AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Charging up the U.S. Masters leaderboard, Jordan Spieth stood on the 13th fairway on Saturday, turned to his caddie Michael Greller and asked: “What would Arnie do?”
The only answer, of course, was “go for it”. The swashbuckling Arnold Palmer after all did not win four Green Jackets and 62 PGA Tour titles playing it safe.
So channeling ‘The King’, Spieth stepped up and made a swing so perfect that he was worried his ball was going to end up beyond the green, but it settled nicely to set up a two-putt birdie.
The daring paid off as Spieth rode the momentum to a four-under 68 to trail co-leaders Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia by two strokes going into the final round.
“I think Mike was taken back. He was very much pressing for a lay-up there and laying up was the smart shot,” smiled Spieth.
”I had 228 (yards) to the hole. I couldn’t see the green, given where the tree was located. I‘m right handed. I could see the right edge on the tower, but my ball, the actual shot wasn’t blocked.
”It was just about committing to what you can see and what you actually know is there.
“I just, you know, ‘what would Arnie do’ was my way of expressing it to Michael, which we all know is exactly what he would have done.”
Palmer died last September but his presence has been felt everywhere at Augusta National.
There is a similar ‘dam the torpedoes’ quality to Spieth’s play and the 23-year-old Texan seems to have the same unique bond with Augusta National that Palmer had.
Spieth has played three Masters, winning the Green Jacket once and finishing runner-up twice.
For the first time at Augusta, he will not play in the final group on Sunday, but most likely will be contender.
”I mean, may as well swing freely, play with confidence,“ said Spieth. ”We fought back tremendously to have a chance to win this golf tournament and no matter what happens at the end we will have a chance to win with a really good round tomorrow.
”New experience for me, coming from behind on Sunday at the Masters, which is kind of fun to say.
“Finishing fifth versus 10th doesn’t mean much to me, so that frees me up a bit tomorrow.”
A classic frontrunner, it will require an Augusta comeback for the ages for Spieth to don Green Jacket on Sunday.
He trailed by 10 strokes after an opening round marred by a quadruple-bogey at the par-five 15th, and has methodically battled his way back into contention.
”I know that anything can happen,“ said Spieth. ”I know that; if I am able to jump out into the lead, I know that you have to keep the gas pedal down and pretend you’re not.
“I’ve been on both sides of it now, and I like the winning side better. So I‘m certainly going to go for broke tomorrow.”
Editing by Andrew Both