Jordan Spieth looking forward to a 'lot of fun' in McIlroy duel

Defending champion Jordan Spieth said he was looking forward to a “lot of fun” on Saturday in the company of Rory McIlroy as the pair duel for Masters supremacy.

World number two Spieth takes a one-shot advantage over Ireland's world number three going into Saturday's third round at Augusta National with McIlroy, chasing a career grand slam, closing the gap thanks to a one-under-par 71 on Friday while the American shot a 74. It means they will play together in the final pairing of a major at the weekend for the first time.

“Well, we actually played the first two rounds together here two years ago, so I played with Rory at Augusta,” Spieth, 22, said.

Jordan Spieth reacts after a par on the sixth green during the second round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jordan Spieth reacts after a par on the sixth green during the second round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

“Yeah, it will be a fun round tomorrow. We enjoy playing with each other. We've both played well, we've both played poorly. Just both seem to be on our games right now and obviously really focused on this week with a lot of fantastic players behind us.

“I mean, there's the potential tomorrow for someone to shoot a few under and move up into the lead from outside the top 25. I mean, there's a potential for that with what I saw on the last six holes today, the way the course was playing. So I don't think either one of us is focused on each other. I think we're focused on the golf course.

“Sure, it's exciting to play with Rory. I enjoy it. He's a great player and a lot of fun to be around. So I think we'll just have it at that and not think much more of it.”

Spieth won the Masters at his second attempt 12 months ago, winning wire-to-wire and Friday's 74 that left him on four under par after 36 holes was enough to secure his sixth consecutive round in the lead at Augusta National, equalling Arnold Palmer's feat in 1960-61.

The double major champion knew he was in a battle, though, and not just with McIlroy, but the cool winds that blew during the second round with extremely tough hole positions.

“It was tough. It was very tough. It was a dream start (birdies at the first and third), after trying to back up yesterday's wind and today's conditions, two under through three, with being a little upset about that, considering I didn't birdie two, was a dream start.

“I knew that even par was still a good score. We kept reminding ourselves that even par is a good score. Let's play these holes par in from here on out. Dropped a few, but all in all still in the lead. A good save at the last to kind of have a putt to see go in.

“But boy, that golf course changed very much throughout the day today. That back nine, once we got to 11, 12, 13 and on, the greens went from being - I had four-iron into No. 1 and landed it on the top tier and stuck it. And then nine irons were pounding over greens by the end of day, given it was into the wind versus downwind but it's still significantly different at the end of the day.

“We were trying to adjust with ever-gusting and changing winds. It just was a really difficult day to score, and when we look back, if we approach it that way, tomorrow could be just as challenging if not more. That's going to be the biggest advantage for us is to go out tomorrow, pretend it's a new golf tournament and try and beat the field from here on in.”

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