A day after almost tying the course record and lowest score at a major championship by posting an eight-under 64, Jordan Spieth followed it up by breaking the Masters tournament 36-hole scoring record. The 21-year-old Texan fired an impressive bogey-free, six-under 66 to post 14-under or 130 at the halfway mark, which was one shot better than the previous best set by Raymond Floyd in 1976.
Spieth’s score also ties the lowest 36-hole score in the history of major championships. Martin Kaymer (2014 U.S. Open), Brandt Snedeker (2012 British Open) and Nick Faldo (1992 British Open) shot 130, as well. Kaymer and Faldo ended up winning their tournaments.
Spieth might very well be en route to running away with his first major championship, separating himself from the field, with the next closest competitor, Charley Hoffman, trailing by five shots.
“As far as history and what happened the last couple days, doesn’t mean anything, unless I can close it out,” he said. “I don’t want to go in as the 36-hole best record, but somebody who didn’t win. I just need to set a goal for myself, continue to strike the ball the way we have been and try and shoot under par rounds on this weekend.”
In his last three starts on the PGA Tour, Spieth won the Valspar Championship, finished second at the Valero Texas Open and lost in a three-man playoff to place T2 at the Shell Houston Open. He’s obviously continuing his hot streak at Augusta National, but knows he has his work cut out for him. Last year in his Masters debut, Spieth entered the final round at the top of the leaderboard, along with the eventual champion Bubba Watson, and wound up placing tied for second. However, for a time on the front nine, he held what felt like a commanding lead. Though Spieth wasn’t able to close the deal, he learned from the experience and will draw from it going into the weekend.
“What I learned was patience,” said Spieth. “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 whatever ‑‑ letting my ball striking and putting happen.
“I got off to a great start and had a chance to win last year on Sunday. I’d like to have that same opportunity this year. Again, this is only the halfway point and I’m aware of that. Not going to get ahead of myself and I’m going to try and stay in the moment and very patient these last two days and understand it’s going to feel like a whole ‘nother tournament.”
What does he mean by that?
“I meant each round on the weekend of a major in contention can a lot of times feel like you’re playing almost two rounds in one, just given whatever,” said Spieth.
“It just feels like it’s a long day and you just can’t get too up or down at the beginning of the day, the first nine holes, with whatever’s going on, and understand that at a place like Augusta National and a tournament like this that there’s a lot of stuff that can happen, a lot of lead changes can happen. Holes can lend birdies and they can lend double‑bogeys.
“So you just have to really be patient, not try and force anything, and allow the angles to play themselves out. When I say that, I mean, allow myself to hit these shots on the par 5s, like I have been the last couple days, in the right spot to have the right angle into to the green to have a really easy pitch where the worst I’m going to make is par.
“I meant that you can get ahead of yourself and it can feel like it’s two rounds in one.”
Wait, this kid is barely old enough to buy alcohol? Since he hit the scene at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he finished 16th, he has always been mature beyond his years.
Spieth has only made one bogey in 36 holes. One of the keys to his success has been making important putts inside 10 feet. On the first hole, he rolled in a four-footer for par. He also holed a seven-footer on the par-4 3rd and then a three-footer on the par-3 4th. Each of those putts were significant saves and helped continue his momentum.
“I’m putting well and putting from short distances well,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep my head down and find greens in regulation so that I can continue to have looks. I’m getting some putts from mid‑range to go, and I don’t really need to force anything.”
So far, Augusta National has yet to show its real teeth. The golf course has played soft and receptive the past two rounds, but you can be sure that will change over the weekend when the green jackets pump up the sub-air system to get the greens firmer, making it tougher and more challenging.
Spieth, however, is prepared for the test and plans to stick to his game plan.
“I need to not be focused on anybody else, no scoreboard watching, set a goal and understand that the course is going to be harder and have that affect my goal going in, and then just try to strike the ball the same way I have,” he said.
“I know where to hit it to the best pin positions and I know where the best leaves are, and I really need to pinpoint those spots and work on my speed control on the greens.”
Random aside: By my guesstimate, Spieth drew a larger gallery on the first tee — and throughout the day — than Tiger Woods, which was kind of cool to see because it felt like it represented a changing of the guard. Now, the question is whether the kid can close out over the weekend for the biggest victory of his young career. My money is on Jordan.