News & ToursApril 10, 2015

He's come so far, and now, Jordan Spieth is halfway home

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If there is no encore for Jordan Spieth in this 79th Masters Tournament, then Acts 1 and 2 will have provided an epic precursor to a Greek Tragedy that would seem wholly unfair but hardly unfamiliar at Augusta National Golf Club.

Halfway home is really nowhere, especially here, where heartbreak might as well have its own monument. But it's a better place than anywhere else when you're Spieth, who blistered Augusta National for a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 Friday and set a 36-hole record with his 14-under 130 total. Five strokes ahead of Charley Hoffman, Spieth bettered the previous mark of 131 by Ray Floyd in 1976, and he tied Floyd, Jack Nicklaus and Herman Keiser for the largest halfway lead.

Now comes the hard part.

"It's cool," he said of the record-setting performance, giving a hint that he is just 21 years old. Then he started adding perspective and demonstrating the maturity for which he already is well known.

"I'm just excited to be off to a great start [and] having a chance to control my own destiny in this golf tournament," Spieth said after also tying the major championship record for aggregate score held by three men, including Martin Kaymer, who just last summer dominated the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

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"As far as history and what happened the last couple days, doesn't mean anything, unless I can close it out," he added. "I don't want to go in as the 36-hole best record, but somebody who didn't win. So, ultimately, I just need to set a goal for myself, continue to strike the ball the way we have been playing and try and shoot under par rounds on this weekend."

Few players have enjoyed a learning curve as short as the one Spieth is traversing. Augusta National rewards experience, but, funny thing, the course doesn't recognize anything but great golf shots, and Spieth currently is running a surplus. Take, for instance, the 229-yard approach he hit to 3 feet at the par-5 eighth hole. He had hit his drive into the right bunker and could only advance his ball about 20 yards. Partner Billy Horschel could only laugh when he saw the magnificent result.

How quickly has Spieth caught on to the nuances of the famed former tree nursery? He got to 10-under par with a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fifth. Only Greg Norman, who was 10 under after 20 holes in 1996, climbed to double digits under par faster than the 23 holes it took the plain-speaking Texan.

"Seems like there's been quite a few guys that have had success at a young age here. I think Seve [Ballesteros] won it when he was 23, and Tiger [Woods] at 21," said Spieth, who probably isn't aware that Jack Nicklaus also won the first of his six green jackets at 23. "Obviously, 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 to get into contention and to close out the tournament.

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"It means that it can be done. Why for me? Maybe, I would just go back to, I got the awe factor out over six months before I even played the first time here … and after getting into contention last year and seeing what Sunday in the final group was like, now it feels more like a regular event. I think just having the experience of playing it a few times was all I needed to feel that way."

Equally important is the right kind of experience. In his brief Masters career -- just six rounds -- Spieth has sat third or better after five of them. He shared the 54-hole lead last year with eventual winner Bubba Watson before finishing T-2, a result that he swore would sting awhile. It's no surprise that he'd come back to contend again, but Spieth seems determined to exorcise any demons before their craggy fingers can even brush his neck.

"He's basically spent his first six rounds on top of the leader board at this tournament, basically. That's pretty amazing," Geoff Ogilvy said. "Not many people have done that."

Undoubtedly, he also benefits from his growing comfort level with proximity to the lead, if not sitting atop it outright. Ranked No. 4 in the world, Spieth entered the year's first major having finished 1-2-2 in his last three starts. This after finishing the 2014 campaign with a six-stroke victory in the Australian Open followed by a 10-shot win in the Hero World Challenge.

This, good folks, is known as a trend.

But momentum has its finite properties, too.

"What he's done in the last two days, is really spectacular … but I don't think it's any more than that -- yet," said Zach Johnson, whose 2007 Masters victory came in his third start. "Ask me tomorrow. I don't know if two days can really define it. But if he keeps this up for a third day, then you have something."

Yeah, something like Secretariat in the Belmont.

Hoffman, who like Spieth is playing in his second Masters, recognizes that for all of his efforts the in the first two rounds, he still needs more giddy up in his scoring. "I've got to keep making birdies," he said, sizing up his challenge. "Jordan has proven the last few weeks that he's not going anywhere."

Except maybe towards a date with destiny. He's halfway there. And halfway not.

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