Spieth’s Chip Could Have Changed Everything
What an Open It Was!
All right, so after an extra day, a lot of dramatic weather and golf, Zach Johnson is your new British Open champion. I have no problem with that. He’s a terrific golfer and, by all accounts, a great guy. I remember when Zach won the Masters all those years ago. I actually thought that an also-ran had just lucked out on the right week. I was totally wrong. He’s been back more than once, and this week’s play in the Open was the very epitome of perseverance and concentration. Two others managed to take Johnson into a playoff, but both eventually bit the dust. Jason Day and Jordan pushed hard, but not quite hard enough. That’s not, however, the only story.
Spieth was going for the third leg of a Grand Slam. Everyone who follows golf knows that. The unusual thing is that he was making a great go of it for a while, and looked as though it might be possible. Winning these things can be accomplished or derailed by the tiniest changes of fortune, a single shot that one wishes could be retracted, or a spectacular moment in which all one needs is a little more generosity from Mother Nature or Father Physics.
Spieth met his Waterloo with a double bogey before turning to the back nine. It appeared as though he was to be crowded out of the top tier, but then again, perhaps not. He came roaring back to challenge for the lead once more. Our Grand Slam dreams were on again. And then came…the chip. The articles and the commentary all repeated the same sentiment – “How could that not go in – how could that not go in?” It reminded me of two things. One was Maxwell Smart in “Get Smart” saying his stock line, “Came this close!” Pathetic and sad. The other thing was the old adage, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.” Any little change, either in the double bogey or in the velocity and line of the chip that was sure to go in, and it all might have been a different story. Perhaps in a parallel universe it is, but this one is what we’re concentrating on right now.
The British Open didn’t necessarily go to the golfer who imposed his greatest game upon the legendary course at St. Andrews. It went to the golfer who best rolled with the punches St. Andrews threw at him for four days plus one. It went to the golfer who didn’t freak out from the weather, and instead, found solutions. It went to the golfer who got the occasional birdie, but just as importantly avoided the giant one-hole meltdown that can end a person’s dreams for a tournament. It went to the golfer whose nerves could handle stop and start delays. Spieth is a phenomenal talent, to be sure, but when St. Andrews barked at him, he flinched – and Zach Johnson did not. Spieth’s gifts are bound to develop a tranquil mind to go with it as he develops, and it would be wrong to claim that he’s absent-minded or easily psyched out. He’s won the first two majors of the year, so there’s really nothing wrong at all with his mind or approach. He just flinched – this time.
And so, the Grand Slam dream dies again. Bobby Jones did it with the old Grand Slam events, before some of these were in existence, but no one seems able to put it together for the right four weeks in a single season. I personally don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, and it probably won’t happen in yours, even if you’re only four. I really hate it when things won’t happen in my lifetime. I feel as though I’m missing out.
But really, how could that chip not go in? Just think…this close.