Sunday of the 2017 Masters was a little disorienting for Jordan Spieth.
It wasn’t the fact that he was not in the final twosome for the first time in four career starts at Augusta. He was OK sitting only two shots back to start in the penultimate pairing.
The part that was tough to stomach for Spieth was reaching the 10th tee without being a part of the hunt on the second nine.
“I walked away disappointed that I didn’t have a chance to win at the turn,” said Spieth, who had fallen six shots behind the co-leaders after nine holes. “Because starting the day in the second-to-last group you want to feel like once you make the turn you have a chance. If I’d started the day in 35th and didn’t have a shot, that’s one thing; you have fun playing the golf course and try to shoot the lowest round possible. But when you start in the second-to-last group you’re looking to be at or near the lead at the turn.”
Still only 24, Spieth has become as much of a Sunday afternoon fixture at the Masters as the roars. He’d finished 2-1-2 in his first three starts, which could have been all wins. So when he rallied from an opening 75 to put himself in fourth place to start the final round, he was expected to be a factor down the stretch yet again.
Yet despite feeling as comfortable as ever, he tumbled to a career-worst tie for 11th with another 75 that he described as “bizarre.”
“It was the most free that I’ve ever felt at Augusta National, and so happens that I end up shooting one of my worst rounds,” he lamented.
Not that Spieth’s confidence at Augusta took a hit. He managed to insert himself into the mix despite bringing nothing close to his A-game last year.
“I wasn’t on; I wasn’t playing well at all that week,” he said. “I just kind of found a way to go about it. Which is room for confidence right now. I still feel like that golf course is tailor made for me. I was just upset that it wasn’t on the back nine.”
At Royal Birkdale, three months after the Masters, Spieth showed what he’s capable of given any wiggle room on the back nine of a major. Dueling with Matt Kuchar, Spieth's drive missed the 13th hole wide right, and after a protracted ruling he had to take a penalty drop onto the back of the practice range. He salvaged bogey to slip only a shot behind Kuchar but followed it up with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie binge to win the British Open and claim the third leg of a career grand slam.
The quick reversal is illustrative of how Spieth’s fortunes can turn in a snap.
“You saw it at the British,” he said. “I mean, I was all over the place to start the final round and I had one putt and then rattled them all off. I don’t want to be streaky; I’d rather be consistent. But the good news is my confidence can flip into a pretty elite level once that kind of clicks.”
Despite searching for the right switch in the months leading back to Augusta, Spieth believes he’s ready to flip the light on when he turns down Magnolia Lane.
“Actually really like where I’m at right at this second in regards to approaching Augusta,” he said in March. “We’re in a very similar position to 2015 (when he won the Masters and U.S. Open and threatened to win the grand slam). So, tremendous year going to take place from here on out. I really consider the Masters the start of the season with anything leading into it as a preparation for the Masters.”
That his results thus far have been underwhelming is not a grave concern as his major "season opener" looms.
“I’ve missed the cut twice the week before and had a chance to win on Sunday at Augusta,” he said. “I’ve missed the cut and won the next week. Certainly you want to see progress and some low rounds, but I’ve been shooting 4- or 5-under in regular rounds and pro-ams and at home, and that’s the stuff I’ve been looking for. I know that I’m close. I’ve been saying that and I know that I’m not performing on what I’m saying yet, but I really do believe I’ve just got to match my eyes up and then it clicks.”