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Jordan Spieth bolts to top of Masters leader board, fires 64

Jordan Spieth holds up his ball a birdie on the second hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Jordan Spieth holds up his ball a birdie on the second hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. AP

Jordan Spieth’s second Masters began the tournament with a barrage of birdies and a run at a record.

Despite his inexperience at Augusta National, Spieth, 21, entered the tournament as one of a handful of favorites. He more than lived up to those expectations Thursday, taking the first-round lead with an 8-under 64. For a while, he threatened the tournament record of 63 set by Nick Price in 1986 and Greg Norman again in 1996.

Spieth has a three-stroke lead over Jason Day, Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose and Ernie Els.

How Spieth did it

Spieth, who tied for second in his Masters debut of 2014, birdied six of seven holes during one stretch Thursday, the only blemish a bogey on No. 15. He was helped on the 14th when his chip hit the flag and bounced down close to the hole.

“I got some good breaks,” said Spieth, who added he didn’t know what the Masters record was. “The easiest thing is to laugh them off. The hardest thing to do is to keep grinding afterward and so you take full advantage of them.”

Can he keep it up?

Spieth was tied for the lead with eventual champion Bubba Watson after three rounds in 2014. But he couldn’t keep pace, shooting a 71 that Sunday.

“It’s tough to sleep on a lead here and I saw that last year,” said Spieth. “But at the same time, I’m a lot more confident in the way that I can handle certain situations, and the patience level I can have, having closed a couple of events out since and seeing some putts go in” Thursday.

Notes

▪ Now that Tom Watson has become the oldest player in Masters history to break par, he has something else he’d like to accomplish: make the cut for the first time since 2010.

And Watson, 65, who shot a first-round 71, knows how to do that.

“Old age and treachery,” he said. “I’ve played this golf course enough times to know where I’m supposed to hit and where I’m not supposed to hit it.”

The day did not go as well for two other members of golf’s older generation. Fred Couples, 55, shot a 79. And Ben Crenshaw, 63 and playing in his final Masters, had a 91.

▪ Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, former Wake Forest players from Charlotte, both shot 69s and are five shots behind Spieth. Haas, who was born in Charlotte, bogeyedthe 18th to fall to 3-under par. Simpson, a Raleigh native who lives in Charlotte, parred the final five holes after getting to 3 under on No. 13.

“I guess Deacon sports or something,” said Simpson. “I’m glad (Haas) played well.”

Observations

▪ There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Phil Mickelson, but he had a solid round of 70 that included an eagle on No. 8.

▪ Ernie Els and Spieth have a common cause – autism – that Els acknowledged Thursday. Els has a foundation called Els For Autism, and Spieth’s younger sister Ellie is autistic.

▪ It’s interesting and somewhat humorous to hear Tom Watson talk about how difficult it is for him, at 65, to get around Augusta National – minutes after he has shot a 71.

▪ Day, tied for second with a 67, parred his first seven holes, then he played the final 12 in 5 under. That’s getting into contention in a hurry.

Shot of the day

▪ Sergio Garcia chipped in on the 14th for birdie. That was his second consecutive birdie and moved him to 4 under, where he stayed, finishing with a 68.

Holes of the day

▪ The par-5 13th played an average of 4.6804 strokes, 17th easiest on the course. It also yielded three eagles.

▪ Toughest, incidentally, was the par-4 11th (average of 4.47 strokes)

Quoting

“No, we just said hello and that was it.” – Tom Watson, when asked if his relationship with Mickelson is awkward after last year’s Ryder Cup.

Friday’s weather

High of 87 with a 30 percent chance of storms.

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