Seems I have a hard time getting through the major championships without seeing something I just have to write about, and after the first major of the year I have plenty of material!
I love the Masters and everything about it. For a golfer it may be the most holy place on earth. From the moment you take your first step on the property, even without knowing the history of Augusta National, you are acutely aware it is a very special place.
So what can we learn from this year’s Masters? Who can we talk about? I don’t know…maybe…how about the number two player in the world, Jordan Spieth? What a spectacular show he put on that week. He led the Masters for seven consecutive rounds, something nobody has ever done before. And, he is just twenty-two years old.
He was leading by three shots at the start of the final day, and after birdying the last four holes on the front 9 his lead had increased to five. Bogeys on ten and eleven shouldn’t bother anyone due to the difficulty there, and he is still ahead by three (after the round he said he was not concerned about these bogeys).
The eleventh through the thirteenth holes are referred to as Amen Corner – probably due to the amount of prayer players have offered in hopes it would help them survive one of the most treacherous stretches of golf known to man. The relatively short number twelve, at about 150 yards, would appear to be fairly benign on the scorecard. It is not!
The players face swirling winds, a shallow green that runs diagonally away from the player on the right, and a steep hill from just short of the green down to a very innocent and tranquil Rae’s Creek which, as we know, it is not.
So, what happened to Jordan Spieth on Sunday afternoon? He said he decided to hit a little fade with a 9-iron to work it into the traditional tight, back right Sunday hole placement. Now, I don’t know that a “safe” shot exists on this hole. But, I do know that if your natural ball flight is not a fade, and the hole is back right, you never…never…ever…ever attempt to hit the ball at the hole there. Unless, you just simply have a mental lapse and forget where you are.
Ball in the water, hitting three, and he must decide where to play from next. There is the drop area down by that innocent creek, which gives the player a level lie and a 35-40 yard shot, over a large bunker to very small portion of green – not a good option.
Or, keeping the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between him and the hole, players can drop as far back as they wish, which is what Jordan did, leaving about 80 yards…off a downhill lie…to a piece of green that is only about 5 paces deep. Possibly a worse option.
I know he took the 80 yard shot because he could spin the ball better from that distance than from 40 yards…at least off a level lie he could. The problem with where he dropped is it gave him a downhill lie. From a downhill lie, the low point of the swing moves back towards the uphill foot, the right foot for him, which means there will be a tendency to hit behind the ball…which he did.
I believe the frustration with himself after the first shot caused him to break his routine – something this very disciplined young player may never have done before in his professional career. He made a quick decision to drop on the hill, he was quick to set up to the ball, and he was quick to execute the swing. All very uncharacteristic of the disciplined Jordan Spieth we are accustomed to watching.
My heart broke for him. And, the look in his eyes and face told the story. I don’t think he was crushed because he realized he may have just lost the Masters in a matter of a few minutes. I think he couldn’t believe he broke from the game plan he and his caddy had so meticulously formulated. The plan that had been so successful, for the seven and a half previous rounds. And, that did cost him the Masters.
This one will sting him for a while. He will be back. He will be stronger mentally. It is unlikely he will ever have another mental lapse anywhere close to this on the golf course.
What can we take from this? Even the best players in the world have mental lapses and bad shots. It’s OK for us normal people to have bad holes. It’s part of the game.
Now how about that 7-putt by Ernie Els? Really, it was just six putts, but who’s counting!
Kim Anders is a PGA Professional residing in Mazatlan, Sinaloa Mexico. You can reach Kim via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.