Spieth, McIlroy share Saturday's final pairing
World Nos. 2 and No. 3 are set to tee off at 2:50 p.m. ET
April 08, 2016
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth is playing for his second consecutive Green Jacket. Rory McIlroy is seeking the career Grand Slam. (Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Get your popcorn and pimento cheese ready. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will play together in the final pairing Saturday at the Masters.
Between them, they’ve won four of the last six majors. Now they’ll go stride-for-stride. Spieth is trying to become just the fourth player to successfully defend at Augusta National after Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. McIlroy is trying to become just the sixth man to complete the career Grand Slam.
It’s actually not the first time the two have been paired together at Augusta National. The other was here in 2014, but that took place over the first two rounds.
Same for the 2014 Open Championship and 2015 PGA Championship.
Late Saturday afternoon in the Masters -- they’ll tee off at 2:50 p.m. ET -- is a different beast. The air and the crowds will be thick, the buzz palpable.
This tournament hasn’t seen a final duo like this on the weekend since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo in 1996.
At that point, Norman and Faldo had seven major titles between them (Faldo with five of them) and were Nos. 1 and 11 in the world, respectively.
Spieth and McIlroy have a collective six major championships (McIlroy with four of them) and are Nos. 2 and 3 in the World Ranking.
Norman and Faldo were separated by six strokes going into Saturday, though, while only a single stroke separates Spieth from McIlroy after Spieth made four bogeys and just one birdie over his final 10 holes on his way to a second-round 2-over 74.
McIlroy, meanwhile, had gone the other direction at the end of his round, making three birdies over his last six holes for a 71, then he sat back and watched as the gap between he and Spieth continued to shrink (at one point during the day, as many as seven strokes separated the two).
We can only hope Spieth and McIlroy are still paired going into Sunday, too, the way Norman and Faldo were. But first things first.
For that to happen, they’ll have to forget about the player they're standing across from. There are still 36 holes to go and there are another dozen players within four shots of the lead.
Augusta National has also been more brute than beauty this week. Thanks to blustery conditions and some diabolical pin positions, just seven players are under par through the first two rounds.
On Friday, there were no rounds in the 60s for the first time since the third round of the 2007 tournament. Only four players broke par and the second-round scoring average was a whopping 75.02.
For these reasons, Spieth and McIlroy know they cannot get caught up with one another.
“I've been concentrating on myself out there, because if you start to think about anyone else ‑‑ I've only got the mental capacity to focus on me right now and especially how tough it is out there,” McIlroy said about dueling with Spieth. “Yeah, it would be great for the tournament and create a lot of buzz, but at the same time, I just need to focus on myself and make sure that I play another solid round of golf.”
Rory McIlroy comments after Round 2 of the Masters
Spieth will take a similar approach.
“There's the potential tomorrow for someone to shoot a few under and move up into the lead from outside the top 25,” the 22-year-old Texan said. “I mean, there's a potential for that with what I saw on the last six holes today, the way the course was playing. So I don't think either one of us is focused on each other. I think we're focused on the golf course.
“Sure, it's exciting to play with Rory. I enjoy it. He's a great player and a lot of fun to be around. So I think we'll just leave it at that and not think much more of it.”
Among those players: Brandt Snedeker, Hideki Matsuyama, Sergio Garcia, amateur Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and even current World No. 1 Jason Day, who, despite playing the back nine in a combined 8 over this week, is just five shots behind Spieth.
Of those names, only Day has won a major.
As McIlroy is concerned, however, he said he doesn’t care what names are on the leaderboard; the score is more important. Even if one of them is a guy who has led after each of his last six rounds at Augusta National and has only once shot over par here.
“I don't think I can get wrapped up in that,” McIlroy said about battling Spieth. “Whenever I'm out there playing and competing, that's absolutely not what I should be thinking about. I should be concentrating on myself and thinking about what I need to do to win this golf tournament, regardless of who else is up there.”
Spieth? He would prefer to see someone other than McIlroy breathing down his neck.
It's understandable. McIlroy has a lot of firepower. He also holds an 8-4-2 advantage over Spieth when the two have been paired together. The last time they played with one another was earlier this year in the second round at Trump National Doral. Rory 65, Jordan 72.
“No, I don't think it's a comfort level,” said Spieth, who has played with McIlroy a dozen times in all. “I'd rather be playing with someone less threatening to be honest. He's certainly proven himself in majors.
“But I think it's going to be fun, a really fun challenge.”
And as for McIlroy?
“I know it's a very big weekend for me,” he said. “But when I'm out there on the golf course, I just have to be completely 100 percent focused on the task at hand, and if I can do that and stay in the moment and be completely focused over every golf shot I hit from now until Sunday night, then hopefully everything will work out the way I want it to.”
Jordan Spieth comments after Round 2 of the Masters