The Masters: Rookie Spieth joins Bubba on topApril, 2014
Not so elementary for Watson
Jordan Spieth is not yet 21, a year ago he hadn’t played in a Major as a professional. On Sunday he will partner Bubba Watson with the joint lead of the Masters.
The Texan has one PGA Tour victory at the John Deere Classic, which got him into the following week’s Open Championship at Muirfield, to become the first teenager in 82 years to win on Tour. He finished a year which began on sponsor exemptions as part of a victorious Presidents Cup team.
On Sunday he could become the youngest winner of the Masters – Tiger Woods was 21 years and 104 days when he prevailed in 1997 – as well as being just the second modern-day rookie to be victorious.
At the start of the week there were a record 24 debutants; now two of them, Sweden’s Jonas Blixt is one back after a 71, are in the top four spots.
Spieth made his move with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 and parred in as others saw shots slipping away on greens that were, true to form, becoming terrifying.
For Watson, three clear overnight, it was a day unrecognisable from the first two. Previously he had dropped just two shots, by the 4th he had matched those pair of bogeys. In between there was an eagle at the 2nd (to take a five-shot lead) but more shots disappeared at the 6th, his first three putt of the week, and 7th.
The driver continued to behave coming home but the putter didn’t as he repeatedly came up short and he eventually had to hole a slippery five-footer for a 74, disappointing but still in a share of top spot.
Matt Kuchar is the fourth member of the last two groups after reeling off a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th in a six-birdie 68.
The surprise of the day was defending champion Adam Scott. He was outscored by nine shots by his playing partner Spieth as he went out in 40, one worse than Friday’s ragged start. At plus one, and with 15 players ahead of him, he looks to have left himself too much to do.
On Sunday Jordan Spieth could become the youngest winner of the Masters
The round of the day, and the week thus far, belonged to Miguel Angel Jimenez who threw in a 66. The Spaniard turned 50 earlier this year and will make his Seniors Tour debut next week, only made the halfway cut with a shot to spare but then rocketed up the leaderboard.
Jimenez would become the oldest winner in Major history if he could pull it off and he will start the final round within two shots of the lead alongside Rickie Fowler who pulled back five shots.
“I have plenty of victories in my career and having a Major in my career would be amazing. That would be the flower on to,” said Jimenez.
“If you are 50 it doesn’t mean that you cannot play well. I’m still moving. I’m still flexible. I hit the ball longer than ever. I don’t want to commit to play the Champions Tour or any more senior events, apart from the Senior British Open, because I want to put myself in place too for the Ryder Cup. I would love to play the Ryder Cup.”
Lee Westwood again improved with every round with a 70 to take him to two under. Previously the Englishman had failed to birdie any of the par 5s, on Saturday he made a four on each of them.
This is his 64th Major and, once again, he is in some sort of position to break that duck. Westwood fans will possibly like the fact that he will have to come from behind.
“Augusta is one of those places where I feel I can turn my game around,” said Westwood, who led by two at Muirfield last July before finishing in third.
“I know how to get round even if I’m not on my game. The course changes as the week goes on and Sunday afternoon is even more fun. Anyone within four or five of the lead will have a chance.”
Another European, Thomas Bjorn, held the lead at one point but found water at both the 13th and 15th and then made a third bogey in five holes at the 17th.
Much was expected of Rory McIlroy at the start of the week but he had to play his third round with a marker – and the pre-tournament favourire was outscored by club member Jimmy Knox.
McIlroy has to birdie the last two holes for his 71 while Knox, who also marked Watson’s card last year, managed a 70.
McIlroy said: “Jeff is a great player. I thought he was going to be nice and three-putt the last and we would have a half, but he beat me by one.
“He obviously knows this place so well and gets it round. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone putt the greens as well as he does around here. He was really impressive. I was thinking of maybe getting him to read a few of my putts out there. He played just like he should be playing in the Masters.”
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