Spieth ups Masters lead to 5 shots

Jordan Spieth, on a day his mentor Ben Crenshaw played his last round in the Masters, slipped one arm in his first Green Jacket and threatened to run away with it.

The 21-year-old phenom followed his opening 8-under-par 64 with a bogey-free 66 to set a 36-hole Masters record at 14-under 130, set a major championship record for score in relation to par and tied the major record of 130 after two rounds at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

Only Charley Hoffman was in hailing distance at five strokes back after a 68 that included three consecutive birdies through No. 14, but he made his only bogey on the final hole.

Spieth’s five-stroke lead through 36 holes equaled another Masters record.

“I was playing well, but when you see Jordan up there at 14-under, you know you have to keep it going,” said Hoffman, whose only other Masters appearance came when he tied for 27th in 2011. “I’m happy with the way I’m playing.

“I was going for a bogey-free round and am disappointed that I didn’t finish with that. I’ve just got to keep making birdies. Jordan has shown the last couple weeks that he’s not going away.”

Dustin Johnson set a Masters record with three eagles in one round, posting a 67 that left him seven shots back in a tie for third with Englishmen Justin Rose, who had a 70, and Paul Casey, who came in at 68.

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson shot 66 and was another stroke back in solo sixth, while Ernie Els of South Africa, a four-time major champion who has never won the Masters, was nine shots behind in seventh after a 72.

Rory McIlroy, the tournament favorite who can complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory this week, was in danger of missing the cut after playing the front nine in 40, but came home in 31 with the help of a kick-in eagle on the 13th hole.

His 71 left him in a tie for 19th that included defending champion Bubba Watson, who totaled 71, and four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods, who had a 69 for his best score in an official event since a 68 in round one of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last August.

Spieth barely missed a seven-foot birdie putt on the final hole, but finished with six birdies for the day and 15 over 36 holes, against only one bogey.

“Scoreboard watching,” he said when asked in a CBS-TV interview what his biggest obstacle would be on the weekend. “Just need to keep my head down, need to set a goal for myself. Who knows what can happen on the weekend here? I’m sure they don’t really like seeing really low scores, so they might speed the greens up a little bit tomorrow.

” … Last year (second in the Masters) and the momentum from the last few weeks definitely helped. “I’m just striking the ball well. This is a special place and it’s just a privilege to be here. I played a practice round with Mr. Crenshaw the other day, the back nine, and Tiger (Woods) joined us. It was so cool.”

Spieth’s score of 130 broke Raymond Floyd’s Masters 36-hole mark of 131 set in 1976, and his 14-under total set a major championship record.

Nick Faldo posted 130 in the 1992 Open Championship at Muirfield, and that mark was equaled by Brandt Snedeker in the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and Martin Kaymer last year in the U.S. at Pinehurst No. 2.

Those three scores came on courses that did not play to a par of 72, as Augusta does.

Later, Spieth watched Crenshaw, 63, who won the Masters in 1984 and 1995, finish his 44th Masters. Both are native Texans who played at the University of Texas.

Crenshaw finished at 91-85 — 176 to miss the cut by a mile and finish last among the 91 players in the field, but it didn’t matter to the crowd which gave him an ovation that lasted for several minutes when he walked off the 18th green.

“I feel like I won the tournament,” Crenshaw said in a CBS interview in Butler Cabin. “I can’t believe this. The people here treat their champions so well. I can’t believe it’s been 44 years. This place has been a big part of my life.

” … Jordan, it’s like he’s been playing here forever. He’s had an amazing start. He’s like Wyatt Earp, he’s going to gun you down. He’s a great kid. But there are a lot of great players up there and it’s far from over.”

Woods, hampered by injuries the last two seasons, was pleased with his round after missing the Masters last year following back surgery.

Some predicted he would not make the cut this week.

“It was a solid day,” said Woods, a four-time Masters champion who knows what Spieth is facing, having won the 1997 Masters when he was 21. “I gave myself some good looks for birdie out there, but again struggled with the pace. Made some good par saves on 14 and 17.

” … I’ve been (where Spieth is) before. … He’s played beautifully. I played a practice round with him (and Crenshaw) the other day and he hit it great. He’s just continued with that.”

The way he is playing, Spieth could join Crenshaw and Woods at Augusta again next year, at the Champions Dinner.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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