AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jordan Spieth closed out the front nine with four straight birdies to build a five-shot lead going into the final stretch of the Masters.
A victory would make him the fourth player to win back-to-back, and the first player ever to win wire-to-wire in successive years.
And the 22-year-old Texan was making it look easy.
Spieth also led by five shots at the turn last year, when he started the final round with a four-shot lead. This time, six players were within three shots of the lead — but not for long.
Coming off a bogey that cut his lead to two shots, Spieth made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 sixth, then played the slope perfectly on the seventh hole and the ball rolled down to 3 feet for an easy birdie.
He had a simple up-and-down from just short of the green for a third straight birdie on the par-5 eighth. And he closed out the front nine with a 20-foot birdie putt to go out in 32. Playing in the last group with the all the pressure, he had the lowest score on the front nine Sunday.
Spieth needed a little help. With a one-shot lead, his tee shot on the par-3 fourth was headed for the trees when it caromed out into play, and he wound up saving par with a 12-foot putt.
Danny Willett of England went out in 34 and got as close as two shots at one point until Spieth began his birdie run.
Smylie Kaufman, playing with Spieth in the final pairing, matched birdies with him on the par-5 second hole. Six holes later, Kaufman was six shots behind.
Only four players were under par when Spieth made the turn. Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark was 1 under through 13 holes, while Dustin Johnson was 1 under through 11 holes.
At this rate, instead of the Masters not starting until the back nine Sunday, Spieth could have ended it on the front nine.
Most of the excitement was on the par-3 16th hole, where Shane Lowry, Davis Love III and Louis Oosthuizen each had a hole-in-one. That's a record number of aces for that hole.