Masters 2015 report: Calm and collected Jordan Spieth rewrites history to tighten grip on Augusta lead

Spieth was operating on a different level on day two

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The Independent Online

At some point the conventional 21-year-old inside Jordan Spieth might make himself known. You know the one, callow, tentative, insecure. At least that is how the field must have felt as Spieth continued his remarkable rampage across Augusta National.

His second-round 66 to reach 14 under par set a new 36-hole record at the Masters and equalled the lowest half way total in all majors. Only eight players had hitherto reached 12 under or better after 36 holes in the history of major golf. Greg Norman, twice, is the only one not to convert that start into victory.

Spieth has turned the tournament into a Tiger who? event, and believe me that is some achievement given the overwhelming nature of the Woods obsession, which obliterated interest in almost everything else until this kid engaged the afterburners.

He is cloaked in an atmosphere of preternatural calm and emits an aura that is beginning to control the environment. His rivals see him coming and already know what to expect. That is serious Tiger territory.

Playing partner Billy Horschel remarked that a tape recorder would be handy on the default setting “nice hole, Jordan”. Humour was his way of dealing with the erosion of his prospects as Spieth went about the dismantling of a difficult golf course.

On Friday, as Spieth strode out on to the practice range an hour before his 10am tee-time he was applauded by the players as well as the galleries. This is the star-making process in real time, the new face of American golf being carved out of Masters stone before our very eyes.

Three wins in his last 11 starts, successive runner-up finishes leading into this event, Spieth has been on fire since the 63 he posted on the final day to win by six strokes an Australian Open last November with Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott in the field.

McIlroy, who closed 15 shots adrift then, said he could not imagine shooting a 63 that day around the Australian Golf Club in Sydney had he had 10 attempts.

Clearly a legend was forming. But again, Spieth is only 21. Ripping out of the first day at Augusta and ambushing the field is one thing. Defending a position another. Or, rather, it is supposed to be. This was the challenge facing Spieth on Friday, to shoot the lights out two days running with expectation doubling the loading.

And boy, did he deliver, establishing a five-stroke lead over Charlie Hoffman, who himself carded a fine second-round 68. “I was just excited to be off to a great start,  having a chance to control my destiny in this golf tournament,” he said. “Any time you can set a record here is pretty awesome. I’m very excited.

“To have one bogey through 36 holes on this track means that I’m putting well,” Spieth added. “I’ve just got to keep my head down and find greens in regulation so that I can continue to have looks. What happened in the last couple days doesn’t mean anything unless I can close it out. I don’t want to go in as the 36 hole best, but somebody who didn’t win.”

Spieth had the scoreboard turning at the second, a doddle for these boys as long as you avoid trouble of the tee. Someone will need to explain to Spieth the meaning of that concept since he has been nowhere near it. The birdie took him to nine under par.

The third and fourth passed in routine fashion taking the group to one of the hardest holes on the course, the fifth, which has a landing area on the green the size of a saucer. Horschel was in the bushes off the tee and somehow scrambled his par. Henrik Stenson lagged a 50-footer to claim his leaving Spieth alone to shoot for his birdie from 12 feet.

The pin, tucked at the back of the green to make things notionally more difficult, must have known what was coming. The cup seemed to double in circumference as Spieth’s ball rolled across the surface before disappearing. Ten under.

Spieth salutes the crowd after picking up a birdie at the second hole

Justin Rose, who was five under with six to play, claimed par was the benchmark through the first seven holes. If you survive them in one piece you have a chance to nick some birdies. Spieth was disappointed not to be three-under walking to the eighth tee, looking on in disbelief as his birdie effort form six feet at the seventh stayed up.

Never mind, he would claim his due at the par-five eighth, the birdie coming despite finding sand off the tee. Thus Spieth reached the turn on 11 under par, four clear of his nearest rival. McIlroy, who felt he was in decent shape after signing for his 71 on the opening day, was going backwards under the scale of the deficit, reaching the turn one inside the projected cut mark on one over par.

Spieth is operating on a different level, playing a separate tournament to the rest. Ernie Els struggled to build on his opening 67, which is common in this game, closing with a 72 to stay five under. The tension grows, tightening limbs and rushing all manner of thoughts into the mind.

McIlroy reacts to a poor shot on the fifth

There was nothing in Spieth’s head but golf. The next birdie, his fourth of the day, came on the tenth, where it all began to unravel for McIlroy four years ago. The 18-footer never looked like missing. The game is not supposed to be this easy.

He was an inch from extending his advantage at the 11th, the brutal entrance to Amen Corner. The cheers he received at the 12th sounded like a coronation. There was still time for it all to go horribly wrong, after all, the epic collapse is as much a part of the story at this tournament as the back-nine assault.

We are not there yet. Spieth looks like a storm that might rage all four days. Last year he led after 54 holes but could not close it out. He might shoot 80 on Sunday and still win. That’s how good he’s been these past two days.