Date: April 12, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Spieth holds his nerve — and records

Should Jordan Spieth go on to win his first Masters tomorrow, it will boil back to 10 zany minutes to end his third round.

The Texan, collecting records like Molly Meldrum in the 1970s, seemingly had the green jacket within reach when he holed out on the 16th for his seventh birdie of another stellar round.

He was then pin-high right of the 17th green after a smart second to mitigate the damage of a pulled drive.

But one flubbed pitch and a couple of errant putts later, the tailor in Butler’s Cabin put down the needle he’d nursed for more than 36 holes.

Spieth’s first double-bogey of the week came from nowhere and the seven-shot lead he’d built with his record 22nd birdie inside 54 holes was five.

Enter Justin Rose, the former US Open champ who has played holes 12-18 this week a combined 10 under. The Englishman dropped an unlikely birdie on the last and the lead was suddenly four.

Spieth's drive up 18 showed no signs of the drama ahead, but the carved second right of the trap that left him short-sided suddenly created the possibility of a two-shot buffer; the likelihood of three.

But as quickly as the doubts had risen, so did they dissipate with one of the greatest flop shots witnessed on the hallowed Augusta National turf.

Spieth flew the trap, cushioned the landing on the fringe and let the ball trickle down to 3m from where he calmly stroked a curling par putt dead centre.

Extraordinary. Even by his lofty standards of this week.

The par four left the Emirates Australian Open champ to sign for a 70 and a -16 total – the lowest 54-hole mark in Masters history, supplanting Tiger Woods in 2005 and Ray Floyd’s 1976 heroics. Both went on to win the following day.

At times, Spieth had the ball on a string; his majestic finishing surely leaving playing partner Charley Hoffman (-10 after a 71) bewildered.

And all of it occurred while golf’s biggest names charged from behind. Tiger Woods shot a 68, as did Rory McIlroy, although both threatened better and will be paired in tomorrow’s third-last group.

Phil Mickelson (-11) was inspired before his own bogey on 17 and lipped-out birdie putt on 18 made him settle for a 67, while Rose (-12) was scintillating late in recording the same score.

Only time will tell if one of those major champions will be able to turn the screws again on Spieth.

But if he holds his nerve as he did on 18 today, the point will be moot and more records cast aside.

The only thing for sure is that there will be no second green jacket for Australia after all four players today scrambled rather than soared.

Again, there were glimpses of brilliance from Jason Day (-4 after a 71), Adam Scott (-1 after a 74), Geoff Ogilvy (+1 after a 73 and John Senden (+1 after a 72).

But just when it seemed each had a run going, the all-too-frequent mishap blocked the next step.

Even on the last hole, Day had a laser approach bounce off the pin and roll 20m away. It was just one of those rounds.

Scott made a double-bogey up the last to slide into black numbers after he’d been five under early before some uncharacteristic errors, including finding the water on the 16th with his approach to the 15th, costing him a bogey where he’d been thinking eagle.

Senden rammed home an eagle of his own on 13 after giving up several early bogeys, while Ogilvy’s putting battles continued and a bogey-bogey finish didn’t do justice to his ball-striking again.

There aren’t many stories this week that will tie Spieth with Ogilvy – but here’s a stat that shows exactly why both occupy their present positions.

Spieth has averaged 1.48 putts per hole this week compared to 1.74 for Ogilvy — more than a quarter of a shot per hole.

Over 54 holes that equates to a mammoth 13 strokes and they’re separated by 17.

Enough said.