The Masters is the most gruelling golf Major for a reason and, although he is still the clear favourite for a maiden victory, Jordan Spieth can be in little doubt about that now.
After two rounds of lead-lengthening play had thrust the 21-year-old into the sport’s limelight, the 17th hole in his third round became a snapshot of just how faultless players have to be to claim golf’s biggest prize.
Leading by seven on the penultimate hole at Augusta, Spieth showed the first signs of fracture in a mindset that has been rock solid for the best part of the week.
A wild approach to the green was perhaps a sign of nerves. After a fine recovery, he stood over a tiddler of a putt for bogey that he would have normally holed with his eyes shut in the first or second round. Suddenly, the youngster’s swing tightened and he missed for a double-bogey six.
It transpired to be a three-shot swing as, up ahead on the last, Justin Rose rolled in a birdie for a 67 that puts him just four shots back.
Spieth and Rose will tee off in the final group on Masters Sunday as respective 1/3 and 4/1 market leaders for victory, but the challenge for the Green Jacket doesn’t just rest with them.
Phil Mickelson, hunting a fourth Augusta title at 6/1, looms ominously in the penultimate group of the day at 11-under par, joining the anonymous man of this tournament, Charley Hoffman, who sits just one shot further back, but is a whopping 33/1 chance.
A group of five men then cluster together in a chasing pack at -6, which seems too much of a gap to bridge for the title. Or at least it would be, if three of the players in the group weren’t named Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.
Early scoreboard pressure could be enough to squeeze a few more errors out of the leader and at odds of 66/1, 125/1 and 100/1 respectively, few would deny themselves a small flutter on that trio capitalising.
Should Spieth hold his nerve, few can deny him one of the finest Major performances in history, but in 18 holes at Augusta, anything can happen.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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