AUGUSTA, United States: Jordan Spieth said he is looking forward to playing with Rory McIlroy in the final pairing of Saturday’s third round, but insisted he needed to keep the bigger picture in mind.
The 22-year-old Texan struggled at times in Friday’s second round, as did the rest of the 89-strong field, against the windy conditions and the slick Augusta National greens.
But a 14-footer for par at the last and a score of 74 meant that, for the sixth straight time, he is the outright leader in the Masters, holding a one-shot lead over McIlroy, who is four years his senior.
Asked how he viewed a pairing that will attract enormous attention involving the world number two and three, Spieth, who is also the reigning US Open champion, replied: “It will be a fun round tomorrow.
“We enjoy playing with each other. We’ve both played well. We’ve both played poorly. Just both seem to be on our games right now and obviously really focused on this week with a lot of fantastic players behind us.
“I mean, there’s the potential tomorrow for someone to shoot a few under and move up into the lead from outside the top 25.
“There’s a potential for that with what I saw on the last six holes today, the way the course was playing.
“So I don’t think either one of us is focused on each other. I think we’re focused on the golf course.”
Along with top-ranked Jason Day, who reached the halfway stage at one over par, Spieth and McIlroy constitute what is being called the new “Big Three” of golf.
They have all been top-ranked in the world over the last year with McIlroy ceding to Spieth, who then swapped positions with Day.
Between them they have won seven majors, four to McIlroy, two to Spieth and one to Day.
The American, though, is clearly the youngest at 22, four years less than McIlroy and six less than Day.
Asked to describe his personal relationship with the Northern Irishman, Spieth replied: “I’m not very close with Rory, but we’re very friendly. He’s a colleague.
“He’s a friend, but it’s not like we’ve gone on trips together or anything like that. You know, he’s, I would say, a bit of a different position in life.
“He’s what, four or five years older than me? I didn’t grow up playing against or with him to where I would have a lot of those experiences.”
Struggle for Spieth
Spieth’s round of 74 on Friday, his worst in 10 at the Masters started well with two birdies in three holes, but a four-putt double bogey at the fifth set him back and thereafter it was a struggle.
Bogeys at 15 and 16 threatened to send him back into the pack, but his up and down from the sand at the last was a strong way to finish.
“We were trying to adjust with ever-gusting and changing winds,” he said of his round.
“It just was a really difficult day to score, and when we look back, if we approach it that way, tomorrow could be just as challenging if not more.
“That’s going to be the biggest advantage for us is to go out tomorrow, pretend it’s a new golf tournament and try and beat the field from here on in.”