Spieth defends five-shot lead

2015-04-11 17:40
Jordan Spieth (AFP)

Augusta - Jordan Spieth carried a five-stroke lead into Masters weekend on Saturday, aiming to convert two days of inspired golf into a first major title at the tender age of 21.

The Texan has set Augusta National alight with two rounds that saw him record 15 birdies against just one bogey.

In so doing, he became the youngest player to lead the Masters after the first round, and his 130 halfway total is the lowest-ever in 79 editions of the year's first major.

He is firmly in a winning position, but remains aware that he still has much to do, as he learned last year when he led the Masters after 54 holes, but ended up tied for second behind Bubba Watson.

"Just like I've said each time every day, what I learned was patience," he said after his 66 in the second round.

"What I learned was that the weekend of a major, those rounds can often seem like two rounds in kind of the mental stuff that's running through your head; the stress levels, and sometimes they are higher.

"The hardest thing to do is put aside wanting to win so bad, and just kind of going through the motion and letting my ball striking and putting happen."

The closest to Spieth, and the player who will be his partner for Saturday in the final pairing, is Charley Hoffman, a unheralded 39-year-old American who is something of a late bloomer.

But further down the line there is a wealth of golfing talent ready to make a charge at the young Texan or profit from any faltering on his part.

Bunched on seven under, seven off the pace, are Dustin Johnson, who had an unprecedented three eagles on Friday, back-on-form Englishman Paul Casey and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose, also of England.

Three-time former winner Phil Mickelson is a further shot back and primed to pounce, while South African veteran Ernie Els is alone on 139.

The four-time major winner has been hugely impressed by Spieth, even watching video playback of his first round 64 to learn how to post a better score.

"At the moment he's doing unbelievably well," Els said. "But it's not over. Big weekend ahead, a lot of golf to be played."

Spieth is not due off until 20:55, but there will be plenty of mouthwatering action beforehand with both four-time former winner Tiger Woods and world number one Rory McIlroy in action.

Both reached the halfway stage on two-under par with Woods happy just to be competitive again after a wretched year so far and McIlroy wistful after seeing his chances of becoming just the sixth man to win all four major titles all but blown out of the water.

"You know, really, I would need to shoot a 14-under par weekend and Jordan would have to play a couple average rounds, and neither of those two things look like they're going to happen, so it's going to be tough," he said.

McIlroy was paired with defending champion Bubba Watson and Woods with old foe Sergio Garcia in two crowd-pulling duos.

Read more on:    masters  |  jordan spieth  |  golf

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