After the hellfire of Thursday, it was a more pleasant Friday. And Jordan Spieth found it to his liking.
The world No. 1 is lurking at the Emirates Australian Open going into the weekend after he followed an opening-round 71 with a three-under par 68 today.
He is just four shots back from the lead held by hometown boy Matt Jones at seven-under par.
In his customary manner, the Texan picked his way around The Australian today, starting with a bombed birdie putt at the first hole. He made another birdie from mid-range at the par-three fourth hole, then another bomb at the par-four seventh and by the time he got up-and-down from beside the green at the par-five 14th hole to pick up another shot, he was within sight of the lead set up by Jones early in the day.
But Spieth tripped up at the 15th, sailing long and left and hitting a poor chip back to make his first bogey, then raged at himself (and possibly caddie Michael Greller) after a flared second shot at the par-four 16th. Another bogey set him back, but he cleaned up with two pure strikes at the par-five 18th for a fifth birdie of an excellent day.
He could be immensely difficult to stop at the weekend. Already the tournament has echoes of 2014, when he plotted his way through the field before exploding with a final-round 63.
Spieth said that for the second day in a row, the fluky winds made life difficult.
"It's the cross winds,'' he said. "It's a guessing game. You really have a 50-50 shot. We got less than 50 percent of it right today which is frustrating, because I really was striking the ball well. It was a round where I could have shot six or seven-under. I just didn't have any chances. A lot of shots were right at the pin, shots like nine and 10. In the middle of the round there I could've got something going.
"I saved myself when I got it wrong, but boy, it could've been. That's what was frustrating for me, because I finally felt that I got into a nice rhythm. I was hitting fairways, giving myself nice opportunities but we really couldn't gauge the wind. We couldn't gauge whether it was helping or hurting.''
The American gave an inkling into the frustration that saw him spin around in rage at the par-five fifth hole when he missed the green, and cuss at himself several other times. It sounded like a tough day for him and caddie Michael Greller, in particular with club selection.
"It's not local knowledge or anything. Today it started at east-south-east and then it worked its way to east-north-east and you're trying to figure out when that's actually happening. It makes a huge difference. I mean, you have hazards in play, and even though the wind wasn't as much of a factor as it was yesterday, when you have an eight iron in your hand and you misclub or you take the wrong one, you end up plugged in a bunker instead of putting from 10 feet. You gave away another opportunity and you end up having to save yourself. It's nothing we haven't seen before; it's just typically you don't see this much crosswind on golf courses. Today there was only a couple of holes — maybe one and two and one on the back nine — that wasn't straight sideways.''
Spieth said he liked his chances."I feel like I've still got the best golf yet, to be played. that's what's positive. That's what I'm going with.''