Jordan Spieth blitzes Augusta late for 66 and 2-shot Masters lead

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth blitzes Augusta late for 66 and 2-shot Masters lead

PGA Tour

Jordan Spieth blitzes Augusta late for 66 and 2-shot Masters lead

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth’s love affair with Augusta National only seems to be gaining steam.

A run of five straight birdies late in Thursday’s first round rocketed Spieth to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead through the first round of the Masters.

It’s the third time in the last four years Spieth has been the 18-hole leader, with his previous two occurrences producing a win (2015) and a tie for second (2016).

This marks the ninth time in 17 career Masters rounds that Spieth ends the round with at least a share of the lead.

But even on a remarkable Thursday for Spieth, this one was a slow build.

The 24-year-old birdied Nos. 2 and 3 to quickly jump out to 2 under. But bogeys at the fifth and seventh dropped him back to even par. His second shot at the par-5 eighth was going left when it kicked right off a mound and bounded toward the hole, finishing some 14 feet away.

He drained the putt for a huge eagle to move to 2 under.

But Spieth really got cooking on the back nine.

A birdie at No. 13 commenced an insatiable run. Spieth birdied 14 to move into a share of the lead with Tony Finau and another at 15 moved him into the solo lead.

He was two clear when he birdied 16 and three ahead when he made it five straight birdies at the 17th. At that point, he was 7 under and had made five straight birdies with every one of them coming from inside 10 feet.

Spieth finally showed he was human on 18. A wild drive left forced a pitch out sideways, if not a bit backwards. With 262 yards for his third shot, Spieth pulled that one left of the green.

With double bogey staring him in the face, Spieth then executed a wonderful chip that rolled inches short of the cup. He tapped in for his bogey and 6-under 66.

He leads by two after the first round over Finau and Matt Kuchar. Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed are among those in a group tied for fourth at 3 under. Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler are tied for 11th at 2 under.

Tiger Woods is in a tie for 29th at 1 over, while defending champion Sergio Garcia is tied for 85th after a 9-over 81 (greatly aided by a shocking 13 at the par-5 15th).

There had been questions about Spieth’s game recently, although he seemed to quite those significantly with a promising T-3 showing last week at the Houston Open.

He certainly silenced them on Thursday.

Spieth already was a savant at Augusta after starting his career there with a win and a pair of runners-up. But Thursday reminded firmly in case anyone forgot.

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