Jordan Spieth takes one-shot lead into final round after late double-bogey spoils impressive round
To invert the old saying; if you are good enough you are young enough. Bernhard Langer turned convention on its head, raising the outlandish prospect of a third green jacket at the age of 58.
Langer trails leader Jordan Spieth by just two strokes after the defending champion shipped three shots over the closing two holes to finish on three under par. Spieth remains favourite to make it back-to-back Masters titles but his late collapse to a 74 was a gift to those in pursuit.
“Doesn’t he win every week on the Champions Tour?” Spieth asked of Langer. “Don’t be surprised. It’s not about age. He is just another competitor tomorrow.”
This was supposed to be the day Rory McIlroy took it to Spieth. Disappointingly for him he never came close to living up to his expanding chest size, despite Spieth’s late fallibilities. A birdie-less 77 leaves McIlroy five adrift on two over par.
Langer’s performance suggests a generation of young golfers might be wasting their time pumping iron between rounds. In what amounted to the antithesis of muscular golf, Langer raced to the fore in a marvellous reprise of his youthful self.
A bogey at the last for a 70 dropped Langer to one under par, but far from out of it as he attempts to relieve 1968 PGA champion Julius Boros of the honour of oldest major champion by ten years.
World no1 Jason Day, three adrift in a tie for fifth, paid tribute to his playing partner. “That was just so impressive to watch. When you consider some of the positions he is playing in from compared to where I was, it was unbelievable.
“If I think back to 10, I had 120 yards to the pin and he was at least 60, maybe 80 yards behind me. He plods along and knows his strengths and weaknesses. I could tell how gritty he is and how much of a competitor he is. He is a true professional in that regard and I know that he really wants to compete and try to win this thing tomorrow, but then so do I.”
McIlroy just couldn’t get going, dropping shots on the outward nine at the first and seventh, the latter via a three-putt from 15 feet. He almost revisited the horrors of 2011 visiting the trees at the tenth. Thankfully he did not require the provisional he hit but another bogey resulted.
He was again in the woods at the left of the 11th fairway, from where he curled his approach into the water, resulting in a double. This was not the day to shoot a high number. Spieth brought him back into the equation late on, but McIlroy will need to unscramble his mind to contend.
“I am disappointed,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I righted the ship a little on the back nine but couldn’t take the few opportunities I gave myself. If I am to take heart from anything then it’s the fact Jordan has just let a lot of people in after his finish. But I need to get off to a fast start tomorrow.”