Last weekend, the golf world turned its eyes to the 2016 Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. One of the PGA’s first of four major tournaments, a win at the Masters is known as the biggest and most coveted prize professional golf has to offer.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, 22, came into the tournament the clear favorite. A two-time major winner and FedEx Cup champion, Spieth was looking to build on his momentum from last year, where he placed in the top five at all four major championships.
Be it a pundit, analyst, or a casual fan, Spieth was clearly the preeminent choice to win the tournament. He was followed by Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott, but was a leg up on these superstars thanks to his pedigree.
A repeat win at Augusta seemed destined to be true for the first 65 holes of the 72-hole tournament, as Spieth remained atop the leaderboard for the first three rounds. The fourth round got off to an adequate start for Spieth, who looked poised to fend off the field—that is until the notoriously difficult Par 3 12.
Its name is Golden Bell, and it’s the shortest hole on the course. A mere 155 yards allows the average pro to use a short- to medium-iron and easily make the distance. The vexing variable that can turn even the best golfer into a mediocre one is the weather. Such was the case on the twelfth hole, where swirling winds made the green difficult to reach over the small creek that precedes it.
Spieth quadruple bogied the hole after splashing two balls in the water. This debacle moved him from -6 to -2, allowing Englishman Danny Willett to win comfortably at a score of -5. Willett, who arrived at Augusta late because of the birth of his first child, won his first major as a result of the world’s best player collapsing at a course he usually plays with a masterful touch.
Credit is due to Willett, who has been on a torrid pace of late. But any eye could see that this tournament was lost by Spieth, who seemed to be in control throughout. As Spieth presented the historic green jacket (awarded to the winner each year), the anguish of defeat was tangible in his body language, but not in his rhetoric.
While it was an uncharacteristic finish for Spieth, who just last year at Augusta tied Tiger Woods’ 1997 record score of -18 with a dominant win, he spoke to the media with refreshing candor.
“Buddy, it feels like we are collapsing,” Spieth said. That type of openness,candor, and the willingness to bring his fans inside of his thought process are what make Spieth such a popular athlete in this day and age.
Even in defeat, Spieth continues to dominate the headlines of the golf world. It begs the question—does he overshadow Willett’s win? It surely seems so.