Bohls: Masters teases Scheffler, but Spieth rallies to contend once more
- Scottie Scheffler starts strong but fades and loses three strokes over his last two holes.
- Jordan Spieth holes a 30-foot putt for one of his five birdies on Friday.
- Scheffler, playing in just his second Masters, learns even par isn't all that bad a score.
Scottie Scheffler is biding his time.
And doing it reasonably well under trying circumstances. But reason is very often suspended in this hot crucible of wild emotions and deep thoughts where the most beautiful golf course in the world can just as quickly show its ugly side.
As it did late for the 24-year-old from Dallas, who is just barely embarking on his career.
He’s just six rounds into his latest course of Masters 101, and he’s learning. And learning quickly — and somewhat frustratingly — as he goes around some of the most pristine scenery in America. And some of the most challenging.
Longhorns at the Masters
The former Texas Longhorn was even par Friday in easily one of the most frustrating 72s ever played on these grounds. Consider that this year's World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play finalist sat at 2 under par for the tournament after his birdie putt on No. 15.
Then he promptly forfeited three strokes on the last two holes with a bogey at No. 17 and a double bogey on No. 18 after he hit into the pine trees, pitched out, flew into a green side bunker and two-putted.
Just like that, he went from top 12 on the leaderboard to an eventual tie for 31st at 1 over par.
His scorecard read like a bag of tricks.
Four birdies. Four bogeys. An eagle on 13. A double bogey on 18. A little bit of everything.
Even par with a most uneven round.
The maddening performance left him at 1 over par for the tournament just an hour after he was sitting at 1 under amid the top 16 of the leaderboard.
Jordan Spieth still has a chance
Not everyone can be Jordan Spieth.
That former Longhorn, so familiar with a grueling course where he finished second-first-second in his first three tries as a pro, returned near the top of the leaderboard with a magical 4-under 68 that included five birdies and a single bogey.
None was bigger than a well-struck, 30-foot dead-eye putt on No. 17 that could have raced past the pin had it not been perfectly on line.
What triple bogey yesterday?
Spieth, who won the 2015 Masters, shrugged off that potentially disastrous ninth hole Thursday and now sits in fourth along with Australia's Marc Leishman, just two shots behind first-day leader Justin Rose, who had himself a Scheffler-like day. Rose, too, shot a 72 to remain at 7 under par instead of creating more separation between himself and the crowd.
Even par can be quite satisfying, especially for someone like Rose, who squandered three shots of his lead in the first seven holes before rallying.
Rose’s average round brought plenty more into contention. That includes Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris, who finished his day with three consecutive birdies for a 68 and second place after one-putting the entire back nine holes, and Brian Harman, who birdied his last two holes. They're both a stroke back, while Texas’ own Spieth, who came into this week on a high, also began his serious charge and trails by two shots.
“Last week was a really nice exclamation point,” said Spieth, who won last week’s Valero Texas Open to end a drought stretching almost four years. “Getting more comfortable under pressure is better when you are arriving at a major championship. When I saw Rose was coming back a bit, that was nice because I was trying not to force anything. If I can shoot 5 under (the rest of the tournament), it might be good enough.”
What to expect from the Masters this weekend
It just might since historically the Masters winners don’t go crazy on Sundays.
On a milder Friday with little breeze and softer greens, Spieth and others took advantage of the fairly benign conditions. He didn’t have a single three-putt hole Friday and has hit 30 greens in regulation through 36 holes.
So what happened to Rose after his spectacular first day?
“Augusta National happened,” the 40-year-old Englishman said. “I put myself in some treacherous positions that could have been much worse. I had some great two-putts. I chose just to play the course and take the leaderboard out of it.”
Scheffler has to understand that he had much company on Friday. Besides Rose, others also faltered.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was flirting with the cutline all day long. Rory McIlroy probably won't be around for the weekend. Vijay Singh said his goodbyes after rounds of 79 and 90. Georgia ex Hudson Swafford skied to an 83 with 10 bogeys and a double.
This is not a test for the faint of heart.
The lessons Scheffler and others new to Augusta must grasp and apply are immense:
The speed of the greens that’s on a par with the surface at the Indy 500.
The precision necessary to put iron shots in the proper position on those fast greens.
The accuracy off the tee.
The challenge of scoring big on the eagle-friendly par 5s.
The necessity of avoiding big numbers.
Scheffler’s learning all of that in just his second appearance at Augusta National after tying for 19th here last November.
He’s also figured out one great round doesn’t automatically lead to another. Rose found that out Friday after a day when he went 9 under par through an 11-hole stretch to finish with a 65.
“I said (to myself), I wonder if I shot three 70s after yesterday if that would be good enough,” Rose said. “You can see the leaderboard and who is stacking up behind, and I feel like there's a lot of firepower there where you can't ever really hold anyone back to a number. Like you saw me yesterday, even on a tough golf course, someone gets it going around here.”
Zalatoris and Spieth were two of those someones.