USA TODAY Sports’ Steve DiMeglio explains how Jordan Spieth climbed back up the leaderboard on Day 3 and why Day 4 of the 2017 Masters is shaping up to be an Augusta classic. USA TODAY Sports
Of course we did. This is Spieth and this is the Masters. Working his way to the top of the leaderboard is just what he does here —and he has done it again.
For the fourth year in a row, the 23-year-old Spieth has a good chance to win the Masters. After finishing second, first and second the past three years, he fired his second straight round in the 60s Saturday, following Friday’s gritty 69 with a scintillating four-under 68.
“After the first round (75), I couldn’t ask for much better than this,” Spieth said after the third round. “This is a new experience for me, coming from behind on Sunday at the Masters, which is kind of fun to say.”
Were he to do it, he would become only the second men’s major champion in history to trail by 10 or more shots after the first round. The only man to overcome such a margin and win a major was Harry Vardon, who was 11 back at the 1896 British Open. Yes, the 1896 Open, which was held two months after the first Olympic Games, which was a very long time ago.
Spieth is relishing this new role of his, that of the hard-charging pursuer. Nowhere was that more apparent than the par-5 13th hole Saturday, when Spieth, considering his second shot out of the pine straw, looked to his caddy, Michael Greller, and asked, “What would Arnie do?”
Channeling the late, great Arnold Palmer is always a good idea, especially here at Augusta National, where he won four times. With 228 yards to the hole, Spieth wanted to go for the green, and, thinking of Arnie, he did. With a 4-iron in his hands, he reached it, then nearly made a 29-foot eagle putt before tapping in for an easy birdie.
Spieth’s comeback began Friday, when, after two bogeys in the first four holes, he made four birdies in the final 11.
“It was key, it was necessary, I had to have it,” Spieth said. “I felt great coming off the round. I gave myself a chip and a chair. Today I wanted to shoot 4-under. My goal was two a side, and I did that.”
The comeback Friday and Saturday was fueled by 29 consecutive holes without a bogey, the hallmark of Spieth’s advantage at Augusta — his consistency.
“I don’t overpower it,” he said. “It just has been positioning, just playing the golf course the way it’s supposed to be played, thinking around it and using a bit of experience.”
There was such confidence in his voice Saturday night — the same confidence that surfaced Thursday after his disastrous quadruple bogey on the 15th that put him 10 strokes behind after just 18 holes of golf.
“It looks something like single digits (under par) might win this tournament,” Spieth said then. “And I certainly can post single digits under par at this point. I’ve got three rounds to go.”
He called it perfectly and now here he is, just two strokes behind the leaders, playing in the second-to-last group Sunday afternoon.
“I may as well swing freely,” he said. “This just frees me up. I was on the cut line after the first round, I knew that. Now I have a chance of winning the tournament I dreamed of as a kid. I plan to be aggressive. At this point, it’s win or go home.