Spieth And McIlroy Paired And Ready To Battle Augusta

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Wind Playing Havoc With Masters Leaderboard

By John Ventola

The 80th Masters threw a four-day party for three of the Young Guns of Golf this week and while the top gunslinger will be reloading and hoping to get back in the fight, the other two, winners of four of the last six majors, will be shooting it out in the weekend’s final pairing.

Jordan  and Rory have come into town, and it should be a helluva battle. Jason is just outside of town, unholstered, checking his ammunition.

Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day, currently golf’s top trio, are set to take aim. A Green Jacket awaits the one still standing after Sunday’s final round.

With gusty winds swirling through its Georgia pines, Augusta National Golf Club has

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Young Guns Will Have Games And Individual Makeup Challenged

seen two days of golf played tentatively (leader Spieth had to be speeded up by course officials Friday), and erratically, the best in the game posing in their stances, waiting for the right time to take their swings, or putt on the dry, slick greens.

In the toughest scoring conditions in the last decade, Spieth, who started Friday with a three-shot lead and built it to a five shot margin in early play, had to save par from a bunker with a 15-foot putt on the final hole to complete his Friday round of 74, giving him a one shot lead over Rory McIlroy. It was Spieth’s first over-par round ever in his three tournament appearances.

The usually unflappable Spieth showed a brief kink in his armor, appearing visibly upset with the speed-up instructions from officials as wind conditions worsened late in the day. He completed his Friday round with four birdies, four bogeys, and one double bogey, bogeying holes 16 and 17 before dropping his 15-footer to keep the tournament lead.

That putt allowed Spieth to tie legend Arnold Palmer as the only Masters golfers to lead in six consecutive rounds. Spieth led wire-to-wire last year, and he has led both days this year. Palmer led all four rounds in 1960 and the first two rounds in 1961. While Palmer shared the lead in those two ’61 rounds, Spieth has led by himself all six rounds.

Weather was the star of the day Friday. Changing gusts challenged each and every golfer. Only four golfers were able to finish the round under par, McIlroy, Dustin

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Only Four Players Posted Under Par Scores Friday

Johnson, Daniel Berger, Troy Merritt each posted one-under-par 71. It was the first time since 2007 that no player broke 70 at the Masters. Long-hitting Johnson was still able to boom shots on the par 5s, posting birdies on all four holes.

U.S. Amateur Champion Bryson DeChambeau, 22, a SMU golfer who will turn professional in the next month, showed he is ready for the tour. Except for a final hole meltdown, he would have had the day’s best round Friday. He hooked his 18th hole tee shot into the trees, returned to the tee and did it again. DeChambeau triple-bogeyed the hole, finishing his second straight par round. The unorthodox swinger looked impressive with his six birdies and three bogeys before the final hole.

McIlroy worked his way into the final pairing with Spieth by posting five birdies, two bogeys, and one double bogey. Just as he did Thursday, the Northern Ireland golfer picked up steam on the back nine. McIlroy, who trailed by as many as eight strokes at

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McIlroy Needs Win For Career Grand Slam

one time Friday, seems poised to make a run at his first Masters championship and career Grand Slam. He made birdies at both par5s on the back nine and picked up another birdie with a 40-foot putt on the par 3 16th. The three birdies came in the last six holes.

With no one able to shoot 70 Friday, and the weather condition expected to be the same for Saturday’s third round, the tournament is up for grabs. Plain and simple, the weather conditions will test more than the players’ abilities. It will come down to mental toughness as well as club selection and accurate yardage readings.

Spieth, in an interview after Friday’s round, put the problem in perspective. He said players have trained to play in windy conditions, but the conditions (winds changing directions second by second) makes shot-making difficult.

Three time Masters champion Phil Mickelson (‘04,’06,’10) would agree with that assessment. Mickelson shot 79 Friday, missing the cut after finishing in a tie for second last year. Mickelson struggled, scoring three birdies, four bogeys, and three double-bogeys.

While the course was brutal for Mickelson, it was not kind to those that entered Friday’s action just behind Spieth on the leaderboard. Australian Danny Lee followed up his

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Leaders All Have Chance For Green Jacket

opening day 68 with a 74 (three bogeys and one double-bogey); Ireland’s Shane Lowry followed his 68 with a 76 (five bogeys and one double-bogey), Paul Casey shot 69, then 77 (eight bogeys): Justin Rose followed his 69 with a 77 also (seven bogeys); Ian Poulter posted 69 and followed with a 78 (four bogeys one double-bogey); Sergio Garcia shot 69, then 75 (five bogeys, one double-bogeys); and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen followed his 69 with a 74 (three bogeys).

“Bogey” was said and heard so much Friday in Augusta that it appeared to be a gathering of Humphrey Bogart fans discussing old movies.

Steady, consistent scoring by Scott Piercy (70-72), Brandt Snedeker (71-72), Hideki Matsuyama (71-72), and Kjeldsen (69-74) has them joining Spieth and McIlroy as the only six golfers to shoot under par through the first two rounds.

The cut has been made, the pairings are set. The weather—–well, the weather cannot be stopped, or changed.

The long anticipated matchup of two of the game’s top stars is here. Sadly, it will not be a battle between them, it will be individual battles against Augusta National. It should make for interesting viewing. Who will come out on top?

With apologies to Bob Dylan, along with lyrical license, “The answers my friend, will be blowin in the wind!”

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