With the conditions toughening at TPC Sawgrass, it seemed unfathomable that any player would come close to catching Kaymer, who posted a three-under 69, 12-under total, on Friday morning. Well, never underestimate 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.
Spieth was spectacular in the second round, posting a bogey-free, six-under 66, 11-under total, to mow down Kaymer’s lead to just one stroke.
“Solid round tee to green,” said Spieth. “I felt like today was one of my best ballstriking days I’ve had in a long time.
“I wasn’t worried, just one little swing thought that I’ve been having the whole week, and from there drove the ball a lot better today as far as striking it on the middle of the face and put myself in a lot of great positions to make birdies, and there were quite a few wedges that I didn’t, but I definitely stole a few on top of that. Very stress-free, and I’d like to have a round like that the next two days.”
This is Spieth’s first start at The Players Championship, but he played the junior version several years ago (as a kid), but once again, he’s playing like a veteran. Similar to Augusta National, where Spieth finished in a tie for second last month, TPC Sawgrass isn’t usually hospitable to first-timers.
“I saw he was at 12,” Spieth said after carding a 66 for the day’s best round. “I didn’t think that that was going to be possible in the afternoon to catch that. Especially warming up when the wind started picking up. But we got fortunate, I think, with the wind. It was there, but it wasn’t really that much of a factor. So we could still hit certain shots.”
I walked with Spieth’s group on the back nine and he was phenomenal. He hit some spectacular shots and as well as his playing partners played — Zach Johnson (-4) and Graeme McDowell (-4) — Spieth made them almost look like weekend hacks by comparison.
On the difficult par-3 13th, it looked like Spieth’s tee shot with a 6-iron was going in the hole for a moment — it didn’t, but it certainly came very close.
“I thought it was going to be long when it landed, the way it was moving,” said Spieth, referring to that shot. “I thought it was going to be, not necessarily long, but roll a lot further left.
“But I just saw the replay in the booth and it was pretty close, which that would have been pretty exciting there. I would rather have it on 17, though.”
He rolled in the five-footer for birdie with ease. Then, moving onto the toughest hole on the course, the par-4 14th, Spieth hit a perfect drive down the middle, then from 184 yards, he once again hit a perfect 6-iron to three feet.
“I had 184, with a little wind off the left and into, from the fairway,” recalled Spieth. “It was the same exact shot I hit on 13 with a 6iron. So it’s playing 190 or a little more and you try and land it just short. So couldn’t ask for a better number.
“I was trying to go a little right of the hole and I hit a little draw and thought the wind would hold it up and it kept turning right at it. So it was a nice break to land and roll to pin high, because it was a very tricky pin with quite a bit of slope around the hole.”
Spieth remains the only player in the field without a bogey at the halfway mark of the tournament.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “I think that would be a great goal going into tomorrow is to try and stay that way.”
Spieth credits his feel around the greens — he’s only missed 10 greens and he’s yet to fail to get up-and-down. And yes, that makes him 100% in scrambling and he obviously leads the field in that stat, too.
“I think that the fact that I feel very comfortable chipping around these greens makes it a lot easier to hit the second shots in, knowing that I can be a little more aggressive, ” said Spieth. “I don’t have to play to 30 feet, which is what I started to do in the middle of the round in the back nine here and I made mistakes, like number 10, where I went over the green.
“But even with a chip that was off there, I was able to make the putt. Same with 9. I could play a little more aggressive golf being comfortable around the greens.”
Spieth simply made it look easy to shoot 66 at Sawgrass on Friday. He’s showing that age really isn’t anything but a number. (Well, he’s not the norm.)
“Doesn’t really bother me,” said Spieth when asked about constantly being labeled as a 20-year-old. “It was 19-year-old last year, so I’m actually curious how long it will go before they think I’m too old.”
That depends on when the next young phenom catches our attention, but for now, it’s all about 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)