AUGUSTA, Georgia – Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old prodigy who could become the youngest Masters champion, is confident he can handle the last-pairing pressure during Sunday’s intense back-nine drama at Augusta National.
Spieth, making his Masters debut, fired a third-round 70 Saturday to finish 54 holes deadlocked atop the leaderboard with fellow American Bubba Watson at five-under par 211, putting him in the final duo on one of golf’s grandest stages with a major title at stake.
“Deep down, not very (nervous),” Spieth said. “I’m very pleased with the way I putted. That’s where I thought I might need time to get used to the greens, but I feel comfortable with the putter in my hands. Being in this position is very pleasing. I feel comfortable.”
Spieth is the first Masters rookie in Sunday’s final duo since 1995 and only the third since 1937.
“I’ve never had a round where I’ve been nervous on every single swing, shot, and putt. I’m sure that will happen tomorrow, but hopefully I can channel it positively and stay grounded, stay cool, and see what happens.”
“It’s a dream come true just to see what it’s like. I’m in a great position, a position I haven’t been in before but I’m excited about it. This is a place I’ve always dreamed about. It’s kind of Heaven on Earth for me.”
In what could be one of the epic triumphs in golf history, Spieth can become the youngest major winner since Tom Creavy took the 1931 PGA Championship at 20 years, 7 months and 16 days — one month younger than Spieth.
Spieth also could become the first Masters rookie to take the green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
And he could replace Tiger Woods, the world number one absent after surgery to ease a pinched nerve, as the youngest Masters champion, Woods having been seven months older than Spieth when he captured the 1997 Masters for his first major crown.
“I try not to think about that. That would be a dream come true,” he said. “I think golf’s greatest (honor) is wearing a green jacket. That would be a very phenomenal thing. If tomorrow can go my way I will never forget any of the shots.”
As if Spieth wasn’t feeling goosebumps enough just being at the famous layout among the Georgia pines, there’s an omen that hints at him winning Sunday to link him with legends of the game.
Jack Nicklaus became the youngest winner in Masters history in 1963, a mark lowered 17 years later in 1980 by the late Seve Ballesteros, whose record was broken 17 years later by Woods in 1997 — and that was 17 years ago.
“He’s special,” past Masters winner Fred Couples said. “He’s such a great putter. He hits the ball long and high. For a 20 year old he is pretty savvy. Not much bothers him. Tomorrow is going to be a really, really hard day to try to win this, but he’s well qualified to do it. He’s a top player.”
Spieth played the first two days with pre-Masters oddsmakers’ favorite Rory McIlroy, whose hopes fizzled. He spent Saturday with defending champion Adam Scott, who soared to a 76. Might 2012 Masters winner Watson stumble alongside Spieth as well?
“It’s amazing what Jordan Spieth is doing,” Kuchar said. “That’s amazing golf. Amazing talent, fun kid.”
Spieth, the second-youngest 54-hole major leader since 1945, talks to himself quite a bit and caddie Michael Greller as well, the two keeping him poised and patient as lightning-fast greens force him to be patient.
“As far as being patient shot-to-shot, I think I’ve done the best that I’ve ever had with my mental game. But yeah, I’m still going to talk to myself out there,” Spieth said. “I’m 20 and this is the Masters.
“Michael and I are having a great time out there and somehow staying extremely patient. It’s testing every ounce certain places. We’re playing the smart shots into the greens, controlling the ball fine and I’m putting well.
“It’s almost like you’re putting on rolling gravel. It was crazy fast out there. I’ve never putted on greens like this before.”
Welcome to the Masters.