The Masters That Never Was, Part VI: Jordan Spieth surges in historically tough conditions
Ed. note: This is the sixth installment of The Masters That Never Was, a fictional account of how the Masters Tournament might have played out had it been conducted this week at Augusta National Golf Club.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — In the history of the Masters, it is unlikely that any contestant has shot a first-round 78 and had more scrutiny for his second round. But that’s exactly where Jordan Spieth found himself Friday at Augusta National, playing in the most extreme wind the course has ever witnessed.
“I told you guys when I came in [on Thursday],” he said. “Did I not? I said, `We’re gonna turn this thing around, we will make this cut, and we will contend.’ ”
Spieth, as he often is, was accurate and prophetic. He shot a second-round 64, one off the course record. He did so in the highest winds ever recorded at a Masters. The Texan was one of only three players to break par for the day.
“You could play this thing in a November hurricane and not get wind like this,” said Kevin Kisner, who grew up in nearby Aiken, S.C., and knows the local conditions well.
The players, tournament officials and spectators were completely unprepared for the cold day and intense winds. The forecast had been for a mild and still day. But a freak storm system that meteorologists could not explain brought sustained winds of 40 mph throughout the day with gusts as high as 60 at Augusta Regional Airport.
Between dawn and the first tee time, the club erected an enormous fiberglass windshield along its border with Washington Road. The screen, built by 800 workers and volunteers, diminished winds to a significant degree and allowed play to continue unabated. Still, the players had to contend with 30-mph winds throughout the day. A total of 68 balls finished in water hazards on Friday, a record. The tee on the par-3 12th hole was moved up by more than 25 yards and played at 131 yards.
“The club did everything it could — they gave us a fighting chance,” said Englishman Danny Willett, the 2016 winner, who hit a 4-iron on 12 and made one of the two birdies recorded there on Friday. The scoring average on 12, playing dead into the wind, was 6.6.
Spieth beat one of his playing partners, Rickie Fowler, by 18 shots, and the third member of the group, Latin America Amateur champion Abel Gallegos, by six. With unlikely rounds of 78-64, Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, posted a two-day total of 142, 2-under par, and made the cut with seven shots to spare. He is only two shots off the lead, held by Tiger Woods and Mike Weir.
“Tell you what,” Woods said after posting a second-round 70 that moved him 17 places up the leaderboard. “For Jordan to shoot 64 in these conditions is like shooting 59 in regular conditions. I feel like I didn’t miss a shot all day. I mean, you look at that leaderboard on 18, you’re not seeing a lot of red.”
Kisner, passing Spieth, an earlier finisher, on his way into the clubhouse, said, “Sixty-four — how many holes did you play?”
He played the first four holes in 12 shots: birdie 3, eagle 3, birdie 3, par 3.
“We just felt like if we could get a lot of 3s on the card that would be good for us,” Spieth told reporters outside the scorer’s room.
Spieth took a putter and made a mock gesture on kneecapping his playing partner Fowler.
“Hey,” Spieth said. “I gave you a shot a hole — I think that’s more than fair.”
Spieth made his last 3 of the day on the par-5 15th, where he hit a hooded 3-iron off the tee, smashed a grounder with his putter for his layup second shot and holed out with a lob wedge for his third.
Rory McIlroy, five shots off the lead and looking to complete the career grand slam, was standing on the 15th tee watching Spieth play his second shot with a putter.
“I thought it was the damnedest thing I had ever seen on a golf course, that he had, like Kurtz in ‘Heart of Darkness,’ lost his mind,” McIlroy said. “Of course, I then tried to do the exact same thing. And you all know how that worked out.”
McIlroy bent the shaft of his putter and putted with a pitching wedge for the rest of the round.
Woods was almost unrecognizable as he wore baggy rain pants, a windbreaker and a ski hat that covered his ears and chin. He also wore wraparound glasses.
“Hey, I live in South Florida,” the defending champion said. “We’re not used to this. Phil [Mickelson] was saying upstairs [the champions locker room] that this weather is proof of global warming. Fuzzy [Zoeller] goes, ‘Phil, you might be chewing a little too much gum.’ ”
The weekend forecast, reliable or not, is for two unusually warm and pleasant days, with zero percent chance of rain and daytime highs in the low 80s.
Spieth was asked if he preferred for the extreme weather to continue.
“Honestly, no,” he said. “Today was a struggle for the patrons, particularly the elderly among them, and it can’t be easy on the camera operators or the caddies and you know what happened to the flagstick on nine.”
The flagstick on nine, an elevated exposed green, snapped in half in a wind gust.
“But what about for you?” a reporter asked.
“Just say that we smiled at the prospect of more cold wind,” Spieth said.
The Round 3 recap from The Masters That Never Was will be published on GOLF.com on Saturday evening.
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