Jordan Spieth: Reflections on His Masters

As we all know by now, Jordan Spieth finished T2 with Jonas Blixt at the 2014 Masters and three strokes behind Bubba Watson, Bubba winning his second green jacket.

With Tiger out recovering from back surgery and Phil missing the cut by one after a triple bogey at 12, Speith, and Blixt to a lesser extent, filled the void. They filled the void because first-year Master’s players are even money to make the cut and routinely fade on the weekend. You can get a couple of good rounds in, maybe, but with the pressure mounting, not knowing what you don’t know usually doesn’t end well.

But these two guys were irrepressible. They just kept coming, with Spieth ending up in the final pairing with Bubba and Blixt in the next to last with Matt Kuchar. 

Spieth not only kept it together at the beginning of the final round, he was 3-under through the 7th and playing with a presence that oozed cool determination. But his dead-on wedge into the par-5 8th didn’t release after what he felt was a perfect shot and he 3-putted for bogey. Watson made birdie.

On the 9th, his dead-on approach shot landed on the crown of the false front and rolled lazily back down the bank below the green. He hit a marvelous pitch shot that stopped three feet or so above the pin but he missed the putt. Watson made birdie.

So two brief holes that passed by lickety-split and Watson had a four-shot swing in his favor. But at that point, Spieth didn’t think it was over by any means:

“8 and 9 I hit pretty decent shots up there.  8 was shocking that it didn’t release on my chip shot.  And 9 just barely missed it, and it was another yard or two climbing up that ridge and having even a shorter putt for birdie.  I don’t regret those two shots at all.”

But I didn’t think it was over at that point and neither did Spieth. There was still the whole back nine to go and everybody knows that “the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.”

When people asked me later, I said that it was over on the par-3 12th when he hit the top of the bank and rolled back into Rae’s Creek. He described how cunning a short little nothing hole could be; a classic par-3 that has bedeviled many a contender. Spieth knows why in his case:

“Just not committing to the line.  I let the 20‑year‑old inside of me just barely slip out.  I held it in so long of playing safe, and I hate having 9‑iron and not being able to go at the pin.  And we picked a spot and I got over the ball, felt like there was no wind or, if anything, a touch of help, which is what that hole does to you.  And there was a little hurt there.”

“So I just tried to bleed it towards the hole, it got held up — I have not watched it, I imagine it couldn’t have been more than a yard or two from being 12 feet from the hole, 15 feet from the hole, but instead I was struggling to try to make bogey.”

That was his only blemish on the back, but that was the one that did it:

“And that’s what that course does.  Bubba pulled away from me, but [looking back] I felt like there was only a couple of swings the whole day [on 9 and 12] that I missed.”

You’d think that his inexperience would get to him on the back nine, but not so:

“I was having a great time.  I was having a blast.  It was very, very nerve‑wracking.  It was the whole day.  They didn’t change on the back nine from the front nine.  In fact, I was probably most nervous on 5, 6, 7, and I went bogey, birdie, birdie there.  Once the bunker shot went in [on the par-3 6th], I knew I was in the lead by a couple.  That’s when it got nerve‑wracking.  From there actually started to settle down once I got to 7.”

“6 was pretty nerve‑wracking, and the back nine felt about the same.  It really was just the shot on 9 and 12, it was just a couple of yards here and there, a putt goes in versus a putt not going in, and I could be having a green jacket, which is really, really cool to think about.”

But he isn’t reliving any of it except in the most positive way:

“No, I haven’t relived anything in my mind.  Again, I’ve looked back with all positives.  I mean, I’ve played [12] probably eight or nine times, maybe ten times now, and I’ve hit it in the water a couple of times.  And I’ve also made birdie a couple of times on my practice rounds and whatnot.”

“No, there’s nothing that’s haunting me from last week.  I feel like I played really well to not shoot an over‑par round on that course and not make more than a bogey for four days the way that course was playing.”

“So although that shot was very close and maybe really created separation, ultimately it’s not something that I’m drawing on.”

“So very excited, but at the same time a little bit bittersweet to come that close, and I truly believe that I’ll be back.”

So in the same way that Rory McIlroy came out of his disappointing Masters in 2011, Jordan Spieth is basically over his because he didn’t see it as so bad in the first place. Some people see the glass as half full and others see the glass as not just half full, but overflowing. And that’s gotten him to where he is today.

In that light, I found it very interesting how he described just how tough his Rookie year was because until he won the John Deere in July, he had no status:

“Last year I didn’t have any status, and I really didn’t know where I was going week to week for a lot of the year.  So that made it a little more difficult to really plan for those things, especially the Major championships that I was in.  Only the PGA did I know more than really the week before.”

“So the preparation that goes into it, I mean there’s a lot.  Everybody [on his team] needs to be on the same page.  It’s pretty detailed within each aspect, whether it’s what I’m doing fitness‑wise, what I’m doing with my swing, and what we’re working on as far as getting everything set up before the tournament starts at the venue, making sure we’re as comfortable as we can be when we get there, and setting up practice rounds and making sure that all it comes down to is golf.”

And since he’s pretty good at the golf part, we don’t need to be worrying about Jordan Spieth. He’s just fine and very much looking forward to this week at Hilton Head.

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