Mixed feelings for Masters runner-up Spieth
AUGUSTA — Looking at a 20-year-old who just finished in a tie for second place at his first Masters Tournament, it would be tough to see where Jordan Spieth had anything to be upset about after Sunday.
Taking into consideration his two-stroke lead after seven holes, it’s easier to understand why he called the final result “a stinger.”
“I’m very, very pleased, no doubt,” he said of the even-par round that left him at 5-under for the tournament. “It stings right now, and the only thing I’m thinking about is when I’m getting back next year.”
While Spieth was clear that nerves didn’t play a role in his decision-making, he admitted that they were there. He also said that playing in the final group with now two-time champion Bubba Watson on Sunday at Augusta National began affecting him as early as Saturday night.
“Going in, it’s difficult to sleep at my age at the position I was going to be in,” he said. “It’s tough waiting that long to come out and play this round.”
When the pair, who came into the round tied for the lead at 5-under, did hit the course at 2:40 p.m., Spieth was the first to distinguish himself. He birdied No. 2 to take the lead at 6-under, and by the time the pair hit the fourth tee box, the former University of Texas golfer had a two-stroke lead.
Even though Watson made birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth answered with his own at Nos. 4 and 7 to take a two-shot lead to the eighth tee box with no one outside their group posing a serious threat.
“So if you told me that when I woke up this morning, I would have thought, you know, it would be difficult for me to not win this golf tournament,” he said of the situation at that juncture of the tournament.
Except Spieth wasn’t fully aware of the scenario at that time. He knew he had a lead, but he had not focused on the white scoreboards around the course to find out where he stood.
“I didn’t know what the lead was,” he said. “I didn’t know where the guys ahead of me were. I knew where Bubba was at, but I didn’t look at the scoreboard at all. First time I looked at it was probably 15, 15 or 16.”
By that point, the tone of the round – which essentially went from a free-for-all to a victory lap – had changed dramatically.
Spieth had a tough break with a chip on No. 8 that resulted in a bogey, and a Watson birdie tied the two at 7-under. On No. 9, both golfers hit the fairway, but Spieth’s approach hit the false front of the green and ran back into the fairway.
“It’s an underrated shot. It’s not a standard, on-the-driving-range 9-iron,” Spieth said of the downhill lie. “You really have to work toward being aggressive at the ball, and I may have just picked it up just a little early hoping to see it go right at the hole, and I just thought it caught it a little thin.”
Watson, meanwhile, put his approach pin-high and made a breaking putt for birdie. Paired with Spieth’s bogey, Watson took a two-stroke lead to the back nine.
Spieth got a stroke back on No. 10 when Watson bogeyed, but the Masters rookie took a bogey himself on No. 12 after hitting his tee shot into Rae’s Creek. When Watson birdied No. 13, he took a three-stroke lead that Spieth couldn’t surmount.
Still, the rising star didn’t leave Augusta with negative feelings or a bad experience. And as Watson told him after the round, it won’t be his last time around at The Masters, starting with an automatic exemption next season.
“I said he’s a great talent. ‘You’re going to have a lot more opportunities,’” Watson recounted of their conversation. “‘You’re only 20.’”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.