Not even the clearest indication yet that tales of the demise of Tiger Woods may have been greatly exaggerated could alter Friday’s Masters narrative.
If Jordan Spieth was lauded for his first-round display in a round of 64, day two saw him etch his name into golfing folklore. The reaction, understandably, reverberated round a seemingly defenceless Augusta National.
This was flawless golf from a 21-year-old who, for now, is on an imperious march towards major glory. As the remainder of this field scramble to keep Spieth within view, they are seeking to halt a procession. Those players may already be competing for second place; if he remains in this mood, there need be no debate about it.
At 130 Spieth has broken the 36-hole aggregate Masters record score, held by Raymond Floyd, by one. He has matched the finest major championship tally over the same stretch. During about as fine a display under pressure – allegedly – as will be witnessed in sport in this or any year Spieth did not drop a single shot on Friday. At 14 under par, holding a five-stroke halfway lead over Charley Hoffman, Spieth’s biggest danger might be attached to what happens when a golfer dares to dream.
“It’s cool,” said Spieth,utilising a tad of Texan understatement. “Any time you can set a record here is pretty awesome.”
Meanwhile someone with either a sharp sense of humour or merely a decent grasp of foresight edited Spieth’s Wikipedia entry on Friday afternoon to add the 2015 Masters to his career achievements. It was quickly removed; maybe Spieth’s people do not want to tempt providence.
Spieth knows a little about what comes next. He shared the 54-hole lead at last year’s Masters, before Augusta National, rather than Spieth himself, was battered to the point of submission by Bubba Watson. That, at least, will not happen again; Watson is a dozen shots back.
Yet Hoffman is not a solitary pursuer. Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Paul Casey lie seven adrift, which is not an irretrievable situation. Johnson actually made a bit of history himself on Friday, by becoming the first player to record three eagles in a Masters round. Maybe his 67 was a tad disappointing when that collection is factored in. The elder statesmen, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, are ready to pounce at minus six and five respectively.
In Spieth the United States golfing public has a new hero. It would be inaccurate to say that contingent has in any way ignored Rory McIlroy but the significance of an American performing with the distinction of Spieth on home soil is glaringly obvious. Spieth, in turn, is feeding off gallery energy.
This presents those behind the weekend set-up of Augusta National with a problem. If they want to keep the winning score down, very few players will have the chance to make up ground on Spieth. Should they want to afford such scoring opportunity, Spieth could cause embarrassment. The Masters’ 72-hole record is 18 under.
For a brief afternoon spell McIlroy flirted dangerously with the cut. He was actually outside it after a double bogey at the 9th. A stirring back nine of 31 followed and the world No1 signed for a second consecutive 71. There will be frustration for the Northern Irishman, nonetheless, at the lack of spark in his performance so far. Not that it helps when you take to the course in the ominous position of being 12 shots behind the leader.
Spieth was completing post-round media duties by the time a beaming Woods stepped from the 18th green. The 39-year-old had cause for elation; by easily making the cut after a Friday 69, he has proved a lot of people wrong. This marked Woods’s first sub-70 Masters round since day four in 2011.
“I was at a pretty low one in my career but to put it together and put myself in a position where I can compete in a major championship like this is something I’m very proud of,” Woods said.
“I’m still right there,” he added. “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, you know. 1996 proved that.
“So we have a long way to go. There’s so many holes to play and so many different things can happen. We don’t know what the conditions are going to be tomorrow, what the committee is going to do.”
In his first six Masters rounds as a professional Woods scored an aggregate of 19 under par. Spieth has matched that over the same number of holes.
The youngster may well be of a mind to continue this trend; logic suggests he probably will not need to. This is now Spieth’s tournament to concede and it will take something pretty spectacular to bring that about.
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