Spieth: It’ll take awhile to recover from loss

Jim Litke
Associated Press

Augusta, Ga. — Golf has seen bigger collapses. Some were probably tougher to watch.

“I can’t imagine that was fun for anyone to experience, other than maybe Danny’s team,” Jordan Spieth said when it was over, with a nod to eventual winner Danny Willett.

Nothing describes Spieth’s slow-motion wreck Sunday at the Masters better than the way a character in “The Sun Also Rises” answers the question “How did you go bankrupt?”

“Two ways,” he replies. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

Just past 5 p.m. on a crisp Sunday afternoon, Spieth had just made the last of four straight birdies at No. 9 to go 7 under. He was holding a five-shot lead, apparently cruising toward a second straight Masters win in only his third start.

Just as impressive, that run of birdies appeared to have buried the memory of Spieth’s mini-collapse just a day earlier, when he bogeyed No. 17 and made double-bogey at 18 to close out Round 3.

Then came the pushed drive to the right at No. 10, followed by an approach shot into a greenside bunker and a bogey. Next, Spieth pushed it even farther right off the 11th tee, punched it back into the fairway and then onto the green; two putts later, he made another bogey, shrinking his lead over Willett to two shots.

His troubles were just beginning.

The par-3 12th green already held bad memories for Spieth, lingering from his debut. In 2014, he put a ball into Rae’s Creek, but put his next shot on the ribbon-shaped green and walked off with a bogey. This time, he pulled a 9-iron to cover the 155 yards and hit it only 148. His second try, unlike two years ago, went even worse.

Trying to avoid a slope, Spieth dropped 68 yards from the flag.

“I’m not really sure what happened on the next shot,” he said. “I just hit it fat.”

Small wonder he blocked out the memory. In fact, Spieth stuck the wedge deep enough in the ground to dislodge a piece of turf the size of a toupee, and sent the ball ballooning a measly 48.

Kerplunk!

Spieth’s third try was from 70 yards and this one flew 80, into a back bunker. An explosion shot, another putt, a quadruple bogey and though seven holes remained — enough for Willett to pile on three birdies — the tournament was basically decided. The deficit was too big.

Though Spieth’s total for the day was only 73, little else about it felt respectable.

As he walked off the 18th and toward the scoring office, the gallery ropes pulled taut to hold back the crowd, that small corner of Augusta National became an echo chamber. Applause from fans lining both sides built to a roar. For the rest of the walk to the clubhouse, Spieth kept his nose stuck in the notebook holding his scorecard.

A few moments later, after signing his scorecard, he turned up in Butler Cabin to put the green jacket on Willett and in one last indignity, nearly tripped getting out of his chair.

He expects to have that falling feeling for some time.

“Big picture,” Spieth said finally, “this one will hurt. It will take a while.”

McIlroy, Day falter

The world’s No. 1 player and the other who was trying to complete the career grand slam could get nothing going in their pursuit of the leaders in Sunday’s final round of the 80th Masters.

Rory McIlroy, winner of the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, started the day 2 over, five shots behind third-round leader Spieth but within range of a challenge. Instead, McIlroy bogeyed three of the first five holes to take himself out of contention, another in a short list of poor final-round performances at Augusta National. He shot a 1-under 71 to finish 1-over 289.

“This is the one that I haven’t won and this is the one I want to win more than anything else,” he said. “I won a Claret Jug, I want to win more. I won a Wanamaker, I won the U.S. Open, but this is the one that I haven’t.

“Once I overcome that mental hurdle that I’m struggling with at the minute, then I know how to play this course, I’ve played this course very well before, and I can string good rounds together here, but it’s just a matter of doing it.”

Jason Day, winner of two consecutive tournaments and occupier of the top slot in the world golf rankings, started the round at par, three behind Spieth. He shot 1-over 73 to finish 1-over 289.

It was thought that if anyone could put heat on Spieth, it would be Day because he played the first nine at 8-under in the first three rounds. But he couldn’t score on Sunday, playing them in par.

“I came out and I just didn’t feel quite comfortable with my swing,” Day said. “And when you’re not quite comfortable with your swing and obviously you start thinking about it rather than trying to just get up there and look at the target and hit at it. It’s hard to kind of get anything going from there once you do that.”

McIlroy said during the week that he wasn’t going to try to not get caught up in the pursuit of the slam.

He said it again Friday night after moving into second place at 3-under and into a Saturday pairing with Spieth, the leader.

Perhaps a new approach is needed after carding a 5-over 77 on Saturday.

Sunday didn’t start much better. McIlroy drove right on No. 1, missed the green to the right with his approach, and then two-putted for bogey.

“I was in a great position going into the weekend, a shot back in the final group on Saturday and I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it really mattered,” McIlroy said.

Day’s problem on Sunday was to give himself scoring opportunities. He couldn’t get anything to drop on Sunday.

“I was just trying to grind out as much as possible those three days and today there was definite score opportunities if you put your ball in position, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my ball in position,” Day said. “When you do that, it’s very difficult to try to score.”

Low amateur

Bryson DeChambeau finishes as the low amateur after his third even-par round at Augusta National.

DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion, birdied two of his final four holes. That includes 18, where he had a pair of errant tee shots en route to a triple bogey on Friday.

Still, his only poor round was Saturday’s 77. He finished with a 5 over 293.

A big regret was not getting enough rest.

“I was tired today,” said DeChambeau, who was playing in his last event as an amateur. “I didn’t manage my energy very well at the beginning of this week, and that’s just experience. I wish I could change that.

“I think I’d be in a different position now.”

Unraveling

Jordan Spieth led by five shots when he started the back nine at the Masters on Sunday. Here’s how his round began to unravel:

No. 10, par 4: Approach shot went in bunker right of green, two putts from 17 feet. Bogey-5.

No. 11, par 4: Drive right into pine trees, punch out, third shot to within 8 feet, two putts. Bogey-5.

No. 12, par 3: Tee shot short and into the water fronting the green. Hit third shot fat and into the water a second time. Fifth shot into back bunker. Hit to 3 feet and one putt. Quadruple-bogey 7.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.