Spieth leads Masters but the show is far from over

21-year-old Jordan Spieth shot a two-under 70 in Saturday’s third round to take a four-stroke lead over England’s Justin Rose to the Sunday finale.

His 16-under total of 200 breaks all records for 54-hole scoring in Masters history however, a dramatic 30-minute period towards the end of the final round demonstrated yet again that a lead of this kind at Augusta can vanish in a heartbeat.

Jordan Spieth Jordan Spieth (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

Draining a 12-footer for birdie on the 16th to open up a seven-stroke lead, the so far unflappable Spieth allowed his focus to lapse momentarily with what can only be considered a careless double-bogey on the 17th.

A rare miss to the left off the tee was followed by wise layup from the trees to the front right of the green. An unconvincing pitch and three putts later and the margin was reduced to five.

‘The driver should have never come out of my bag on that hole,” Spieth said. “It was a downwind hole and I was getting a little erratic with the driver and I could hit three-wood, eight-iron in there. I was very frustrated with that decision, given I don’t ever want decision making to ever cost me in an event like this.”

Ahead on the 18th, Rose curled a 20-foot left to right slider in the centre of the hole to post a five-under 67 for 12-under, guaranteeing a final round pairing with Spieth ahead of Phil Mickelson who signed for a 67 to finish at 11-under.

The margin appeared to be about to shrink even further when Spieth bailed on his approach to the final green and left his ball up the hill to the right of the green amongst the patrons. It was a shot that was eerily similar to Greg Norman’s approach to the final green in the 1986 Masters, played from almost the identical distance to an almost identical pin location.

Spieth’s response to his short-sided predicament was the stuff of champions.

An aggressive flop shot that pitched on the fringe and trickled eight feet past the hole was as good as it gets and the left to right putt for par never erred from the centre of the hole.

A miraculous recovery but in the clear headed manner that we’ve come to expect from the Texan over the past six months, starting with his dominant Australian Open triumph in Sydney in November.

“I was very pleased with that up and down on 18, which may have been a one in five (chance). It took some guts and having been in contention enough, having been on Tour for a few years, I felt comfortable enough playing that full flop.”

“If you caught me a year and a half ago, I probably wouldn’t have played that shot in that scenario.”

However if that 30-minute stretch showed us anything, it’s that the impossible is certainly possible tomorrow. Spieth’s final round included three bogeys and a double bogey, countered brilliantly by seven birdies. If he can repeat the dose with another sub-par round on Sunday, it’s hard to see him being overtaken.

He has chasers of the highest pedigree in Rose and Mickelson however, who will be keen to throw down the gauntlet to Spieth and see what he learned from last year when the Texan held a two-stroke lead playing the 8th hole but succumbed to Bubba Watson’s ruthless display.

A second Green Jacket for Australia will have to wait another year with Jason Day the best of our guys at 4-under, a massive 12 shots behind Spieth, while Adam Scott double-bogeyed the last to finish at 1-under.

Our current Australian Open champion is in the box seat however and maiden major championship success is (almost) in the palm of his hands.

“There are going to be roars ahead but especially in the group in front of us.(Mickelson and Charley Hoffman). Everyone loves Phil, why wouldn’t you love Phil and he’s going to make some noise and make a run,” Spieth said.

“I feel comfortable in the way I’m striking it, my putting stroke feels good. So all in all, just have to watch my speed and have enough patience tomorrow.”