Twenty-Two Year Old Spieth Leads into Sunday
I was interested in an article published today that may or may not have fallen for the oldest trick in the book – assuming that a person who heads into the final round of the Masters with a lead of a few strokes is a shoe-in to take the event on Sunday. The author was correctly placing a lot of confidence in Jordan Spieth’s game, the one that has garnered him a 36 hole record for the tournament, and the one who has won multiple events on the PGA tour, adding several second place finishes. What he was neglecting, for the moment, was a long history of final round collapses, and deteriorating seemingly insurmountable leads, not to mention that one of the prime examples was Spieth himself, in last year’s Masters.
The article suggests that we might as well measure Spieth for a green jacket, as if Sunday’s round is irrelevant, also suggesting that we might soon hail him as the game’s greatest player, rather than Rory McIlroy, most-often mentioned as the new king on the block. It also ascribes an invincibility to a four-shot lead at Augusta, Georgia, where anything can happen in an instant, and often has happened on the last day.
Last year, Jordan Spieth was headed for his first Masters win, and was about to become the youngest ever to pull it off. He was, actually, looking an awful lot like the Tiger Woods of old – very impressive. We knew then that he was a great player, and he looked much the same this year, racing out to a lead, and a score of sixteen under. He lost that tournament to Bubba Watson with a driver in the water, the same sort of mistake that had earlier cost McIlroy his first major at Augusta.
Jordan Spieth, out of Dallas, had a phenomena amateur career, but the jury is still out as to whether he protects a lead well. He has lost two tournaments in playoffs over the past months, and yet won the Valspar Championship and the Shell Houston Open. While that’s a great record, it’s a split picture on closing the deal, and this is the Masters, after all. Considered an average driver off the tee, Spieth has created his own good fortune through excellent iron play, and at times, phenomenal putting. This Masters has been no exception, and one can imagine that if Tiger was working the old magic he once did on the greens, this could be a spectacular two-man race.
Four strokes doesn’t put Spieth out of the woods by any stretch. Although Tiger and Rory are far back, even they are not out of the picture, considering historically what Augusta can do to a leader. Unless one plays on the tour, I’m sure that it is difficult to imagine the pressure of being a fourth round leader, and many prefer to come around the second nine in pursuit, rather than hanging on. Beside the pressure one would put on himself, there is plenty more to go around, possibly supplied by Justin Rose or half a dozen other serious contenders.
For Sunday’s round, Spieth will follow the group headed by Phil Mickelson, a former Masters champion, in close contention. Perhaps my fellow author is correct. Maybe Jordan Spieth has had enough lead-blowing, and has no intention of allowing it to happen again. He has been advised against the dangers of going conservative, and the temptation to protect a lead by shooting for the fat of the green instead of the pin could be irresistible to some. It is suggested that Spieth may not have a lot more mistakes in him, but that is always premature in the game of golf. Still, the money, I think, goes to Spieth, although not by a huge margin, confident that he has gathered wisdom, and has the nerve to go out and play the way he has for three days, in particular the first two.