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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Compared to Thursday’s high-wire act, Jordan Spieth’s second round at his eighth Masters was as ho-hum as they come.
There were five birdies, only one of which (No. 17) featured a make of more than 7 feet, and a single bogey at the old arch enemy 12th hole. He was putting for birdie on 14 of 18 greens and playing from the fairway on 11 of 14 holes. If Friday was Baskin-Robbins, Spieth’s 68 would have been a big scoop of vanilla. Most players would cherish that kind of tedium, but not Spieth.
Spieth says he only wants boring rounds but that’s akin to a gambler who says he only wants safe bets. The 27-year-old relishes life in the margins and memories are rarely born from the mundane.
Just look at the green jacket he won and those he’s lost. The final round of his 2015 triumph was a study in his extremes – six birdies, four bogeys over a fitful final round. The next year he birdied four consecutive holes before the turn to take the lead and then imploded with a bogey-bogey-triple bogey start to his second nine.
On Friday it was again the 12th hole that got him. After dumping his tee shot into the front bunker, he blasted to 6 feet from a bad lie and missed the par putt before tossing his golf ball into Rae’s Creek.
“If any body of water is there, I'm going to throw it in the body of water and change to a new golf ball,” Spieth said. “I don't want to look at that golf ball anymore, so it goes into the water and then I go to another ball.”
Maybe it’s the emotion of the moment. Maybe it’s a heightened sense of accomplishment that comes with a round well-fought. Whatever it is, Spieth has always been more comfortable on the razor’s edge.
Even on the kind of cool and breezy Friday that reminds you of why they play this tournament in April and not, say, July or August, it was the hero stuff that he wanted to talk about. The make-it-up-as-you-go stuff like at the 13th hole after his drive sailed into the pines right of the fairway.
“My 3-wood out of the trees on 13, I just kind of punch cut a 3-wood that was a really nice shot, set up a really great angle to make birdie, and if it comes out the wrong way I can make 6,” he said. “You look for moments that turn momentum; that was a good one for me.”
Is that, turn momentum or ignite the imagination? It’s hard to say.
Just to prove the point, Spieth was asked how he plays Augusta National differently now compared to his first tour he took around the old fruit nursery in 2014. “I think I actually play maybe even a little more aggressively now than I did then,” he shrugged.
There was also a curious smirk when he was asked about the upcoming weekend and a forecast that promises to bring wind and rain and even more chaos.
“I'm happy that the golf course has the opportunity to play more and more difficult over the weekend,” he said. “Personally, I'm looking forward to that kind of challenge, and I think that could be an advantage to me if I'm in control of the ball.”
Had the pandemic not pushed last year’s Masters to the fall, Spieth probably wouldn’t have had the same edge. At this point last year, he was still searching for answers and something close to a repeatable swing. But all that has changed. Following months of trending in the right direction he won for the first time in more than three years on the PGA Tour last week in San Antonio and he arrived at Augusta National with a familiar swagger.
He’s not all the way back, but in Spieth’s twisted formula that only makes things more entertaining.
“I'm not in a place where I can say I'm standing up and just striping, but I'm in a place to where I've got it to where I can manage it and I can manage around this golf course,” he said.
With the degree of difficulty only increasing over the weekend that puts Spieth right where he wants to be – on the edge.