Date: April 10, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Spieth makes history, flirts with record

Australian Open champion Jordan Spieth has re-written the history books, becoming the youngest first-round leader of the Masters.

And while Queenslander Jason Day made a late charge to be tied second among a swag of superstars, the day belonged to the white-hot Texan.

Spieth, not 22 until late July, bettered Rory McIlroy’s 2011 mark by almost three months after shooting an eight-under-par 64 to lead by three strokes on a perfect day for scoring.

The Texan, who so brilliantly won the Emirates Australian Open in November, has been on a tear since, surging to No.4 in the world with a string of wins and top-10 finishes in the United States.

And he didn’t let that form go to waste today, carving up the revered Augusta National with nine imperious birdies to fire his 13th consecutive sub-par round on the US PGA Tour.

Only an uncharacteristically sloppy bogey on the relatively easy par-5 15th prevented an assault on the major championship record of 63.

But it was still good enough to establish a three-shot lead over Day, Ernie Els, Charley Hoffman and Justin Rose at five under.

“I certainly played well. I was excited about how I struck the ball,” Spieth said.

“I gave myself some looks early and got off to a good start which is sometimes the hardest part of this tournament.

“Then to have it keep on going and a couple (of breaks) go my way in the middle of the round, to bring it up to a really good number, I’m excited about the start.”

Spieth birdied the second and fourth holes, then got his first good break on the seventh when his leaked drive gave him a direct shot at the pin through a funnel of trees.

Birdies at the eighth, ninth and 10th were followed by another on 12 when he thought he’d pushed the putt only for it drop again.

He blocked another drive right on the 13th, but watched in delight as it crashed into a tree and ricocheted back into the middle of the fairway.

The only mishap came on 15 after a precision drive left him between clubs for his approach to one of the great risk-reward par-5s.

“I was between hybrid and four-iron and knew that if could birdie that and get one more (coming) in, I could get to 10 (under) on the day, and I’ve never done that in a professional round in my life – and here, that would be pretty special,” said Spieth, who didn’t know the major championship record score of 63 was tantalisingly within reach.

“No number came to mind other than then. I was just in the zone and hit some shots.

“But I looked at the board and tried to push it a bit.

“Unfortunately I took the wrong club and hit it over the green and made bogey, but eight under around here is nothing to complain about.”

A birdie on the last sealed the deal.

“It capped off a fun round, to shoot 64 at Augusta National. My first round under 70 here, despite going well last year (when he finished second behind Bubba Watson on Masters debut).”

Spieth has rocketed to No.4 in the world rankings with two victories on American soil (including the unofficial Hero World Challenge) and five other top-10 finishes in just nine events since his Australian Open triumph.

He paid tribute to that win earlier in the week, saying it had taught him how to win against an elite field on a famous and testing course at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.