AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Jordan Spieth is still comfortably presiding over the Masters, seemingly unfazed by the unpredictable gusts that have confounded many of his rivals.
Spieth hit the course with gusto again just before 1 p.m. Friday, a couple of hours after players like Jason Day and Danny Lee, amid 10-mph breezes from the west raking across Augusta National that were only expected to get stronger. The early return: A 14-foot birdie putt on the first hole that was almost an early “take that” statement to the course, the conditions and his closest competitors. He birdied again two holes later to move to 8 under.
After 22 holes without a bogey, Spieth had his first stumble at the fifth hole, four-putting for a double-bogey that dropped him to 6 under. Still, he held a three-shot lead over Justin Rose, who was 3 under.
The South Korea-born Lee, now a citizen of New Zealand, dropped to 2 under with bogeys on the last two holes. It’s the 25-year-old Lee’s second Masters and first since 2009 when he was the U.S. Amateur champion but failed to make the cut.
Sergio Garcia’s bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey start pretty much summed up the havoc that the blustery conditions were creating.
Just not, so far, on Spieth, who is seeking to become the first repeat Masters winner since Tiger Woods 14 years ago and the fourth overall.
Nobody has been within two shots of him after his last five rounds in the Masters, going back to his wire-to-wire victory in 2015.
Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 player, remained at even par after a bogey on No. 13. He sent his second shot into the creek, then came up short of the green.
Other big names were also struggling.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson was facing an uphill battle to make the cut after falling back to 6 over.
Ernie Els managed a mere double bogey on the first hole after an embarrassing quintuple bogey a day earlier.
Tom Watson, the 66-year-old making his final Masters appearance, likely needs a strong finish to make the cut. He was at 4 over – hovering around the cut line – through eight holes Friday, recovering from back to back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5 with a birdie at the sixth.
He’d be the oldest to survive into the weekend at the Masters.