AUGUSTA, Ga. — Everyone drones on about how Jordan Spieth is wise beyond his 21 years.
That may be true. But Thursday at the Masters, he showed how much he’s still a kid.
He played a video game version of championship golf on the game’s biggest stage, shooting an 8-under-par 64 that was one stroke off the best score ever in a major.
The guy hit the pin from 175 yards away on the par-4 14th hole — from under a tree — the Seve-like capper on a string of six birdies in seven holes. If this was Xbox, that shot would have allowed him to upgrade his irons or unlock a fantasy course where you have to carry your drives over fire-breathing dragons and Rand Paul.
Making Spieth’s score all the more amazing was the fact that it came in the afternoon. The wind started to make the trees snow pollen (doesn’t Spieth even have allergies?) and ripple the ponds and creeks, teaming up with the sun to bake Augusta National’s greens into something approaching chicken pot pie consistency (crusty on top, soupy underneath), if not their typical brick-paver firmness.
He carved right through it all, as though he were playing the Masters on his Wii in his living room instead of being out there in real time with the sun and the wind and the pollen and the roars coming at him in true high fidelity from all over Bobby Jones’ version of Eden.
He even had time in the midst of his record chasing to remind us via a commercial on ESPN not to text and drive — after calling his parents from the club, of course.
“Hey, folks, it’s Jordan. Guess what? I’m the youngest player ever to lead the Masters. Isn’t that cool? Now let’s talk about Cayman tax shelters for my prize money.”
What’s would Jordan say next? Would he make a stand in his post-round presser for truth, justice and the American way of golf?
Actually, he went a little Ward Cleaver sweater on us.
“I was very pleased,” Spieth said. “It’s one of the better rounds I’ve ever played.”
Uh huh. Kinda vanilla, Jordan. But he recovered as he did from the trees at 14 with a humorous anecdote about playing partner Billy Horschel, the former Zurich Classic winner.
“He said, ‘I need a tape recorder that just plays, ‘Nice hole, Jordan’ on each tee box,’ ” Spieth said.
Take that, Rory. By the way, McIlroy was the youngest man to lead the Masters before this kid Spieth stole his lunch money.
There are times when Spieth seems a little too Stepford, a little too perfect, but then he made an endearing mistake.
Just as Spieth was on the precipice of a record round (63 is the lowest score ever shot in any major), he seemed to recoil from a touch of acrophobia. From the middle of the 15th fairway, he airmailed the green on the gettable but delicate par 5, nearly sinking his ball into the pond behind on 16. He took four strokes to get home from there for a bogey to drop back to 7-under.
Well, at least we know the kid can suffer from unsightly blemishes. But he made amends with a birdie on the 18th.
“I don’t like finishing rounds at a higher score than where I was at some point in the round,” Spieth said. “I didn’t want to finish any worse than 8-under, so it was cool to get that one back.”
So the question now becomes, can Spieth hold on? He leads by three over a group of four, including a pair of major champions in the clock-defying Ernie Els and Justin Rose. There will be mortar shells from other contenders over the next three rounds, too.
Sunday afternoon is a long way away, but Spieth has this Masters contending thing down cold. He tied for second here last year, leading midway through the final round before Bubba Watson pulled away.
Spieth was dejected, but he learned. And now the next big thing in golf is poised to win its biggest prize.