By Larry Fine
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Precocious Jordan Spieth is minding his mentor Ben Crenshaw, keeping his emotions under control and staying patient in the thick of the hunt at the midway point of the Masters.
Playing his first Masters, the 20-year-old Spieth shot 71 in Thursday's opening round then went one better on Friday when the wind howled across the Augusta National pines, to tie for third place at three-under 141, four shots behind leader Bubba Watson.
"Mr. Crenshaw says it best, the Masters brings out emotion in guys that aren't emotional," Spieth told reporters.
"I'm already emotional and I got to keep it on the down low.
My caddie (Michael Greller) has been doing a great job of keeping me calm, level headed, and focused on bogey as the worst score."
Spieth, who eagled the par-five 15th to jump up the leaderboard, is one the leading lights of golf's new generation.
The Texan has been earmarked for greatness since he won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011, joining Tiger Woods as the tournament's only multiple winners, and his progress in the professional ranks has been jaw-dropping.
In 2013, his first season on the PGA Tour, he won the John Deere Classic, at 19 becoming the youngest winner in 82 years on the Tour.
Spieth said he was not surprised to see his name on the leaderboard at the year's first major.
"No, I don't think so," he told reporters. "I've been playing against these guys and this caliber field at quite a few events.
"So I felt like if I could get my game right and really handle myself mentally, then I could have an opportunity to be in contention. That's where I'm at now and a lot of work to do.
"It's a halfway point. But I'm very pleased with the start."
Playing alongside two-times major winner Rory McIlroy, who barely made the cut at four over par, Spieth dropped a shot at the 17th after hitting his tee shot into the trees but showed his steely resolve at the last.
He struck a superb approach to within two feet of the flagstick on the difficult 18th for a tap-in birdie.
"This was a big goal of mine this year, to get in contention at a major and the Masters being the one that I dreamt about since I was who knows how old," he said.
Spieth conceded experience can certainly help over the fast, heavily contoured Augusta greens but believed he was capable of getting the job done.
"Ultimately, if you're playing extremely well and you get the right breaks, then it doesn't matter if it's your first time or your 50th, I think that you can win out here," said the ultra
confident Spieth, who saw the positives in being paired on Saturday with 2013 winner Adam Scott of Australia.
"I'm playing with the defending champ tomorrow and I'll get to see where he's playing a lot of his shots and how the ball's reacting from those. Hopefully, I can draw on that a little bit."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)