OpinionTuesday, April 22, 2014
Masters primes Spieth for major success
The Monday newspaper picked up as I exited August contained a final round commentary that made me wonder if I had attended the same Masters Tournament as the writer.
Headlined “Spieth finally looks his age” it concluded the 20-year old, despite a flamboyant start, had wilted under the strain of trying to become the first rookie to win the Masters since 1979.
One specific word captured my attention. According to the scribe, at the 8th hole Spieth had flubbed his third shot, a short pitch to a tough pin.
Flubbed in the general sense is a blunder, error, messing up, an embarrassing clumsy mistake or, in the case of acting, fumbled lines. But in the game of golf flub has a more specific and defined meaning a mishit, pure and simple.
Flub, foozle and fluff all carry the same implication of ineptitude or bungling, slightly less incompetent than duff, but any of these descriptions was a long way from the value of the shot that Spieth actually played, a tricky high wedge with full backspin applied from the first-cut rough to an extremely fast green, above sight range.
In his post-play press conference Spieth specifically recalled the shot, saying as soon as he hit it he raced forward, expecting the ball to have rolled down close to the hole, amazed and disappointed it had stuck within a footstep of where he’d landed it.
From there on, according to that writer, it was pretty much downhill all the way for the kid, experienced Watson too strong mentally to be caught by the novice.
Odd how different individual perception can be: from my viewpoint Bubba was doubly fortunate on the back nine. Jordan missed short, but of-necessity defensive, downhill putts for birdies on the 9th, 11th, 13th, and 15th, any of which could have tipped the balance in his favour.
Watson also admitted he erred his driver line at the 13th by at least 10 yards but somehow the ball crashed through the high copse inside Rae’s Creek, tumbling out into the fairway, leaving a pitching wedge approach for an improbable and crucial birdie.
Watson won well and gracefully but the reason for revisiting what was, at least to my mind a classic and well-matched duel of youth versus experience, is something Spieth said in his poised and comfortable post-championship review, essentially that he felt he was now fully ready for the next three majors of the season.
This is not your regular 20-year old rookie. His career to date eerily compares to that of a young Jack Nicklaus, who turned pro a couple of years older than Spieth after winning two US Amateur titles. In comparison, the young Texan has two consecutive Junior US Amateurs to his credit and both men began their careers with lots of early pro-tournament experience.
Both won in their first year, Nicklaus notably capturing the 1962 US Open. Come June at Pinehurst, it would be no surprise to see Spieth, already a Tour winner, retrace the Golden Bear’s tracks.