Wrapping Up the 2016 Masters

    As the PGA leaves Hilton Head Island and heads for the great state of Texas, the Masters Tournament is now squarely in the rearview mirror. The passage of time often helps people put things in perspective. After taking a couple of deep breaths and sleeping on it, many golf fans and numerous sports media are likely still fixating on Jordan Spieth’s first three holes of Augusta’s back nine in the final round.

    One person who probably isn’t concerned about his Masters meltdown is Jordan Spieth himself. Admittedly, it was a collapse of historic proportions, but Spieth’s past 24 months should provide him with plenty of peace of mind as he resumes his pursuit of legends like Hogan, Player, Nicklaus and Woods in the coming months.

    Consider the fact that Spieth has played in only three Masters Tournaments and he’s played in the final group on Sunday all three years. He’s finished 2nd, 1st and T-2nd. Those statistics are beyond gaudy, they are otherworldly.

    Arnold Palmer famously double-bogeyed the final hole at the 1961 Masters to lose to Gary Player by a single shot. Palmer bounced back to win the Open Championship the same year and won the very next Masters in 1962. In total, Palmer would win four majors after his collapse at the 1961 Masters. It is also worth noting Palmer was 28 years old when he won his first major, the 1958 Masters.

    Once Spieth steps back and remembers he’s playing on the game’s biggest stage at just 22 years old, he should be fine. The fact of the matter is Spieth is a once-in-a generation type talent – he will likely have more opportunities to win and lose major golf championships than every single one of his peers.

    There are plenty of guys turning professional at age 20 or 21 who will make a living, and win some regular tour events, but they won’t meaningfully compete for major championships the way Spieth has during his very short career.

    Consider this, in the past five major championships contested, Spieth has five top-four finishes and two wins. I hope he kept those numbers in mind when the deluge began the Monday morning after the Masters. NBC’s Today Show featured the “Meltdown at the Masters” at the top of their first hour. CNN’s headline screamed “Spieth’s Masters disaster could leave scars”. We can debate all day whether or not that’s true, but the only thing that matters is what Spieth himself believes.

    Perhaps the most accurate commentary about Spieth’s weekend at Augusta was how he looked physically and mentally exhausted. Let’s be honest, having a grinding series of long par-saving putts has to take a toll on a golfer over the course of four days. Spieth didn’t have his A-game and, as a consequence, he clearly had to work harder for his pars than some of the other players in the field.

    Did Spieth’s well-publicized decision to travel extensively over the past twelve months hurt his ability to defend this championship? It’s a legitimate question. Handling adversity is harder to do when a player is physically as well as mentally exhausted. There’s simply no question that all the traveling and time on the road impacted Spieth’s chances to win the golf tournament. He paid a high and very public price for his decision, but to his credit, he didn’t use it as an excuse. Certainly it has to be in the back of his mind and it’s likely we will see a different course of preparation going into future majors.

    A big part of what made Nicklaus and Wood so successful at the majors was there total commitment to the championships. The major championships shaped their calendar every season and maximum effort was taken to make sure they arrived prepared, but also rested for the rigors that awaited them.
    The other takeaway from Augusta was how the course’s vaunted “tradition” was on full display this year. While some people may grow weary with Augusta National and CBS’ pomp and circumstance, two of the tournament’s oldest maxims were reinforced in 2016 – the tournament doesn’t begin until the 10th tee on Sunday and Amen Corner will have the final say about who wins the Green Jacket.