AUGUSTA, Ga. – After getting bounced around a bit over Augusta National’s back nine, Jordan Spieth fought back on Friday, coming home in 3-under 33 to give himself a shot at a second green jacket this weekend at the 81st Masters.
“It was a really good day today at Augusta National,” said Spieth, who shot 3-under 69 to break a string of four over-par rounds at Augusta. He moved to even-par 144 after two rounds. His previous two Augusta National back nines: 41 as he squandered a five-shot lead in 2016, and 39 on Thursday, as he made yet another quadruple bogey, this one on the usually friendly par-5 15th, where he knocked two balls in the water.
But Friday, his back-nine troubles all seemed to be in his past. Spieth is four shots behind co-leaders Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Charley Hoffman and Thomas Pieters, and will have ample opportunity to close the gap on the weekend. Spieth was one of only seven players to shoot in the 60s on Friday.
“I’m very pleased with the second round of this Masters and we’re in a position now where we, I think, can go out there and win this thing, and certainly make a run,” he said.
Spieth will play alongside his Ryder Cup teammate and friend, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, on Saturday, heading out at 2:10 p.m. Mickelson made five birdies in his first 15 holes, but encountered bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 coming home to shoot 1-over 73.
Spieth, 23, who has finished 2-1-2 in his first three trips to the Masters, winning the green jacket with a record-tying score of 18-under 270 in 2015, slipped to 4 over for the tournament with a sloppy bogey at the par-5 second hole, which played as the second-easiest hole on the golf course Friday. But he’d rebound nicely, making five birdies on a day when the winds swirled and the greens began to dry out.
Despite the expectation that winds will not blow as hard on the weekend, Spieth said the greens should become more challenging. And for him, that’s a big plus. He made two clutch putts late on Friday, rolling in a 26-footer at 16 – “with 3 feet to go, right in the center, and that was nice,” he said – and making from 13 feet at 18.
“I think the actual putts you are going to have are going to be more challenging, because the greens are going to be a foot faster and they’re going to get a bit crusty around some of the hole locations,” Spieth said. “They were already starting to get that way.”
Spieth and Mickelson, 46, played late in the afternoon. Mickelson, winner of green jackets in 2004, 2006 and 2010, has been playing nicely, though on Friday he missed several short-range putts, including great looks from 8 feet at No. 6 and 7 feet at No. 8. His 4-footer for par at the 14th stayed on the high side and lipped out, and two more bogeys followed on 16 and 17.
“Man, I fought hard today,” Mickelson said. “It was a hard, difficult day. And I’m really tired. It was obvious there in the end. I played the last five holes very poorly after a really good round.
“But I’m even par through two rounds. I’m four back. I’m in a good spot heading into the weekend … just feel I should be a few more ahead.”
Mickelson agreed with Spieth that putting will be a huge part of his weekend. Mickelson putted well through most of the WGC-Match Play, where he lost in the quarterfinals, but on Friday, it clearly was a struggle.
He missed eight greens on the day, and didn’t scramble up to his usual standard, making six bogeys. He had a pair of three-putts. Mickelson is trying to become the oldest player to win the Masters, eclipsing Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 but a little younger than Mickelson is now when he won his sixth green jacket in 1986.
“If I can have a good putting weekend,” Mickelson said, “I’m going to have a good chance.”