, the world No 4, said. “I’m very excited about the way I struck the ball. I struck it, I thought, better than Thursday and didn’t rely on the breaks as much.”
Spieth has a commanding five-shot lead
Yet Spieth is staying strictly in the present and is ignoring the fact that his five-shot lead over Charley Hoffman ties the biggest in Masters history and that the previous three record pacesetters all went on to win. Spieth is aware that the green jackets will not be pleased at all with him daring to humiliate their beloved layout.
“I’ve got to stay patient,” Spieth said. “Scoreboard-watching is the biggest danger. I need to keep my head down and set a goal to myself. I’m sure they don’t really like seeing really low scores so they might speed the greens up. It’s going to be more challenging so I’m going to have to be OK with the odd bogey.”
Poor Charley Hoffman. The American carded a 68 to go with his 67 to move to nine-under, which would have been good enough for at least a share of the lead in all but one of the last nine Masters. There are a further two shots back to Dustin Johnson and two Englishmen, Justin Rose and Paul Casey, with Phil Mickelson on six-under.
Johnson created his own bit of Masters history when making three eagles in the same round. Johnson’s 67 was high quality as were Casey’s 68 and, for the last 14 holes, Rose’s 70. While Casey enjoyed a bogeyless day, featuring four birdies, to continue his resurgence, countryman Rose fought back after dropping three shots in his first four holes.
But Spieth overshadowed everything and everybody, including the dramatic resurrection of Tiger Woods. A week ago, the 14-time major-winner was not sure whether to come back after a two-month absence he forced upon himself because of the awful state of his game. Having shot a career-worst 82 on his penultimate start and having walked off after 11 holes citing a lower back injury at Torrey Pines, bookmakers made Woods odds-on to miss the cut. Well, the 39-year-old has fared so much better than that and this 69 to move up to two-under does bode so well for a future which many had foolishly written off.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done and am 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. ‘96 proved that [when Greg Norman blew a six-shot lead with 18 holes to play]. There’s so many holes to play and so many different things can happen.”
At two-under he comfortably made the weekend with a top 10 place in his sights. Woods was so much more solid than his opening round, but yet again it was his shortgame which was the highlight. To think, Woods, the world No 111, came into this major with the whisper going around that he had a severe case of the chipping yips. Wondrous chip after wondrous chip has obliterated this notion.
On any other day, Woods’s return to form would have commanded every golfing headline and, if not that, then Rory McIlroy coming back in 31 for a 71 to stand on the same mark as Woods. McIlroy seemed to heading for a missed cut when he double-bogeyed the sixth to fall back to four-over. The Northern Irishman recovered manfully with four birdies and an eagle to fight another day as he tries to complete the career grand slams and win three majors in a row.
Spieth is proving himself a winner on the biggest stage
Yet all this seemed utterly irrelevant when the eyes scanned up to Spieth at the top. If anything, this six-under magnificence was even more impressive than the previous day’s eight-under magnificence, as it was blustery and far from straightforward. “I don’t know what course Jordan is playing but it’s not the same one I’m playing,” Darren Clarke, the Europe Ryder Cup, said. “Wow!”
Wow, indeed. And the comparisons with Woods 12-shot triumph in 1997 are inevitable. Woods was “only” three clear after two rounds, but from there moved clear with seemingly every stride, courtesy of that historic 65-69 weekend. But as exceptional as Spieth undoubtedly is, it is wrong to evoke Woods’s introduction to the world at large.
With his length, his putting and with who he was, what he represented and the barriers he hauled down, Woods redefined the parameters of the game 18 years ago. Here, Spieth is simply doing everything more professionally than anyone else. Which, considering his age, is beyond remarkable. The obvious strength is his putting. Spieth took 25 putts on the first day, 25 putts on the second day. PlayStation golf.
Spieth does not look like relinquishing his lead
Certainly Henrik Stenson, the world No 2 who accompanied Spieth on this record-breaking journey, was enthralled. “He’s very impressive,” Stenson said, after making the cut on the number. “He hits a lot of fairways and greens but his putting really stands out. That’s why he’s so far ahead and living up to expectations.
“Jordan’s obviously coming here with some great form and he’s taking his chances. He’s got an old head on young shoulders because he’s playing very sensibly, very maturely. He’s in a great position and it’s his to lose from here.”
Have something to add? Share your comments on Facebook.