Jordan Spieth trying to do Tiger Woods one better at the Masters

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Jordan Spieth walks with his caddie Michael Greller to the sixth green during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – At 6:22 p.m. Saturday, with the shadows stretching across these manicured Georgia hills, a red five was slipped into Bubba Watson's column on the big, hand-run scoreboard that faces the 18th green at Augusta National, signifying a recently recorded bogey.

Jordan Spieth still had to putt out on 18, but at that moment, sitting five under himself, he was officially a co-leader of the Masters. He was, of course, a 20-year-old in his first appearance in the most pressurized tournament in the game, the one that's supposed to send kids far older and more experienced than him home in a humbled heap.

Instead Spieth was marching unflappably around the 18th green with his typical pace (fast) and typical purpose (focused) like this was still Brook Hollow back in Dallas with his boyhood friends or the University of Texas Club in Austin with college buddies.

Up in the crowded gallery, his brother Steven was repeating Happy Gilmore lines – "nice and easy … that was not nice and easy" – while his dad Shawn marveled at the entire thing, his boy just blasting through Augusta like he always promised he would, turning this tournament on its side.

"It's one thing to hear his name called out in Texas or somewhere else," Shawn said. "It sounds a little different here."

Or at least it's supposed to. Jordan would soon par out on 18 to card a third-round 70 and put himself in the final group Sunday with Watson, the 2012 champion. The Spieths pumped their fists and high-fived friends before Shawn noted, "I know it will be a big night of sleep on Sunday because we won't get much tonight."

Don't count Jordan in on that. He didn't look stressed. He was already noting that he was planning on greeting Bubba on Sunday with a "Mr. Watson," in part out of habit and respect, but mostly "because it'll mess with him."

"That's fine," Watson said of a kid he knows and likes a lot, before joking. "When I'm hitting it past him …"

None of this is to say Jordan isn't nervous, or was nervous, or won't be nervous. It's just that he's fine with all of it. He covets it actually. The nerves are the fun part.

Final grouping at the Masters isn't something to fear, he figures, even at his age. It's something to appreciate. It was inevitable anyway, he figures, his destiny since he decided to take the game seriously. He isn't running from this spotlight; it's exactly why he entered the tournament, after all, why he dropped out of UT after just one year, and against his parents concerns. He didn't become a golf pro to not win the Masters.

He twice won the U.S. Amateur, something only Tiger Woods accomplished. He wanted to turn pro after one year (2011-12) at Texas, but his parents insisted on an extra, final semester. In December 2012, at 19, they couldn't hold him back any longer. Months later he won the John Deere Classic for his first tour win and was the 2013 PGA Tour rookie of the year.

[Slideshow: Moving day at the Masters]

Now in his first Masters, he's 18 holes from everything.

"He's young," Watson said. "Nerves are no big deal to him."

It's not that Spieth doesn't understand the stage or the stakes. It's the exact opposite. Augusta National is "heaven on earth," he said. "This is the place I've always dreamed of."

He talked about watching as a kid. "You draw on memories of guys that have made the putts on the last hole," he said. "From Phil to Tiger to last year with Adam [Scott] on 18 and then on 10. You just dream of what it would mean and how cool it would be.

"All those putts I hit when I was real young with my friends trying to make it to win the Masters," he continued. "You know, I would love the opportunity to test it tomorrow."

To say this is a different kind of 20-year-old is an understatement. Shawn just shrugs. This is why he was in a rush to do everything, including turn pro. "He was always a kid that wanted to take things to the next level," his father explained.

Sunday at the Masters is the final level.

The control that Spieth exhibited Saturday was the stuff of legend, not just in shot making, but knowing when to push and when to back off. He said the course was set-up so hard, with such fast greens, that there was nothing to do but respect it. A year ago he watched on television as Scott calmly won the Masters. The year before he watched Watson do the same.

Saturday he had a front-row seat as Scott, his playing partner, crumbled against brutally challenging conditions, while up on the scoreboard he knew Watson was doing the same, backing up to the field. Yet he, the kid, rolled on. So what's to fear? "Just gave me more confidence," he said.

On 13, he hit it into the pine straw and found a second shot with just a tiny window through the branches, the green far in the distance. He blasted out like he had nothing to lose, a video game shot. Yet on 15, in a similar spot, he calmly talked it over with his caddie and smartly played up in front of the water that fronts the green.

"I want to go at the pin [on every hole]," he said after his round, "but you can't do that here."

His first three rounds here have all be under par. His first goal was making the cut. Then on moving day he achieved his next idea – getting in position to contend – mainly because that's the next step.

"I wanted to get into contention not just as a goal to get into contention," he said, "but to see how I can perform on a Sunday. … [It's now] about seeing how I can control my emotions out on the golf course against guys that have won here recently."

So he is 20, looks 20 and talks 40.

"He's like a veteran," Watson said.

"Just excited," Spieth said. "I'm not nervous right now. I mean, I'm sure I will be and I will be throughout the entire round tomorrow, but I was today as well."

He was ready to head to the house nearby that he rented. His parents are staying there. His brother, too. A bunch of friends from Texas are around. They expected a lot of joking around and story telling Saturday night, maybe a ping pong tournament, definitely shooting some pool. Just no talk of the tournament, no highlights on television.

That's been the system all week that's helped him play himself to the verge of history, a year younger, and with two less years of college, than even Woods – the youngest Masters winner ever – when he won his first green jacket.

"With Jordan, it's always 'next shot,'  " his father said. "Once he gets going, then onto the next shot."

Next shot, next step, next challenge, next championship.

Fifty-four holes into the Masters, the sun fading, the pressure rising, and Jordan Spieth could look up and see his recently teenage name atop that famed leaderboard.

"No matter what," he noted, "I control my own destiny."

There's nothing new about that.