It never disappoints and it never follows the expected storylines or predicted script.
On Sunday’s lead-in to TV coverage of the Masters, there was a brief mention of Danny Willett and Lee Westwood, but certainly not to the extent of being favorites.
Here they are – first and T2, respectively.
What a couple of weeks for Willett, with a new baby in the family and now a green jacket. Most impressive to me is the continuous influx of the world’s new breed of major champions who actually drive the ball into the fairway, something we haven’t known from the No. 1 and No. 2 players over the past 20 years.
Furthermore, Willett has a wonderful all-round game, solid irons, sound pitching and reliable putting.
How about that pitch from over the green on 17 on Sunday? I’m not a fan of left-hand low putting because the best touch in your fingers comes from the right thumb and index, but then again, the twitches come from there too.
Willett’s final round of 67 is reminiscent of Nick Faldo in 1996. Few remember the outstanding play of the victor, while all remember the demise of Greg Norman. In 2016, we will all remember the splash down of Spieth’s ball on 12.
Another, all most “I told you so” was dealt to Bernard Langer.
In a pre-tournament interview on the Golf Channel, Langer was asked what his expectations for the tournament and he replied, “I think I can contend.”
A slight smile of doubt crossed the face of Larry Mize and he jabbed at Langer for his non-acceptance of age.
On Jordan Spieth, I have written this before and I will say it again, I don’t like foot floppers. That’s when the right ankle/heel flops over during the follow through. I think it encourages a path from outside to inside.
Spieth’s grip on his left hand is getting turned further and further to the left and he bows his left wrist at the top more and more. When you combine these ingredients you get a “chicken-wing follow through, which is fine for 100 yards and in, but that’s all.
In fact, on the longer shots, you get two-way misses, which Spieth does, particularly with the driver.
When he completes the swing, having shifted his weight off his right instep simultaneously and keeps his knees close together through the shot and into the follow-through, he hits “bullets.” When he flops the right heel, his knees have separated in the follow through and look out.
So, how do I explain his incredible successes?
Jordan Spieth has never had to deal with anything but winning at every level, including the PGA Tour. I maintain that a powerful mind can overcome a lot of swing defects.
Jordan’s play this year has been on a steady decline with his ball striking, but he is one of the finest putters who ever lived. He has excellent alignment, balance and tempo, all saviors of poor technique.
Add a great pitching game and some of the best course management on the tour into the mixing bowl and you get a lot of success. However, it is buoyed by his supreme confidence and inner belief. If, at any time, that confidence is rattled, the “hinges” become unglued.
All pressure is self-inflicted. Self-doubt can arise from the most unusual depths.
As the tournament began to unfold late on Friday, again on Saturday and then on Sunday, Spieth’s control of his ball began to falter. He became increasingly more and more erratic with both left and right misses (mostly right off the tee).
In fact, it was so uncontrollable, he drove primarily with a three wood. I believe that Jordan Spieth was beginning to encroach on a wall of challenges, the likes of which he has never encountered before.
The pressure mounted to stratospheric levels until his unwavering self confidence was no longer strong enough to overcome his defective swing. His countenance took an ashen tone. His smile was twisted, his insides writhed with anguish. He was in a place he had never encountered before.
He’s young and intelligent, but I hope he isn’t irreparably damaged. It has happened before. Where did Bobby Clampett, Grier Jones, Ian Baker-Finch and Bill Rogers go? On the other side of the same coin, defeats like this produced Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy and, hopefully, Jordan Spieth.
Rory McIlroy and Jason Day would be well advised to study the films of the TV coverage and figure out a different strategy to play the course. Eased into the sofa, it was obvious to me that neither understood the subtleties of the course, nor the shot selection required to extract a low number.
They need to learn to thread the ball around, weaving themselves a score. At Augusta National, you earn your score, you don’t take it! Bombing and blasting might work occasionally, but pin point positioning relieves the stress on putting.
Rory allowed himself to be distracted by Spieth’s heroic play as was evidenced by his comment to his caddie on the seventh hole during Saturday’s round when he asked, “How the hell is this guy two under?”
He was also perturbed by Jordan’s extremely slow play which, by the way, is becoming a problem. McIlroy was upended by the oldest trick in the book – he played a match against Spieth instead of shooting a score.
Dottie Pepper was a wonderful addition – insightful, intelligent and articulate.
I like Nick Faldo, but the excessive patronage is getting a little much.
To Tom Watson, thank you.
To Arnold Palmer, thank you.