If Jordan Spieth is honest – and he is – he knows his Masters loss is good for golf
Danny Willett victory at Augusta adds some vinegar to what is shaping up to be a spicy narrative for the sport’s new era of stars
Invincibility lays a mere nine holes away, so close you can touch it. In fact you can wear it. Another green jacket, the most desired and exclusive garment in golf, is being fitted for a likeable youth from Texas. At 22 years of age, Jordan Spieth would be the youngest golfer ever to own two green jackets.
More importantly though, back to back commanding victories at Augusta would instill an aura of Masters invincibility in him that is reserved for the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Five strokes up with nine holes to play? This is no longer a golf tournament; it’s a coronation.
You know it’s not a particularly kind game golf, but it is honest. So damn honest that it is painfully addictive. No one was more surprised that Spieth was up five strokes with nine holes to play than Jordan himself.
His irons in particular had been shaky all weekend. But like all great champions on the most pressure-packed tracks, his putter was clutch. However a couple of bad tee shots on 10 and 11 and even the putter could not keep him from back-to-back bogeys.
Still three up on the 12th tee on a short yet perilous par three with a green bordered by Rae’s Creek, a lazy nine iron off the tee was too lazy and rolled back into the creek. Laying three already, he would drop a mere 70 yards away and chunk another shot into the water that was so bad it had every hacker from Mongkok to Mongolia screaming out – Hey, that’s my swing!
Amidst the bucolic splendour of the 12th hole, Spieth was naked. He could not hide in the dugout or dressing room. There is no helmet covering his head, nor a sheath of equipment draped over his body.
Yes, it sure is a cruel game, this supposedly leisure activity that some talented young swingers make mega millions playing and for that moment in time, on the 12th hole of Augusta on a Sunday afternoon at the Masters, Jordan Spieth earned every nickel they pay him.
He earned it because he didn’t jump in Rae’s Creek and stay under water for a day or two after he put another ball in there. They don’t just pay you to play golf; they pay you to keep playing golf. In a span of about thirty minutes he went from invincible to inconsolable and saw a five-stroke lead turn into a three-shot deficit. He would make a mini-run with a couple of birdies before a bogey on 17 doomed him to finish three behind England’s Danny Willett.
The last time an Englishman won the Masters was 20 years ago and it took an epic meltdown from leader Greg Norman for Sir Nick Faldo to capture his third title. Norman was 41 and never won another major. Spieth is almost 20 years younger and already has two majors to his name, including a Masters.
He would never agree but Spieth’s collapse may be the best thing to happen to golf. Spieth shares co-billing with Rory McIlroy and Jason Day of best player in the game. This being a Ryder Cup year, US captain Davis Love III won’t need to pump up his show pony Spieth for the competition against Willett, McIlroy and the rest of the Euros either.
And Willett has shown a shred of empathy towards Spieth’s fate, but only a shred. His smiling mug has been omnipresent and unrestrained, even during the award ceremony, when the forlorn former champ Spieth had to present his successor with his green jacket. I mean Willett is acting like he just won the Masters. Which he did - technically.
A little bit of vinegar may be the perfect condiment for golf. Throw in the open acrimony between Spieth’s outfitter Under Armour and McIlroy’s Nike and the shoe boys will have no trouble creating a spicy narrative. We have a core of great, young and respectful players now. They are all rich so there’s no drama there.
However the drama from the competition and, the inherent hype surrounding it, could make for some boffo box office. In the end, the game of golf won at Augusta. It’s an honest game sometimes played by dishonest people.
But not Jordan Spieth, he is unfailingly honest. “I had my B-minus game tee to green and I made up for it around the greens with my putter,” he said. “Ultimately, you just have to have your A game – every single part – and I just didn’t have those iron swings, as it showed on the back nine.”
True that, all of it.