Spieth still in awe of 2014 Masters
A year has passed since Jordan Spieth made his run at Masters Tournament history, but the feeling of the moment still leaves the young Texan searching for words.
“To have the lead on Sunday and in the last group ...,” said Spieth, his unfinished thought lingering for a moment.
“I played there a few times in the evening when there was not a soul on the golf course. To tee it up then and then to see it in the final group where you can’t see any of the grass, just a sea of people, and kind of soak that experience in, too. That’s one that I’ve just never been able to explain to my family, friends, to anyone. Never been able to explain what that was like. Just badly want to be back there in that setting.”
Last April, Spieth was primed to refute the conventional wisdom about what it takes to win a Masters. Only 20 years old, he would have extended the “Rule of 17” years between players becoming the youngest winners at Augusta, undercutting Tiger Woods (1997) who took the title from Seve Ballesteros (1980) who claimed the record from Jack Nicklaus (1963).
Plus everyone knows that rookies aren’t supposed to win the Masters, with Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) the only living aberration to the rule since the first two tournaments.
Yet there was Spieth – without the overwhelming power of Bubba Watson or the putting prowess of Ben Crenshaw or the short-game genius of Ballesteros – leading the tournament by two strokes with 11 holes to play.
“He’s just got a knack for playing golf,” Crenshaw said of his fellow Texan.
A couple of average chips and missed putts on 8 and 9, however, coupled with birdies by Bubba Watson on the same holes, flipped everything with a four-shot swing and sent Watson on a second-nine cruise to a second green jacket. Spieth said it was how Watson handled the entire day on the way to victory that proved the ultimate lesson.
“I knew we were both feeling the pressure, but he kind of had that way even when I went up a couple and he’s walking and laughing,” Spieth said. “If he’d been up three or four on me when it was 7 or 8, I’d have been rushing and anxious. He was still trying to joke with me walking down the eighth fairway. That’s what I’m talking about. He had the patience to realize that back nine he knew he’d be able to reach the par 5s and I wasn’t. He just knew there was a lot coming and I helped him on a couple holes. It was still a different demeanor than I would have had in that moment, but I’m glad that I realize that.”
Watson learned that patience in 2012 when he chased down Louis Oosthuizen despite the South African’s making an albatross on the second hole.
“When Spieth got off to an early start, I remembered in 2012 when Louis got off to an early start with a double‑eagle on 2,” Watson said. “I knew to keep my head down. My caddie said we still have a long way to go, still got the back nine to go, so just keep your head down and keep focused. 2012 obviously helped me stay focused on what I was doing and my own game, and so I just stayed committed to my shots.”
That’s the trick Spieth is still learning when he gets into contention – which is frequently.
“Each time I just lacked a little bit of patience,” Spieth said. “I just want to jump out too quickly out of the gate. I mean, Sunday final round when you’re tied for the lead is the marathon still. I always thought of it as a sprint. Each time I learned and learned.”
The lessons started sinking in at the end of 2014, with runaway victories in the Australian Open and Tiger Woods’ event at Isleworth. Winning the prestigious Stonehaven Cup at The Australian Club made a particularly strong impression when he looked at the names above his own – Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Greg Norman, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy, among others.
“Just Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer and future Hall of Famers on it,” Spieth said. “It’s a tremendous trophy to have your name on.”
The green jacket is the trophy he most covets, and the taste of contention he had last year only fuels his desire even more.
“The Masters itself was the greatest individual tournament I’ve ever played,” he said. “One, it’s the Masters. It’s the one that – no offense to any other tournament, but I’ve said it at every other tournament – it’s the one that you dream about winning, that I dreamt about winning as a kid.
“Ben Crenshaw said, ‘You really see a man’s true emotion competing at Augusta more than anywhere else.’ I felt that was the case, that’s why it’s the best tournament I can learn from in my life. The good and the bad. Even though we fell short … I was reminded Greg Norman said, ‘You learn a lot more from your failures than you do from winning.’ I took that to heart there.”