Bob HarigESPN Senior WriterClose
- Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
- Covered golf for more than 20 years
- Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University
He has one. And while he very easily could have — should have? — had another, winning that Masters here a year ago was big, as it relates to moving on from Sunday’s disappointment.
Sure, that green jacket could have very easily been draped over his shoulders again as he headed down Magnolia Lane and back to the real world, for whatever media tour he would have elected to take.
It started at 5:36 p.m. and ended 13 minutes later. When it was over, Jordan Spieth had hit two balls in the water on the infamous No. 12, washing away any hope of a Masters repeat.
Jordan Spieth isn’t the first to see his Masters dreams succumb to the 12th hole at Augusta National. It’s a long and sordid history.
Although the 2016 Masters will be most remembered for Jordan Spieth’s quadruple-bogey, Danny Willett didn’t back his way into the green jacket and his first major title.
Instead, Spieth will return to his Texas home empty-handed, although they never take away the Masters. It still says one victory in three attempts — with two runner-up finishes — and as brutal as this loss was, the fact he already has a Masters to his name along with the U.S. Open certainly makes it easier to swallow.
Rory McIlroy, who desperately wants a green jacket of his own, talked about that very thing Saturday night after he let the tournament get away. He was asked if Spieth had more pressure on him because he was leading.
“I haven’t got a green jacket; he has,” McIlroy said.
It didn’t help Spieth at the 12th hole on Sunday, where his attempt to defend his title splashed into Rae’s Creek — twice. But it will help him recover.
Losing in that fashion without a major championship on his résumé, without a green jacket in that locker, could have been devastating. The focus would always be centered on the great opportunity squandered. Ask McIlroy about that. He led by four strokes going into the final round in 2011, was still tied at the turn, and imploded, never to come so close again. He tied for 10th this year, six shots back.
And what about Dustin Johnson? He coughed up a great chance to win a major championship when he three-putted the final green at Chambers Bay last summer, handing the U.S. Open to Spieth. Until Johnson gets the job done, there will always be that doubt.
There should be no such doubt with Spieth. He has two majors at age 22. He has won seven PGA Tour events and a FedEx Cup. This was tough, really tough. But the bet here is it makes him stronger and gives him more resolve to eliminate the mistakes that doomed him at Augusta National.
“It’s a tough one,” he said Sunday. “I knew the lead was 5 with nine holes to play. And I knew that those two bogeys [at the 10th and 11th] weren’t going to hurt me. But I didn’t take the extra deep breath and really focus on my line on 12. Instead I went up and I just put a quick swing on it.”
The 12th at Augusta National has tortured more golfers than just Spieth. All of the greats have hit balls in the water there. Jack Nicklaus once famously shanked a tee shot with Bobby Jones watching. Greg Norman saw the Masters drown there in 1996.
What Spieth should take away is this: Despite the quadruple-bogey 7, and playing the 10th through 12th holes in 6-over par, he managed to get himself back in the game. He made birdies at the 13th and 15th hole. Then he hit a beautiful tee shot at the 16th to give himself a birdie chance to pull within one. It didn’t drop, and trying to birdie the 17th and 18th was too much.
But despite a quad and three bogeys, Spieth still shot 73.
“I learned what I learned in 2014,” when Spieth also contended and finished second to Bubba Watson. “And it’s just stay committed. That was the right club (9-iron), just the wrong swing. Stay committed. It was really one swing.”
Spieth was the first to admit he simply made too many mistakes. After opening the tournament with a 6-under-par 66, he never matched par again. For the week, he led the tournament in birdies with 22 — nine more than Willett. But he made 10 bogeys, three double-bogeys and a quadruple-bogey. That quadruple-bogey itself is nearly impossible to overcome, let alone three doubles, as well — or 10 lost shots in four holes.
And yet, Spieth still had a chance to tie when he got to the 17th tee.
“I’m very confident the way we play the game of golf,” he said. “I think that when we’re on, we’re the best in the world. I believe we were the best in the world getting by for the most part this week with what felt uncomfortable over the ball with my iron play.
“I hit some really good irons, but for the most part, it was my ability to map out the course, my putting and my short game that pretty much had us in the lead. It’s a lot of holes significantly over par, which is really tough for me to swallow. But it’s my expectations, I should never shoot two over-par rounds in a row, no matter what the golf course is, even a U.S. Open. So to shoot 3 on a course where I was under par through nine holes each round, that’s just tough to take away.”
Bernhard Langer, the two-time Masters champion who gave it a run at age 58, was among those who saw no issues with Spieth being able to bounce back. Defeat is a part of golf, he said. You lose way more than you win.
“He’s already had a lot of success, won here,” Langer said. “Everyone has gone through these things here.”
Spieth has gone 2-1-2 at Augusta National, remember. And while that green jacket ceremony on Sunday in Butler Cabin and again on the putting green had to be excruciating — “It was very tough that it’s so soon after the finish,” he said — it can possibly serve as a great motivator.
He will now have some time to reflect. Spieth is not expected to tee it up again until the Players Championship in a month. It will be his first extended break since the beginning of the year. It’s a time to regroup and recharge.
And to remember. He has a green jacket, one that will always be here waiting for him.