Masters 2015: Jordan Spieth's cool assurance suggests he is ready to stare down Rory McIlroy

There is a real sense that we are about to observe the McIlroy v Spieth show at Augusta

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The Independent Online

It was Jordan Spieth’s fearlessness in discussing what had just gone wrong for him which illustrated precisely what Rory McIlroy will be up against here.

The 21-year American’s putting had gone haywire out there under the pines, and here he was talking all about it at his last pre-Masters press conference. “Well, I’d like to say I feel comfortable, but each putt I’ve hit so far in the practice round, I’ve hit at least eight feet by; whether it’s a four-footer or an 18-footer or a putt across the green. I’m underestimating them right now. I need to just get that down. That can be worked on, on the practice green. I feel comfortable with the amount of break needed to be played…”

This kind of discussion is about as far removed from McIlroy as you are likely to find. If his own putting had disintegrated – and it is an aspect of his game that might be tested beyond breaking in the four days ahead – then you would not find him disclosing it at a press conference, let alone laughing it away.

 

But that is the way Spieth seems to be made. He is in possession of an iron self-assurance – though it is not bombast – further fortified after the narrow play-off defeat to J B Holmes in the Shell Houston Open last week. His last three starts have given him first, second and second finishes. There is a real sense that we are about to observe the McIlroy v Spieth show.

His mentor and fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw – or “Mr Crenshaw”, as Spieth described him when discussing the  63-year-old – defined him best. “I think one of the really wonderful things that I really do like about him, he’s got competitive fire,” Crenshaw said. “You can see it. I think he carries that off in a great fashion. He doesn’t go out of hand, but he just seems to be moving forward in the game. You know, when I first met him, I tell you, I’ll never forget it. I looked right at him and he looked at me and I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp.”

There was something of the Woods about the way Spieth barked at the spectator whose camera or phone he suggested had distracted him in the play-off at Houston – though he later acknowledged that his failure to come through was of his own doing.

Spieth’s position as a favourite is, of course, borne of the way he almost accomplished one of the greatest wins in Masters history last year, leading by two strokes after 54 holes before Bubba Watson’s masterclass prevented him breaking Tiger Woods’ record as the youngest Augusta champion. It fell apart for him at the eighth hole on the Sunday last year, and here he described the detailed work he had done back there.

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Spieth’s press conference included a memorable discussion of whether he might have been in nappies when Woods won the Masters in 1997. “I can’t confirm that. I’m embarrassed; I just came out of [nappies] a couple years ago. So I probably was,” he replied, deadpan.

When McIlroy had sat down to talk in the same seat an hour earlier, it had been anything but this sense of a man holding court. The Northern Irishman looked subdued; so subdued that you wondered if some calamity with the putter had just befallen him.

There would have been no way of telling. When the miasma of fascination with Woods falls away and the golf finally begins, Spieth looks like the one most ready to extend the European drought into a 16th year.

“He has things together,” Crenshaw said. “I’m sure it has struck all of you that he’s way mature beyond his years. He has an innate ability to score. He hits the ball definitely far enough. He does things.”

Eisenhower Tree set to return to 17th hole

The famous Eisenhower Tree that used to be on the 17th hole at Augusta National could return.

The 65ft loblolly pine was around 210 yards from the tee on the left-hand side of the par-four hole and named after former President Dwight D Eisenhower, who hit it so often that he asked, unsuccessfully, for it to be removed.

It was eventually removed  in February last year after suffering serious damage in an ice storm, but Augusta chairman Billy Payne has hinted that a new version is being developed after two grafts and a seedling from the original were preserved.

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