Spieth benefits from Gentle Ben's advice
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth is a rookie at Augusta in name only. The 20-year-old, who shot a 2-under-par 70 in the second round for a 36-hole total of 141, is running the playbook handed down by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and his Augusta National sidekick Carl Jackson.
Spieth never got the chance to play a practice round with his fellow Texas Longhorn, Crenshaw, but he picked up plenty of tips when they spoke. One of them may sound simple in theory but is a lot tougher in execution: the middle of the green is the smart place to play at Augusta National, Crenshaw advised. So far, Spieth has listened to a T.
“You don't really have to attack pins or think too much,” Spieth said. “I think I just have to trust my instincts and that's the advice that I've gotten that I've taken this far.”
Michael Greller, Spieth’s caddie and a rookie at Augusta in his own right, also benefited from the wisdom of Jackson, who worked his 53rd Masters this week. Greller sat for 20 minutes with Crenshaw and Jackson at a picnic table behind the caddie area on Monday and went hole by hole, scribbling down notes in the front of his yardage book.
“What better voice to trust than Carl,” Greller said. “Jordan at one point in our practice round the next day joked with me that he was going to get me a shirt that read, ‘Carl Says.’ Because so many times I said, ‘Carl says this and Carl says that.’ ”
Greller made a veteran move of his own, coming out to the course before their 1:59 p.m. tee time to walk the front nine, and said it helped with club selection on the seventh hole.
“Jordan might have thought that front-right bunker was a bad place to be, but I saw some players hit good shots within 6-8 feet,” Greller said. “It changed our thought process there.”
Spieth made his first birdie of the round at the seventh to return to red figures after making bogey at the first. Then he ripped a draw at eight and found the fairway at the par 5 for the first time in the 10 or 11 times he has played the course and tacked on another birdie before giving it back with a bogey at 11.
The best was still to come. At the par-5 15th hole, Spieth had 218 yards to the hole. He wanted to hit 4-iron, but the wind picked up so Greller talked him into a hybrid.
“He hit it right on the number,” Greller said.
The ball landed on the front ridge and stopped 7 feet past the hole, from where Spieth rolled it in for eagle. He offset a bogey at 17 with a birdie at 18 and finished the day tied for third place, four shots off the lead held by Bubba Watson.
Spieth is competing in just his third major as a professional. He missed the cut at the British Open and PGA Championship and made one of his goals to be in contention at the majors this year.
“We're only at the halfway point,” Spieth said. “I think contention is back nine Sunday. But I'm in a position to put myself into that contention and see what I can do.”