AUGUSTA, Ga. – For two years the second hole of Amen Corner has housed Jordan Spieth’s demons. They’ll always be there, Spieth admitted, but on Sunday at Augusta National, those demons kneeled.
Seven hundred and twenty-eight days since Spieth dunked two balls in Rae’s Creek, carded a quadruple-bogey 7 on Augusta National’s 12th hole and effectively choked away his second Masters title, the Golden Child turned the tables on Golden Bell.
In the middle of a spirited final-round charge and trying to track down his Ryder Cup teammate Patrick Reed, Spieth raised his arms in triumph as his tee ball came to rest on dry land, just over the green on the devilish par 3. Minutes later he drained a 27-foot putt from the second cut for birdie to move to 11 under, just three shots back of Reed after starting the day nine behind.
“Probably the most pressure packed shot I’ve ever hit,” Spieth said. “… The Sunday pin at Augusta – and I know what I’ve done and my history there – to stand in that kind of pressure and hit the shot to the safe zone and knock that putt in was massive for me going forward.”
Just a day earlier Spieth had essentially ruled himself out of the tournament, saying he looked to “enjoy the walk” of his first stress-free round at Augusta National. He didn’t even look at a leaderboards Sunday until after his round.
But there he was in the thick of things on the back nine. He went on to birdie Nos. 13, 15 and 16, the latter a 33-footer that sent the crowd into a roaring frenzy and tied Spieth with Reed for a short time at 14 under.
“I had goosebumps on my arms,” said Spieth’s playing competitor, Justin Thomas.
Spieth eventually came up short. A costly missed eagle putt at the par-5 13th and a deflating bogey after hitting the trees off the 18th tee left Spieth solo third and two shots shy of Reed, who hung on to join Spieth as a green-jacket winner.
But the 24-year-old Spieth nearly converted the Hail Mary with a closing 8-under 64.
“With eight people ahead of me starting the day, to get that much help and shoot a fantastic round was nearly impossible,” Spieth said. “But I almost pulled off the impossible.”
Said Reed: “I was kind of glad he ran out of holes.”
When Spieth tied for second in his Masters debut in 2014, he looked promising. When he slipped on the green jacket after a wire-to-wire win and four-shot victory in 2015, he looked unbeatable. Yet after his 2016 collapse he couldn’t even go to the grocery store without people telling him they felt sorry for him.
A final-round 75 from the penultimate group in 2017 seemed to further mask his previous accomplishments on the famed Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie layout.
But after Sunday’s heroics, Spieth has proved again why he will arguably be considered the most feared competitor at the Masters for years to come.
“I called him something along the lines of ‘The Master of the Masters’ a few days ago,” major winner David Duval said. “Moving forward, it is hard to see him not accumulating several more major championships and certainly a couple more here at Augusta National.”
Added Duval’s fellow Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee: “His legend soared a little higher today. Even though he didn’t win, it soared a little higher.”
And those demons got much quieter. Gwk
(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Golfweek Magazine.)