Can jokes help get Jordan Spieth over his infamous Masters meltdown?

Yahoo Sports

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth stood over his ball on the 12th tee, smacked a slight right-to-left draw and watched it land tap-in distance from the pin. The Tuesday practice crowd roared. Spieth could do nothing more than offer some gallows humor.

“I could’ve used that one 12 months ago,” he said.

Jordan Spieth has a green jacket and two second-place finishes at The Masters. (AP)
Jordan Spieth has a green jacket and two second-place finishes at The Masters. (AP)

The Augusta National patrons laughed along with him. Spieth could only shake his head. Here he was, back at the scene of the crime, and now he hits it true and perfect?

A year ago – 12 months in Spieth parlance – he was in the same place, nothing between he and the green but 155 yards and Rae’s Creek. His lead on the back nine on Sunday had shrunk to just one stroke courtesy of a couple of bogeys, but he was still in the lead, still in control. Consecutive green jackets beckoned.

Set to hit a draw, he instead decided to hit a slight cut shot. It went wrong from the start, landing right and short on the embankment in front of the green. The ball bounced back toward the fairway twice and landed in the water. Spieth took a drop out in the fairway and promptly chunked that one, too, into Rae’s. Determined to stay dry, he chipped the next one into a bunker behind the green.

By the time the carnage was done, he had tossed up a quadruple bogey 7 and all but tossed away a second Masters. Danny Willett’s final round, bogey-free 67 was enough to win. Spieth could only lament what was lost and gone forever in a Masters collapse for the ages.

“This one will hurt,” Spieth said after.

For how long is the question. He’ll probably never get over it, of course. No matter how many major championships the 23-year-old wins, he’ll always remember the ones he should’ve. That’s part of being a great one and Spieth is well on his way to that. Whether it is anything more than a footnote, though, depends on how Spieth plays it from here.

One of the beauties of the Masters is that it’s played on the exact same course, often with the exact same setup each and every year. This isn’t a championship in name, it is a championship of place. It requires confronting what can become gruesome geography – stepping up to the same tee box and staring at the same challenge and the same old ghosts and trying to find a new result.

“I’m excited about the opportunity ahead, which is now I can go back and really tear this golf course up,” Spieth said. “I’ve got the opportunity now for as many years [there are] until the day I get a letter saying, ‘We would appreciate if you sat this one out.’ ”

Spieth laughed. If No. 12 is going to haunt him, he isn’t showing it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t in the back of his mind. Rory McIlroy understands the situation. In 2011, he made the turn on Sunday leading the Masters and triple-bogeyed the 10th hole courtesy of a tee shot so errant no one around here remembers anyone hitting it so far out of bounds. Just like that, his tournament was lost.

“I mean, look, it’s tough to get over,” McIlroy said. “Leaving and coming back here in 2012, of course your mind does go back to the previous year when you’re thinking what could have been if only I had parred 10 and only if I didn’t three-putt 11. Those things do run through your mind.

“But you very quickly snap out of it because this golf course and this tournament require the utmost concentration and focus.”

Helping Spieth is that this is Augusta. He’s played here three times: runner-up in 2014, champion in 2015 and runner-up in 2016, when he probably should have won. The course suits his meticulous style. It befits his consistent excellence. It’s why that 12th hole was as unexpected as it was devastating.

“I feel very comfortable out there,” Spieth said. “I feel like we have it mapped out and as we dissect the golf course, we know where the spot to go, where not to go. And therefore the commitment on shots, certain shots you hit versus others, you obviously feel more comfortable. I feel like we’re freed up because we know where those spots are and where they aren’t.”

The result, Spieth says, is that despite his youth, his polite demeanor and slight frame, he might actually intimidate some other golfers out here. At least, he hopes.

“I doubt I’m very scary,” Spieth said. “I think around this place, given our success, other players may feel it might be harder to beat us.”

McIlroy figures whatever issue there is will disappear quickly. Spieth is just too mentally tough.

“I can assure you, Jordan will be fine,” McIlroy said. “He’ll step up on Thursday on that 12th tee box and he’ll be playing the best shot he possibly can.”

It can’t be much better than the practice round shot on Tuesday. After cracking a joke at his own expense, Spieth didn’t have much to do. His tap in was simple, so as the rest of his foursome tried to tame Amen Corner, he threw a few extra balls in a bunker and got some extra chipping in. Just in case.

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