As if he needs to find another way to impress us, Jordan Spieth might do it anyway.
Spieth, who won the Masters tournament last year as a 21-year-old by tying the all-time scoring record, is now 18 holes away from going green jacket to green jacket in a Masters that has, to this point, been as crusty as an old loaf of sourdough.
He could have made it easier on himself. A bogey, double-bogey finish did more than spoil Spieth’s dinner Saturday night. It left him with just a one-stroke lead over 24-year-old Smylie Kaufman while raising a fresh crop of questions as the final round awaits.
It’s been that kind of chilly, wind-tossed Masters.
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For a time Saturday, fleece trumped flowers. Bogeys trumped birdies. Survive trumped advance.
On an afternoon made for Rory McIlroy to position himself to win his first green jacket, he retreated while 58-year-old Bernhard Langer gave fresh meaning to the slogan “Feel the Bern.”
Langer won the first of his two Masters nearly 10 years before Spieth was born. Everybody has been reminiscing about this being the 30th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ legendary win here as a 46-year-old. Langer was the guy who put the green jacket on Nicklaus that day.
Paired with Jason Day, a bomber’s bomber, Langer often found himself 50 yards behind his partner off the tee. But when you’ve been playing Masters since 1982, you’re the clubhouse leader in experience.
Langer winning Sunday is a long shot, but the only player between him and Spieth is a kid named Smylie, who wore dangerously green pants on Saturday.
Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett and Day are in far better position than they were when Spieth stepped to the 17th tee late Saturday.
Not so for McIlroy, whose third-round 77 dropped him five behind while promising to haunt him for a while.
Other than the wind, Spieth has remained the constant this week.
He has led or shared the lead after the last seven rounds of the Masters, breaking the record of six he shared with Arnold Palmer. That’s ridiculously special.
This is tough stuff, this wind-swept Masters.
Kevin Kisner, who lives in nearby Aiken, S.C., shot 76 before lunch and was glad to be finished for the day. Someone asked Kisner how he planned to spend his afternoon.
“You go home and have a beer and sit on the couch and laugh at everybody else,” Kisner said.
Many truths are told in jest.
Billy Horschel was ready to lean over his putt on the 15th green when the wind hit his golf ball, and all Horschel could do was watch it roll back into the pond fronting the green.
Spieth wasn’t immune to the day’s challenges. He looked scratchy early, saving pars when bogeys loomed, but it was a day for little victories.
Big or small, Spieth has a knack for finding what is needed. A moment after making a hash of the par-4 11th with a double bogey, Spieth tossed his tee shot on the short, dangerous 12th right over the flag then center-cut an 18-foot birdie putt that made it feel like Saturday at the Masters finally.
It was classic Spieth, but the ugly finish was not. With a chance to lock the door, Spieth instead opened it – to a Sunday that suddenly looks and feels different.