Neil Tappin looks back at Jordan Spieth's Masters horror show in 2016. Nobody expected the dramatic fall of Augusta's favourite son...
History was about to repeat itself. Stood on the 10th tee Jordan Spieth had a five shot lead at the US Masters. His imperious putting touch was rendering the 2016 Masters something of an anti-climax. Four birdies in a row at the end of the front nine had turned this into a procession. Done deal – right?
But there’s a reason Augusta stirs the emotions of golfers all over the world. Danger lurks at every corner and yet, what we were about to watch was a Masters horror show like few we’ve seen before. Don’t forget, Spieth was the defending Champion and it had looked as if this little slice of Georgia was made for him only.
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Bogeys at 10 and 11 had suddenly opened the door but nobody was predicting what was about to happen. Spieth pushed his tee shot at 12 and it never looked like carrying the water. Suddenly, golf fans all over the world found themselves shuffling towards the edge of their seats. This was the most un-Spieth-like moment imaginable.
If the first attempt at reaching the 12th green was poor, the second was shocking. Let’s not dress this up – it was a duff, plain and simple. This was one of the best players in the world left to look hopeless. Within five minutes, Spieth had etched his name into the history books yet again at Augusta but it wasn’t the way he wanted. That it should happen to the one man who seemed completely oblivious to the mental stresses of this uniquely beautiful but menacing layout, made it even more jaw-dropping.
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What this proved more than anything else is that golf, and in particular the Masters, is perhaps the purest of all sporting tests. Not many sports balance the demands of skill and pressure so neatly. Nobody is immune to the emotions that can render a golfer helpless. Not even Jordan Spieth.
Jordan Spieth will undoubtedly contend here again, maybe even this year, but the events of 2016 hurt, make no mistake about that. His post-round interviews were conducted in a state of numbness.
The question now is – has he managed to process what happened? Can he regain a positive outlook at Augusta, and in particular as he stands on that 12th tee again? It was excruciating to watch but ultimately, its moments like these that make golf so enthralling. As he returned in 2017, you could sense the internal struggle. That he dunked his ball in the water again on Sunday is a sign the demons are still there. It could be a story with yet more chapters to come.