After a strong finish to a 4-under 68 at Augusta National, Spieth sits 2 strokes off lead and in position to win a 2nd green jacket
For whatever reason, certain venues bring out the best in a player, no matter the state of his game upon arrival.
The 27-year-old Spieth has had a rocky career since winning his third major championship, at the 2017 British Open. For Spieth and those among the media who cover him, the question has been raised often about whether he would regain his past form.
Even without a victory in San Antonio, Spieth would have arrived in Augusta, Ga., at or near the top of the list of favorites.
After 36 holes of the 85th Masters, Spieth has not disappointed. He shot 4-under 68 on Friday and finds himself on the first page of the leaderboard, at 5-under 139, in a tie for fourth, two strokes behind leader Justin Rose (scores).
It’s a comfortable position for Spieth at Augusta National. From the second round of the 2014 Masters through the final round of the 2018 Masters, a span of 19 tournament rounds, Spieth was in the top 10 in 17 of those rounds, including nine times as the leader. In those five editions of the Masters, he finished T-2, first, T-2, 11th and third, respectively.
“I wish that it felt like everything led into peaking here, but I'm just trying to honestly have things just move 5 percent closer than they did last week, to structurally being where I am in the swing,” he said. “I'm putting some very average swings on it, and I'm putting some good ones on it still. There's more good ones than there was a month ago, and there were more than there was a month before that. I'm not in a place where I can say I'm standing up and just striping, but I'm in a place to where I've got it to where I can manage it, and I can manage around this golf course.”
If anything, Spieth can parlay his knowledge of Augusta National with his burgeoning swing into his second green jacket and fourth major victory over a group in front of him that features only one combined major title: leader Justin Rose’s 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
Spieth has not been spectacular this week, as he readily concedes. A brain-dead triple bogey on the par-4 ninth hole in Thursday’s first round threatened to derail his chances early, but Spieth kept his head on the back nine. He birdied the par-4 10th, got through Amen Corner in even par and then, after a par on the par-4 14th, was saved from a potential mistake that come Sunday night might be viewed as fateful. From behind the par-5 15th green, he hit his eagle chip too hard, but it hit the pin and dropped into the hole, saving him from a certain water ball and propelling him to a 1-under score.
On Friday, after a birdie at the par-5 second hole, he made the turn in 1-under 35. Though nonplussed by his outward nine, Spieth remained unconcerned about his place in the tournament, given his experience and success at Augusta National.
“I thought today was a really, really solid last six holes,” said Spieth, who played the final six in 3 under. “I thought I had pretty good chances for birdie on 3 and 8 with a wedge in my hand from inside of 50 yards, and that's normally routine for me, so I was getting a little frustrated through 12 holes at only being 1 under. … I hit a really good shot out of the trees on 13 today that set up a birdie. I thought that was kind of a turning point that could have gone the other direction.”
After birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 17, Spieth signed for a 68 and 5-under aggregate, within two strokes of the lead. Given that he made a triple bogey and two bogeys in his first 36 holes, Spieth feels good about his chances to win entering the weekend.
“I'm in position now to think that, for sure, but at the halfway point, I would have been pleased with being two back,” Spieth said. “I think less is more and rest is key, but certainly, I'm happy that the golf course has the opportunity to play more and more difficult over the weekend. I'm looking forward to that kind of challenge, and I think that could be an advantage to me if I'm in control of the ball.”
Morning Read's Full Coverage from Day 2 at 2021 Masters:
Rose leads after day of surprises, by Gary Van Sickle
Will Zalatoris surges into final pairing, by Steve Harmon
Jordan Spieth likes his chances after 36 holes, by Alex Miceli
Podcast: Hawk and Purk sort through a wild day at Augusta
Round 2 in Pictures
Round 3 Tee Times
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