Jordan Spieth has a chance to become golf’s youngest major championship winner in 83 years as he enters the final round of the Masters Tournament tied for the lead with 2012 winner Bubba Watson.
The 20-year-old Spieth has recorded three straight rounds below par in his Masters debut, including a 2-under-par 70 yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. He’s 5 under through 54 holes at the season’s first major and will be paired with Watson in today’s final round.
Not only could Spieth supplant Tiger Woods as the youngest winner in the 78-year history of the Masters, he has the opportunity to become the youngest winner at one of the sport’s four majors since Tom Creavy won the 1931 PGA Championship seven months after turning 20. Spieth will be 21 in July.
“You just dream of what it would mean and how cool it would be and all those putts I hit when I was really young, trying to make it to win the Masters,” said Spieth, who is scheduled to tee off at 2:40 p.m. local time. “I would love the opportunity to test it.”
Eleven players are within four shots of the leaders, with Matt Kuchar of the U.S. and Jonas Blixt of Sweden at 4 under.
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and American Rickie Fowler are a stroke further back after shooting the best rounds of the tournament yesterday -- Jimenez with a 66 and Fowler a 67.
Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn are 2 under, with Justin Rose, Kevin Stadler, John Senden and Fred Couples the only other players below par, at 1 under. Couples, 54, won the 1992 Masters title the year before Spieth was born.
Final-round play is under way under a sunny, clear sky this morning in Augusta, though no player within six shots of the leaders starts until defending champion Adam Scott, who is 1-over par, tees off at 1:10 p.m.
Kuchar, who tied for 21st as the low amateur at the 1998 Masters when he was 19, said Spieth’s performance has been all the more impressive given his limited experience at Augusta National. Over the past 78 years, the only player to win the Masters in his first appearance was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
“You see the likes of Fred Couples do well and you kind of chalk it up to a guy with a lot of experience playing this golf course,” said Kuchar, who shot 68 yesterday after entering the third round at even par. “So it’s even more amazing to see what a guy like Jordan Spieth is doing in his first tournament and to be right in contention to have a shot to win.”
Woods, who is sitting out the Masters for the first time in 20 years following surgery on a pinched nerve in his back, was 21 when he won the first of his four titles in 1997.
Spieth got his first PGA Tour win as a rookie last season and has climbed to 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking, one spot behind Watson. He said the key to his third-round performance -- including back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes while playing alongside Scott -- was patience.
“We could tell early on the greens were pretty ridiculous, they were so fast,” Spieth said. “You had to put the ball in the right spots from the tee box on and you can’t let your focus stray for one second. You have to really give this golf course respect, and pars are great scores. On Sunday I can only imagine it’s going to get faster.”
Spieth and Blixt are the fifth and sixth players to open their Masters careers with three consecutive rounds below par.
Jimenez also has a chance to earn a spot in the record books today, as the 50-year-old Spaniard could become the oldest winner in Masters history. Jack Nicklaus was 46 in 1986 for the last of his record six Masters wins.
Watson, after rounds of 69 and 68 to open a three-shot advantage, let that lead slip yesterday with a 74. He made five bogeys, three more than his total over the first two days.
Watson, 35, said if the third round was his worst, he’ll be in good shape for today, and is looking forward to playing in the final group with Spieth. Watson can become the 17th player in tournament history to win at least two titles.
“I’ve won one, so I’ve got that going for me, but if I play bad, I still have a green jacket,” Watson said. “We’re all trying to win the same trophy. We are all going to be nervous and we all know what it means to our career, for our status to move forward in the game. So it’s going to be tough for everybody, not just guys that have never won one.”
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