Spieth out to bury 2016 Masters meltdown
Jordan Spieth can’t wait for this week’s Masters — to be over, that is.
Spieth, who melted down in his title defense last year by squandering a five-stroke lead on the back nine at Augusta National in the final round, is weary of having to talk about it.
“No matter what happens at this year’s Masters, whether I can grab the jacket or I miss the cut or I finish 30th, it will be nice having the Masters go by,” said Spieth, who has dropped from No. 1 to No. 6 in the world since that nightmare of a Sunday afternoon.
“The Masters lives on for a year. It brings a non-golf audience into golf. And it will be nice once this year’s finished from my point of view, to be brutally honest with you.”
Spieth was so dominant in 2015, winning five times on the PGA Tour, that even claiming four titles since has somehow made it appear that he was struggling, but there is no question that the 2016 Masters is on his mind.
In December, he returned to the scene of the crime — specifically the par-3, 155-yard 12th hole at Augusta National — where he deposited two balls into Rae’s Creek while taking a quadruple-bogey 7 in the fourth round last year.
“First time back,” Spieth told reporters later. “I was very nervous when I got on 12 tee, and I hit an 8-iron over the bunker to about 15 feet and made the putt. ...
“I went back the next day. We played it the next morning and I hit a 9-iron this time to a left pin, and it landed about 3 feet beyond the hole and it was really, really soft, and it sucked back and almost went in, right on the lip. So I got two 2s out of No. 12 the first time back. Last two times I played the hole, I made birdie.”
What that will mean when Spieth plays there on Thursday with the pressure of the first major of the year, or on Sunday if he again is in the chase, remains to be seen.
“As far as just having all the questions done, I’m pretty sure they will be,” Spieth said of dealing with the media on the issue.
Don’t be so sure, Rory McIlroy said.
McIlroy held a four-stroke lead heading to the final round of the 2011 Masters before playing himself out of the picture by shooting 80.
And he has yet to hear the end of it.
“It’s not as if it’s going to be the last year he gets questions about it,” McIlroy said. “That might be the way he’s approaching it. But if he doesn’t banish those demons or win this year, the questions will always still be there.
“I still get questioned about the back nine at Augusta in 2011. It’s just something you have to deal with. It’s something that happened. It’s not going to go away. It’s there, and it always will be.”
McIlroy bounced back to win the first of his four major titles two months later in the U.S. Open, a resounding eight-stroke victory at Congressional, and this week at Augusta he will make his third bid to complete the career Grand Slam after finishing fourth and tying for 10th in the Masters the past two years.
So two of the best young players in the world have their demons to overcome in the Masters, but McIlroy pointed out that there is a difference.
“He can console himself by opening up his wardrobe and seeing (a Green Jacket) hanging there,” McIlroy said.
Even though Spieth, 23, can’t shake the questions about those two shots in the middle of Amen Corner that never had a prayer, he has a strong track record at Augusta National.
Spieth has tied for second, claimed the first of his two major victories and tied for second in his three Masters appearances. The course seems to be made for him.
“It would be best if I could reclaim the jacket,” said Spieth, who followed his Masters victory two years ago by capturing the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay two months later.
“But I believe that I’ll be back up there sooner or later, just the way that we play the golf course, the success we’ve had and the comfort level I have there. Whether it happens this year or not, it will just be nice because that tournament, it’s a 365-day thing. There’s no other Masters.”