Jordan Spieth resumed his rollicking ride all around defenseless Augusta National on Friday, a memorable journey that left the 21-year-old Texan with a Masters record 36-hole score and his closest pursuer five shots behind going into what is shaping up as a historic weekend at the storied venue.
After becoming the youngest first-round leader with a Thursday 8-under-par 64, Spieth on Friday kept firing at flags tucked in the usual precarious places and fearlessly posted a second-round, bogey-free 6-under 66. With a 10-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole, he went to 14-under for the tournament, a shot better than Raymond Floyd’s previous record 13-under in 1976. Then he finished with three consecutive pars for a record two-day total of 130, with 15 birdies and just one bogey on his first 36 holes.
“It’s cool” was Spieth’s immediate reaction to his 36-hole mark, not to mention all those standing ovations from galleries sitting near every green as he made his way around this warm, breezy day. Augusta’s putting surfaces again were soft and receptive and a tad slower than usual, but only Spieth was able to take full advantage. Still, he insisted, he’s not even thinking about Sunday and a green jacket that eluded him when he tied for second in 2014.
“What I learned was patience,” Spieth said. “What I learned was the weekend of a major, those rounds can often seem like two rounds with the kind of mental stuff that’s running through your head. The stress levels, sometimes they’re higher. This is only the halfway point. I’m not going to get ahead of myself. These next two days are going to feel like a whole other tournament.”
Californian Charley Hoffman, like Spieth also playing his second Masters, stayed semi-close. After his only bogey at 18, he managed a 68 for solo second and a 36-hole total of 135, allowing him to play with Spieth in the final group Saturday.
When Spieth completed play in midafternoon, aside from Hoffman, no one else was closer than nine shots, with 45-year-old Ernie Els (72) in at 5-under 139.
Later in the afternoon, Dustin Johnson made a rousing run with his own 67, with a double bogey at the first offset by three eagles — a Masters one-round record — and a birdie on the four par 5s. He’s at 7-under 137, seven behind and tied for third with Englishmen Justin Rose (70) and Paul Casey (68). Phil Mickelson, with four late back-nine birdies, is at 6-under 138 after a 68.
One of the happiest players on the property had to be Miami’s Erik Compton, who made the cut by a shot in his first Masters. Just as he did on Thursday, the 35-year-old who has had two heart transplants began with a dozen consecutive pars. When he finally made a two-foot birdie putt at 13, he raised both arms in mock triumph, celebrating only his second birdie this week. He added a third with a 20-footer at 17 and had even-par 72, leaving him at 1-over 145.
“The course isn’t giving me anything, it’s hard work out there,” he said. “I haven’t had any lucky putts or big breaks, just something to get the round going. But if I have a good weekend, I think I can still have a good showing, maybe get in the top 10.”
Tiger Woods continued to show significant signs of regaining his short game after taking off the past two months. He shot 69, his first Masters score in the 60s since the final round in 2011, and was at 2-under 142, trailing by a dozen.
Irishman Rory McIlroy, trying to complete a career Grand Slam at age 25, will have to go oh-so-low on the weekend to achieve that heady goal. He had three bogeys and a double at No 9 for a front-nine 40, rallied on the back with a 31 but ended at 2-under 142, also 12 behind.
Els, for one, was was hardly prepared to concede anything just yet.
“Obviously, we were watching [Spieth], and it’s very impressive,” he said. “He’s on, and the greens are holding. But it’s a long, long way from being finished. A lot of work to be done. … I think experience will help me over the weekend because I’ve seen what can happen.”
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Charley Hoffman
T3. Justin Rose
T3. Dustin Johnson
T3. Paul Casey
6. Phil Mickelson
7. Ernie Els
Third round: 3 p.m., CBS