One question after another snapped him back to the tee box of Augusta National’s 12th hole in the final round. Seeking to win back-to-back Masters, Spieth held a two-shot lead as he looked past Rae’s Creek to the sliver of putting surface at 12. While he had fought his swing all week — his miss was short and right, the worst miss to have at No.12 — no one could have imagined what came next.
Spieth’s tee shot on the deceptive par-3 bounced off a bank and into Rae’s Creek, then he chunked his next shot into the creek after taking a penalty drop en route to making a disastrous quadruple-bogey 7. Despite birdies on 13 and 15, he couldn’t make up the lost ground and had to help Danny Willett slip on the green jacket.
Spieth took a week off — “I didn’t unpack (my clubs),” he said — then went on a spring break vacation to Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman. After a few corporate shoots, he started grinding again for Thursday’s start of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, one of his favorite courses.
He arrived Sunday and has played practice rounds that day and every day since. He was all set to talk about the tournament he and his team consider the fifth major, about the challenges of facing the toughest field in golf on a course full of sharp edges.
Then the floor was open for questions.
“I think people have moved on already, at least I thought so until I came in here today,” said Spieth, who’s No. 2 in the world golf rankings. “I have put it behind me. I’m not sure how it’ll feel if I work into contention again. I imagine thoughts won’t come up, because it was just one bad hole with bad timing on my miss. I played the golf course the rest of that day extremely well.
“Sure, I can be more focused on picking conservative spots and taking aggressive swings to conservative spots and just trying to show an extra level of patience that maybe just slipped my mind that day. But … I’m ready to move on and work my way back into contention.”
Spieth understands that questions about the Masters will persist. But after his break, which the two-time major champion said felt like an offseason, he feels like a new year is starting. As he said time and time again Wednesday, the Masters is behind him.
“I needed those four weeks,” Spieth said. “We had a crazy schedule going back to The Presidents Cup. A lot of time zones, a lot of golf. No matter what, it was going to be good for me to just get my legs back under me. And my speeds came back up in these past couple weeks; they were down a little bit. Just kind of everything seemed to get back on track that was maybe off as far as my fatigue.
“It wasn’t anything that was, I don’t think, truly affecting my play by any means. But it was just mentally good for me to be away for four weeks.”
He was asked if he’ll have to push through a pressure-packed situation to prove the Masters hasn’t spooked him.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove,” Spieth said. “I think I’ve already proven what we’re capable of doing when the pressure is on. We’ve succeeded in close matches, close finishes, and we’ve succeeded to stretch leads out and win by four to eight shots against some of the best fields in the world.
“So I don’t think there’s anything that’ll come up where I feel like I need to get revenge.”