Justin Rose enters the Masters Saturday with a one-shot advantage. Justin Thomas is number 2 in the world. Tony Finau shot 6-under on Friday.
And still, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this weekend’s most likely champion is a guy who ranked 92nd in February and won his first tournament since 2017 a week ago. Jordan Spieth, tied for sixth with 4 under par, he is always a threat at the Masters.
Some golfers enter the course and feel their heart rate skyrocket. Some get nervous. Some are puzzled. Some resent the peculiarities of the field, how missing a shot by a few feet can leave your ball 100 feet away. And then some come and feel at home.
“I really don’t have the time to pinch myself that I had the first few years driving down Magnolia Lane,” Spieth said in November. “Now, like today, I went through that and said, ‘Huh I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. It was [just] the way to the club. It becomes more normal, which I think is good. … Once I get out on the property here and onto the golf course, I feel very comfortable. I know I came here playing well, I know I came here playing poorly and it hasn’t made much difference in a few years. So that requires a bit of that anxiety that you might have had. I don’t want to go so far as to call it anxiety. But it allows me to be a little more present, a little more patient. “
On Friday he offered Spieth a perfect Masters sequence. He made an especially frustrating bogey at No. 12, a hole he has a difficult relationship with: he made two birdies on the way to winning the Masters in 2015, and it cost him a replay in ’16 when he hit two balls at Rae’s Creek and hit a 7. This time, he put his tee shot on the edge of the bunker, one step, he said later, with a birdie look. Instead, the ball landed on a rake track. His putt pair was ruined. He sank his bogey putt, then tossed the ball into the stream.
“There are no fans there, a kid to throw it at or something like that,” he said. “There is no one there. I don’t want to look at that golf ball anymore, so I go to the water and then I go to another ball. “
His goal for Friday was to reach 4 under par, and he felt he had played better than his 1 under par score indicated. Spieth is the kind of passionate player who berates himself as he makes his way to the next tee. But it also burns fast. He navigated his tee shot at No. 13 into the trees on the right side of the street. He then grabbed a 3-stick and hit a perfect shot just before the green to set up a birdie.
“You look for moments that change the momentum,” he said afterward. “That was a good one for me.”
He would also go to birdies 15 and 17, to finish the last nine with four birdies and a bogey.
With Tiger Woods recovering from his car accident in February, there may be no one on the scene with a better understanding of how to play Augusta.
Reigning champion Dustin Johnson, who set the scoring record in November, missed the cut on Friday. DeChambeau is the fifth player in the world. This is your fifth teacher. But he said Thursday that he has yet to learn how to hit from Augusta’s downhill greens to uphill greens and from uphill greens to downhill greens. The best result of his career came in 2016, when he finished tied for 21st as the low amateur. In the first five Spieth Masters, he finished T2, 1, T2, T11, 3.
Understand when to be aggressive and when not to. “There are certain pins where we say, ‘Okay, this is where we’re trying to be in two,'” he said. “The left pin on [No.] 2, I’m not trying to get it on the green because it’s a harder two-putt from behind to the right than it is from 50 yards to the right of the green. There are only certain pins where we start to make adjustments. But there is a way to play every hole. If it’s firmer, you should back up a bit, and when it’s softer, you can throw it more at the pins. “
After the round, he said he thought the course would play more challenging on Saturday and Sunday. He seemed elated at the thought.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.