NOW HEAR THIS
Spieth brings his own roars to Augusta with a record 36 holes
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Three women were walking among the massive crowds surrounding the 18th green here Friday when one of them spotted a purple shirt in the distance and stopped.
“Wait,” she said. “I want to hear this.”
Jordan Spieth was walking up the 18th fairway and, yeah, by midafternoon on a day he set humid Augusta National ablaze, it wasn’t about the sights but the sounds.
There were constant roars that echoed from here to South Carolina. There were standing ovations that knocked over plastic cups and toppled a lawn chair. There was the symphony of youthful energy and possibility that rattled the pines, loosened the green jackets and turned the Masters atmosphere into a different kind of air Jordan.
“Fantastic . . . it just got bigger and bigger . . . something you can only dream about,” Spieth said of the cheers, but he could have also been talking about the moment, which began in curiosity and ended in history.
This 21-year-old Texas phenom, who merely led the Masters after the first day, absolutely owned it after the second, shooting a six-under-par 66 to set a Masters 36-hole record with a 14-under 130.
He leads by five strokes. He
has one bogey. He has zero three-putts. He has missed only eight greens in regulation.
“He’s on,” said Ernie Els, whose tone of amazement adds to the cacophony being created by the kid.
There was the sound of youth. On virtually every hole, Spieth gave a speech to the most unusual recipient. He talks to his golf ball.
“Sit down, sit down!” he shouted.
“C’mon, hit the wind, hit the wind!” he cried.
He pleaded for his tee shots to curl and for his approach shots to slow. He looked at the ball while begging it to behave. He talks so much he’s becoming embarrassed by it.
“I guess it’s just the competitor in me, just wanting it sometimes,” he said. “I’d like to think I don’t do it the most of anybody, but if that’s the case then maybe I should dial it down a little bit.”
To which his brother Steven, a Brown University basketball player watching from the gallery, offered this reminder: “Hey, the ball’s listening.” Spieth is also about the sound of family, as his parents, his grandfather and his longtime girlfriend joined Steven waiting for him behind the 18th green, as if hanging out for the start of a picnic. Back home, his 14year-old sister Ellie, born with an undiagnosed neurological disorder and with the mental capacity of a 5-yearold, was cheering him through video and Face Time.
It is this family who supported him when, as a child, he mowed a “green” into the front yard of his family’s Dallas-area home and would chip to it from nearby yards, breaking windows twice. It is this family who remains his cornerstone even as he moved swiftly into golf ’s elite.
Spieth is a two-time U.S Junior Amateur champion, the only one besides Tiger Woods. He won an NCAA title at Texas. He was the third-youngest player to win multiple PGA Tour events, and has one victory and two second-place finishes in his previous three tournaments. Oh yeah, and he’s also the world’s fourth-ranked golfer with a second-place finish in his first Masters last year.
Yet he still lives just 10 minutes from his parents’ home. He still brings over his dirty laundry. And, before every round, his mother still reminds him to put on sunscreen.
“We don’t mind the laundry,” his father Shawn said with a grin. “It gives us a chance to see him.”
Ellie gives him a more rare form of inspiration, as he finds it hard to stress over his golf when he watches her handle daily challenges with dignity and grace.
“It’s humbling to see her and her friends and the struggles they go through each day,” he said. “But at the same time, they are the happiest people in the world.”
From the sounds of youth and family have come the chorus of impending greatness, which surrounded Spieth on Friday when his dominance fueled belief that he could become only the second golfer in 30 years to turn a first-round lead into a tournament victory.
Spieth was so calmly precise it was as if he was playing a different tournament on a different course. By the end of the round, fans weren’t even waiting for him to reach the green before acknowledging their appreciation. Fans were raining down cheers on the empty green itself, giving huge ovations to his ball.
“It’s almost indescribable to see him up there,” Steven said as he turned his 6-foot-6 frame back toward the giant 18th-hole scoreboard where Spieth’s red “14” dwarfed every other score, including the red “9” marking secondplace Charley Hoffman.
A little farther from the scoreboard’s shadow, father Shawn shrugged.
“It’s a little surprising,” he said. “I’m not shocked, but the process might be happening faster than anybody expected.”
It is a process born of his final-round struggles here last year against Bubba Watson. Remember how Spieth actually led by two strokes on the front nine? Remember how he got too aggressive and allowed Watson to steal it?
Spieth remembers. His family remembers. And, yes, his caddie, Michael Greller, a former sixth-grade science and math teacher, remembers.
On the 13th hole Friday, after putting his tee shot into the pine straw, Spieth clearly wanted to attempt to knock a shot 243 yards over Rae’s Creek and on to the green. But Greller stopped him.
“No point in pushing it,” Greller said.
“I’m with ya, I’m with ya,” Spieth said before laying up and then finishing off a birdie on the par-five.
It is this sort of patience and calm that makes Spieth the overwhelming favorite to hold off a leaderboard that includes former major winners Justin Rose at seven strokes back, and Phil Mickelson eight back.
Said his father: “He’s got a little different demeanor this year. He’s walking more comfortable, a little slower.”
Said Spieth: “It’s cool. I just need to keep my head down and find greens in regulation.”
He might indeed have a chill weekend. It will certainly be a noisy one.
THAT SCOREBOARD NEEDS to be updated: Jordan Spieth just went to 14 under par with a birdie on the 15th hole. The runner-up at Augusta National last year as a 20-year-old, Spieth has a number of tournament records within his reach.
JORDAN SPIETH DIDN’T miss much during the second round, but he failed to make a birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 66.