Stum­bles, er­rors by Jor­dan Spi­eth give op­por­tu­ni­ties to op­po­nents at Masters

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY AL­LAN KELLY

Jor­dan Spi­eth held at bay a gallery of golf­ing greats at the Masters for most of Satur­day’s third round be­fore a nervy fin­ish opened the door slightly for his clos­est ri­vals.

Lead­ing by a record-equal­ing five shots at the half­way stage of the year’s first ma­jor, Spi­eth had al­ready felt the heat from the likes of Rory McIl­roy and Tiger Woods even be­fore he teed off at Au­gusta Na­tional.

Then Phil Mick­el­son en­tered the fray with a triple-birdie blast early on that hauled the three-time for­mer win­ner into firm con­tention. Fi­nally, Eng­land’s Justin Rose came at him late in the day.

But they all needed Spi­eth to fal­ter and he gave few signs of do­ing that be­fore cough­ing up a dou­ble-bo­gey at the 17th.

By the end of the day, Spi­eth, with a two-un­der par 70 for a Masters-record 54-hole to­tal of 200, was four ahead of Rose, who had birdies at 16 and 18 for a 67.

Mick­el­son, who also had a 67, was alone in third on 205 with fel­low Amer­i­can Charley Hoffman a fur­ther stroke back af­ter a 71.

Woods and McIl­roy were on 210, 10 shots off the lead along with Dustin John­son (73), Kevin Streel­man (70) and Kevin Na (70).

Spi­eth had set Au­gusta Na­tional alight with open­ing rounds of 64 and 66 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 was the low­est­ever in 79 edi­tions of the year’s first ma­jor.

He was firmly in a win­ning po­si­tion, but re­mained aware that he still had 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.

Spi­eth Er­rors Open Door

A slip­pery five-footer brought a birdie at the sec­ond, but he mis­read his short putt at the fourth to record just his sec­ond bo­gey of the tour­na­ment.

A su­perb 22-footer for birdie at the par-three sixth was then fol­lowed by a poor bunker shot at the next that handed him a sec­ond bo­gey.

Hardly the kind of play that had stunned the gal­leries and his ri­vals in his su­perb open­ing rounds, but at that stage he was still where he was when he started the day — five shots ahead of the field.

Woods, Mick­el­son and McIl­roy all went out in 32 and the steady Hoffman was stub­bornly hold­ing on with a run of pars.

But Spi­eth kept them at arm’s length and then birdies at the 12th and 13th go­ing around Amen Cor­ner moved him fur­ther clear.

Short birdie putts at 15 and 16 in­creased his lead to seven shots, although he nipped a chip at the 17th for his third bo­gey of the round and then three putted for dou­ble-bo­gey at the next hole to leave the door ajar.

Four-time for­mer win­ner Mick­el­son, whose round of 67 in­cluded a stu­pen­dous 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th, said that af­ter a poor sea­son for him so far Au­gusta Na­tional at the week­end had once again brought out the best in him.

Woods, who came in with a 68 for his first back-to-back score in the 60s in a ma­jor since the 2012 Bri­tish Open, and first at the Masters since 2005, said he felt his fine play was not re­flected on his score­card.

The four-time for­mer win­ner, how­ever, had the sat­is­fac­tion of prov­ing he is start­ing to get his game back af­ter a wretched start to the year which forced him to take a self-im­posed time­out to work out what was go­ing wrong.

McIl­roy, who saw his hopes of be­com­ing just the sixth player to win all four ma­jors all but blown out of the wa­ter de­spite a 68, said that time was on his side to one day win at Au­gusta Na­tional.

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