Who’s afraid of Jordan Spieth? Not "bad ass" Rory McIlroy

Who’s afraid of Jordan Spieth? Not "bad ass" Rory McIlroy

Jordan Spieth believes he strikes fear in everyone with his talents at Augusta National — bar “bad ass” Rory McIlroy.

The American is the course and distance favourite in the Masters given that he has finish second, first and second in his first three appearances.

The Texan tried to gee himself up after missing the cut in the Shell Houston on Friday with a defiant challenge to his rivals he believes “fear” his Augusta dominance.

Spieth insisted: “ I think we know and the other players that are playing next week know that we strike fear in others.”

But he admitted last night that McIlroy is not one of the players he can intimidate, even if he has a green jacket at the Holywood star is chasing his first.

Asked if he feared McIlroy, Spieth said: “Rory McIlroy has been there and done that. Can I say ‘bad ass’ here?

“He’s a guy that when you are paired with him, you don’t have that major championship winning edge. It would be mano a mano.

“It doesn’t matter if it is here or anywhere else. It may be in his mind, but I don’t say, 'I have won the Masters and he hasn’t' because trust me, he is capable of it and he will win at least one. 

“I think if you asked every single player here, that would be the answer."

Padraig Harrington believes Spieth has to convince himself that he is the man to beat, even if the rest of the field will be looking to see what McIlroy and world No 1 Dustin Johnson are doing first.

But Spieth, who imploded last year when leading into the back nine by making a quadruple bogey seven at the short 12th, still believes he has a mental edge over the rest when he drives down Magnolia Lane. 

Spieth said: "I am very confident in the way we play this tournament. I don’t know what effect it has on other people.

"'We strike fear', those were my caddie Michael’s words and it was his way of communicating confidence into me after missing the cut in Houston.

“It was his way of striking confidence before I stood on the podium to do an interview right after missing the cut. 

“I doubt I am very scary but I think around this place, given our success, other players may feel it might be hard to beat us. That’s how I’d feel if I had never won here."

Spieth was second to Bubba Watson on his debut in 2014, when the left-hander won his second green jacket in three years.

Spieth said: “I think ”14 is a great example. I was playing against Bubba Watson; I felt Bubba had a slight mental edge at this place over me then. 

"And so I think that could affect somebody else but it depends on who that individual is."

Harrington is convinced that Spieth is trying to psyche himself up with talk of “striking fear" into the rest.

And his tactic could work if he starts well on Thursday morning before afternoon starters McIlroy and Johnson.

Harrington said: “Jordan needs to tell himself that he strikes fear. But he needs to get off to a fast start on Thursday and play well for 18 holes.

“More people are worried about Dustin and Rory than they are about Jordan before the tournament starts.

"But if Jordan starts well, yes, he will strike fear into the rest. He will have a presence on the field. 

“Jordan is one the other players are still saying, ‘I wonder’ about. But if he does start well, that will put pressure on them.”

McIlroy appears exceptionally relaxed at Augusta National this year having played 108 holes in practice in recent weeks.

The world No 2 says he's tried to make Augusta National a second home by becoming as familiar as possible with the surroundings as he bids to complete the final leg of the Career Grand Slam.

"The more you can make Augusta national feel like your home golf course, the better; just to be comfortable in your surroundings, playing it as if it is your home course and that’s the way I am trying to approach it this week," McIlroy said.

"I wanted to come up here and have fun, it wasn’t two days of mapping pin positions and greens and trying to figure out where to leave it if I hit it somewhere, it was one ball, shoot a score...."

The Co Down man played with Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson on one of his visits, "playing some games, really enjoyed it, definitely most enjoyable build-up because it was about trying to shoot a score, trying to win a bit of money off the boys.

"That’s been the way I prepared, nice change from the norm and the more holes you can get around here the better."

McIlroy is making his ninth appearance in the Masters this week and he believes he's better prepared and more relaxed than he's ever been. 

"More mature? Definitely. I think without all the hype and the buildup, I'm not sure if I’ve shielded it or if it has been more quiet, but I feel more relaxed going in, not as wound up," he said.

"My patience could get very short the weeks before the Masters sometimes and I could say a few things I didn’t mean just because I was in a mood with the Masters coming up, a little bit of stress there.

"This year, I’ve been good, happy, relaxed, not stressed about it too much. I am in a good frame of mind."

If anyone strikes fear this week, it's not Spieth by McIlroy.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson, who has won his last three events, was the hot favourite until it emerged late on Wednesday that he had hurt his lower back following a fall at this rental home in Augusta.

His agent David Winkle said he still hopes to play tomorrow.

The world No 1 fell on the stairs on Wednesday and "landed hard on his lower back".

He is said to be uncomfortable but is resting and doctors have advised him to remain stable.

Johnson is due to tee off in the last group at 19:03 BST on Thursday evening.

"Dustin took a serious fall on a staircase in his Augusta rental home," Winkle said in a statement.

"He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably. 

"He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow."

The American, 32, won his third successive tournament when he beat Spain's Jon Rahm in the World Match Play final in late March.

He has won seven of the 17 tournaments he has played since claiming his first major at the US Open at Oakmont in June, racking up another seven top-10 finishes in the process.