AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s not over.
As much as we might want to gather here today to mourn the passing of every storyline, subplot and sidebar that does not begin with Jordan and end with Spieth, we cannot. It’s too early. Only four of 21 second-round leaders or co-leaders have won on the PGA Tour this season. In the history of the Masters, 36-hole leaders have won less than half the time.
No doubt it’s impressive, how Spieth, 21 and just four years out of high school, has grompled the field with scores of 64-66 to get to 14 under and take a five-shot lead over Charley Hoffman (68).
But Dustin Johnson had three eagles Friday to shoot 67 and get to 7-under, seven shots off the lead. Justin Rose shot 70 and was also at 7-under.
Still in it — both of them.
Phil Mickelson still has an outside shot at reentering the winner’s circle for the first time since the 2013 British Open. He was already six behind after signing for a first-round 70, and his odds were moved to life support when Spieth resumed his assault on the course in the calm weather Friday morning, long before Mickelson even stepped on the first tee.
“Today was a tough day starting out, where I’m 12 shots off the lead,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got a difficult golf course with windy conditions and a lot of tough pins. It was tough to be patient. It was tough not to force the issue and make some dumb mistakes. It would have been really easy to do.”
Instead, Mickelson birdied 11, 13, 15 and 17 to card a 68 and get to 6- under par, eight back and in sixth place alone. He’ll go off with England’s Paul Casey (68, 7-under) in the third to last group Saturday.
Ernie Els flat-lined with a second-round 72 to fall nine strokes behind in solo seventh place, but he’s not discounting his chances, either.
We can’t even give an official time of death for Rory McIlroy’s chances to win his first Masters, atoning for his 2011 Masters cockup and completing the career grand slam at the tender age of 25.
They aren’t entirely dead.
Several concerned bystanders followed along as McIlroy shot a front-nine 40 on Friday, leaving him a staggering 17 shots behind as he made the turn. But he rallied — a birdie at the par-4 10th hole, an eagle at the 13th and three more birdies and a bogey for a back-nine 31 and a second straight 71.
“It’s really, really impressive,” McIlroy said of Spieth’s first 36 holes. “I think a few guys can still catch him. It will take, obviously, something extraordinary from myself to get up there, but you never know. I know better than most people what can happen with the lead around here.”
At the 2011 Masters, McIlroy looked great through not just 36 but 54 holes. He shot a final-round 80. At the 2010 U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson had a three-shot lead through three rounds but collapsed with an 82 on Sunday. Stuff happens.
Historians will recall that Dr. Gil Morgan threatened to completely run away with the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Tom Kite won.
Is Spieth a modern-day Gil Morgan? Of course not. But still…
Bubba Watson’s goal of winning the Masters for the third time in the last four years? It’s not entirely dead, even after his second 71.
“I just haven’t made the putts,” said Watson, who just last year fired weekend scores of 64-64 to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Jason Day, who came so close here in 2011 and 2013, eagled the par-5 second hole to get to 6 under early Friday, but then he made four bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way to shoot 74 and fall to 3 under, 11 back.
“I can’t control what he’s doing right now,” Day said of Spieth. “If he’s going to go out and play and shoot a record-setting, you know, tournament, then obviously that’s just in his hands.”
Although once thought dead on arrival, even Tiger Woods’ hopes of a Masters victory kept a faint pulse for 36 holes (73-69). He’s at 2-under, in an eight-way tie for 19th place, 12 shots behind. If nothing else, the 14-time major winner has reanimated the corpse of his previously moribund short game, and his 3-under round Friday marked his first sub-70 effort at Augusta National since he shot a final-round 67 to tie for fourth in 2011.
Imagine the board without Spieth — no knock on the young Texan, but an acknowledgement that just four of 21 second-round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win this year on Tour — and Woods is seven shots behind, just like Rory. Mickelson is three back. Think they can’t bridge that gap?
It’s not over.