Jordan Spieth is a hunter at the 2017 Masters, not the hunted
After a slow start, the 81st Masters is set up for a blistering finish. Cold mornings and howling winds knocked the field around for the first two days, but some of the best players in the world began fighting back Saturday, setting up a star-studded leader board heading into Sunday’s final round.
England’s Justin Rose and Spain’s Sergio Garcia are tied at the top at 6-under and will go off together in the final group. Just behind them on the leader board will be the pairing of Rickie Fowler (5-under) and Jordan Spieth (4-under).
“Jordan, obviously, has a special relationship with the Masters. He’s going to feel great about his chances tomorrow. Rickie is a very confident player. He’s going to be searching for his first major championship. He’s going to be all up for it tomorrow. Sergio is going to have a great opportunity tomorrow. There’s wonderful story lines,” Rose said. “I’m certainly looking for my first green jacket. This is a place I dearly love and would dearly love to be part of the history here. Everybody has a story line, and I’m not even touching upon past champions who are right there, as well.”
Former Masters champions Adam Scott (3-under) and Charl Schwartzel (2-under) are within four shots of the lead, and Rory McIlroy, who could complete the career grand slam this week, is at even par.
Masters rookie William McGirt, of Spartanburg, who was second after the first round, is tied for 11th at even par after shooting 74 on Saturday that included bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18. He’ll earn an invitation to return next year if he can finish in the top 12.
“So that’s my goal right now,” he said. “This is one I want to make a regular stop. I would love to finish Top 12 here every year. If I go out and shoot something crazy good, we might have a chance to win, so you never know.”
Lots of guys are going for “crazy good” numbers Sunday. Rose did it on the back nine Saturday, making birdie on five of the final seven holes and shooting the best round of the day (67).
“I’m in a great position,” Rose said. “I think had I been two or three shots behind, I still would have felt that I was in great position, which leads me to understand everybody’s mindset behind me. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I have to continue to play good, aggressive golf, as I did today.”
Aggressive is also the word Spieth used. This will be the first time in his four Masters appearances that he’s not playing in the final group on Sunday. He’s looking forward to chasing rather than being chased.
“Might free me up a bit, being behind,” he said after shooting a 4-under 68. “I plan to play aggressive because at this point, it’s win or go home. So you pull off the shots and you make the putts, then you know, I want to give myself a chance for that to be enough. And if I don’t, then so be it. Finishing fifth versus tenth doesn’t mean much to me, so that frees me up a bit tomorrow.”
Last year, Spieth famously gave up a large lead on Sunday, triple-bogeying the par-3 12th hole.
“I know that anything can happen,” he said with a laugh. “I know if somebody gets hot on the front nine tomorrow that’s not myself, to stay in there, stay patient, you just never know. It’s tough protecting a lead on this golf course, because it’s one where you need to play aggressive to win and protecting the lead, you don’t want to play aggressive. If I am able to jump out into the lead, I know that you have to keep the gas pedal down and pretend you’re not.”
Fowler is happy to be playing alongside Spieth, his close friend.
“We could really push each other and try and pull the best out of one another. It’s always fun when you’re playing with one of your good buddies,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”