AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth already has proven to be a quick study.
A PGA Tour winner before he even had a card. The youngest American to play in the Presidents Cup. And in his first appearance at the Masters, the 20-year-old Texan looks like he’s been playing here most of his life.
Spieth joined the mix at the Masters on Friday with an 8-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th, and a shot that settled within tap-in range for birdie on the 18th hole. That gave him a 2-under 70 and left him only four shots behind going into the weekend.
Is anyone surprised by this? Spieth sure wasn’t.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve been playing against these guys, and this caliber field, World Golf Championships and other major championships. So I felt like if I could get my game right and really handle myself mentally, then I could have an opportunity to be in contention. That’s where I’m at now, and a lot of work to do.”
Spieth played in the other three majors last summer, missing the cut in two of them.
The Masters was his favorite major as a kid, and one of his mentors is two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.
“This was a big goal of mine this year, to get in contention at a major,” Spieth said. “And the Masters being the one that I dreamt about since I was who knows how old, that’s going to leave more emotion out there. Mr. Crenshaw says it best. The Masters brings out emotion in guys that aren’t emotional.
“I’m already emotional and I got to keep it on the down low.”
Spieth, the John Deere Classic winner last year, held it together late when he got into trouble off the tee at the 17th. Instead of playing a risky shot toward the green, he played back to the fairway, hit wedge to about 15 feet and missed his par putt. That’s OK. His goal for the week is to make nothing worse than a bogey.
And at 3-under 141 thanks to the birdie on the 18th, he was well within range of Bubba Watson.
“Bubba is tearing it up. So we’ve got to go get him,” Spieth said with the bravado of a Texan still not old enough to drink.
Saturday figures to be his biggest test yet. Spieth doesn’t think contention counts until the back nine Sunday. Next up is a pairing with Adam Scott, the defending champion. Then again, the first time Spieth played with one of golf’s biggest stars was at the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. He was paired with Phil Mickelson and shot 62. He played for the first time with Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines earlier this year and shot nine shots better.
No one has won the Masters in his first try in 35 years.
“I can see why experience pays off,” Spieth said. “Ultimately, if you’re playing extremely well and you get the right breaks, then it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your 50th. I think that you can win out here.”