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