Henrik Stenson found himself in the middle of a full-scale Masters media barrage Friday afternoon, ushered from stop to stop behind the Augusta National clubhouse with one predominant line of questioning.
Just what had it looked like from inside the ropes Thursday and Friday, witnessing the storm that playing partner Jordan Spieth had unleashed?
“Jordan who?” he deadpanned. “Oh, wait. That was the guy who was next to me who shot 14 under for two days. Of course.”
Ho-hum. Spieth had been making it look so effortless.
After taking the first-round lead with a 64, he delivered a bogey-free 66 Friday, leaving the field to marvel.
Spieth’s 36-hole total of 130 set a Masters record. His five-shot lead over Charley Hoffman at the midpoint also left only five players within eight strokes.
And the ambitious young Texan has a profound maturity to propel himself into the weekend.
That’s why, as Spieth soaked in his brilliant second round, he retained a straightforward weekend to-do list.
“No scoreboard watching,” Spieth reminded himself. “Set a goal. And understand that the course is going to be harder.”
A year ago, in his Masters debut, Spieth shared the 54-hole lead but stumbled enough Sunday to finish three shots behind Bubba Watson. The experience stung, but as Spieth asserted Friday, it also taught him a few vital Augusta lessons.
“What I learned was patience,” he said. “On the weekend of a major, those rounds can often seem like two rounds with the mental stuff that’s running through your head. … The hardest thing to do is put aside wanting to win so bad.”
Spieth’s partner in Saturday’s final pairing is Hoffman, whose 36-hole score would have led in eight of the previous 10 Masters.
Yet even with a 68 Friday, Hoffman lost ground on Spieth. He noticed too.
“I’m looking at the leaderboards,” Hoffman said. “Because they are pretty strategically placed. I mean, it’s hard to miss them.”
Behind Spieth and Hoffman sits a trio at seven under — Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey — with Phil Mickelson alone in sixth at six under after a 68. He knows, like everyone else, the tournament is Spieth’s to lose.
“He was playing some of the best golf coming into this tournament,” Mickelson said. “He’s [now] playing the best golf in the tournament.”
From his vantage point, Stenson expressed admiration for Spieth’s assertive putting and noted the 21-year-old’s rare composure.
“He’s definitely an old head on young shoulders, isn’t he?” Stenson said.
Spieth has never let youth be a deterrent for chasing big dreams. On Friday, he noted Seve Ballesteros’ first Masters victory in 1980 at 23 and Tiger Woods’ 1997 triumph at 21.
“It means that it can be done,” Spieth said.
Woods’ 18-under total and 12-shot win in ’97 — both Masters records — are now threatened.
Spieth’s pleasant blend of confidence and humility, meanwhile, remains obvious even as he leaves his growing galleries in awe. As he walked from tee to green at the 16th hole, he received a heartfelt standing ovation. It wasn’t the first of the day.
“That’s something you can only dream about,” Spieth said. “It’s [only] Friday too. I’d like to have the same thing happening on Sunday.”
That wish is very much within reach.