Sunday, April 17, 2016

That Masters Meltdown

I watched Jordan Spieth's inexplicable implosion at the Masters last Sunday with my father.

What we saw is still difficult, a week later, to wrap one's brain around.

I am not a golfer, and neither is Dad, but we enjoy watching the Masters. There is more to it than that for Dad, though. When my father and mother were newlyweds, they lived in Atlanta while he did his graduate work at Emory University. Atlanta is more than a two–hour drive from Augusta, and I doubt that my parents ever attended the Masters. Still, being in the vicinity of something big like that makes you feel connected to it.

My mother has been deceased for many years, but watching the Masters on television brings back pleasant memories for my father. Even if he never spent any time on the golf course, the pastoral scenes remind him, I am sure, of pleasant spring days he and my mother spent in Georgia as young newlyweds beginning their adventure together.

For the last year scenes from the Masters are certain to have brought back pleasant memories for Spieth, too. After all, he was the defending Masters champion. In the future, however, his memories are bound to be bittersweet — at best.

It all comes down to his quadruple bogey on No. 12. That's right — quadruple bogey.

No one would have expected it. Spieth won the Masters last year, matching Tiger Woods' record–setting performance in the 1997 Masters, and led by five strokes midway through the final round.

As I say, I'm not a golfer. I'm not even a golf fan — but I worked for several years on the sports staff of a large metro newspaper. For most of that time, my days off were Monday and Tuesday so I was almost always in the office on the days that final rounds of major tournaments were played.

I was in charge of the sports section the day that Jack Nicklaus won his sixth and final Masters in 1986. People often speak of that tournament, and it was natural for that tournament to be mentioned during this year's Masters since it was the 30th anniversary and all. But a lot of people forget that he might not have won if Greg Norman hadn't bogeyed the 18th hole. All he needed was a par to force a playoff — and history may well have been changed.

Few people gave it much thought, even at the time, probably because of the drama of Nicklaus winning the Masters at the age of 46. But Norman, who was 31 at the time, called it the "greatest regret" of his professional career.

The year before that, one of my colleagues was in charge of the section on the day of the final round of the Masters. Curtis Strange started rough, found his groove in the midddle rounds and had a two–stroke lead at one point in the final round but found water hazards on a couple of holes and lost to Bernhard Langer.

Talk about a long Strange trip — but not as strange as Spieth's.

As you can see I am no stranger to Masters meltdowns. But none was ever as spectacular as Spieth's.

Still he's the early favorite at the U.S. Open in June.

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