The first major of the year is behind us, and what a major it was. We had plenty of story lines to follow heading into this Masters, and though one was absolutely defined, a lot of things happened over the four days at Augusta National.
So what can we take away from it all?
A year ago, he wasn’t ready. He got in position and freaked out, started playing fast (which he admitted after), and lost his ability to control what was happening around him. It didn’t help that he was battling a guy in Bubba Watson who could hit a driver over half the state of Georgia on the second nine, but Spieth had his hand on the prize and couldn’t finish it.
This year, he finished it, exactly how you have to.
The biggest shot Spieth hit all week was that chip when he short-sided himself on his final hole on Saturday after coming off his first (and only) double-bogey of the week. Spieth was in trouble … serious, serious trouble … and a bogey there would have made those next 20 hours off the golf course an internal battle. Is this going to happen again? Did I just screw this up? What happens if I do it again on Sunday?
Instead, he pulled off a ridiculously tough chip shot, one announcer and three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo didn’t even know was an option, and rolled the putt dead center for the par save and a 2-under 70.
Sunday had some ups and downs, but it was that shot on Saturday to close out his round that impressed me the most.
One of my favorite things about Spieth is how much he talks to himself on the golf course. He is hard on himself when he’s golfing, but any time he’s yelling at his ball in the air — No Laying Up made a great B-I-N-G-O game of his cries — it usually means it’s going to turn out well, especially with his irons.
Oh, and the guy’s putter is so hot it should be measured in Kelvin. How many putts did he make in the exact center of the cup at Augusta? It was an amazing performance with the flat stick by Spieth, who swings like a new-age Arnold Palmer and putts like he spent his childhood watching only Brad Faxon videos.
Spieth is going to win a career Grand Slam before this is all said and done. I don’t see a single major he can’t win.
Despite the four major wins, Rory McIlroy still needs to work on his attitude when things go south
The front nine on Friday, when Rory was walking around with his head down like he just found out he had to fly commercial the rest of the year, is something you just can’t do.
Ups and downs happen on the golf course, but McIlroy looked like it was 2013 again during that front nine, and it cost him a real shot at pushing Spieth for this green jacket. When he finally woke up from his bad mood, Rory played the final 45 holes 15-under, but that front-nine 40 doomed him.
Every major isn’t going to be Congressional or Kiawah. Rory needs to understand that and keep his head up when everything isn’t cappuccinos and caviar.
That said, Rory’s opening round was very impressive
One of the best aspects of Tiger Woods’ game when he was in his prime was how much he could get out of a bad round. He’d have those rounds where he hit it all over the place yet still manage to shoot 1-under.
My goodness, what a performance considering everything that has gone against him the last year and a half.
I’m going to skip over Sunday’s whole “pushing a bone back in” drama and focus on his Friday and Saturday play, which was the best we’ve seen from Tiger since the 2013 FedEx Cup playoffs.
Tiger had stretches where he really trusted his swing, and the best thing he did all week was chip and putt. No matter how you’re hitting it, when you can really lean on your short game to save you, you’re in a good spot, and that was Tiger during the middle of this tournament.
It was an impressive week, all things considered, and something he can build on.
Other than that, it has been a rough go for the second-best golfer of his generation, but it’s worth noting that Phil is 44, has won all the PGA Tour tournaments he needs to and knows the majors are where his career will be judged from this point forward.
Maybe he isn’t going to be grinding as he prepares for the AT&T at this point, and that’s fine as long as he still gets up for the big four. Phil at the majors is simply the best. Speaking of …
The guy holes a bunker shot for eagle on the 15th when he is all but out of the tournament, and then after finding another bunker on 16, pulls the flag. Who does that? Anyone?
The answer, of course, is nobody. Phil understands that his success is a drug for golf fans, and the dramatics that follow that success are the best way to get people excited.
Sure, pulling the flag was a smart move in that instance because he was trying to throw the ball past the hole and if the ball had collided with the pin mid-air there was no way it was going in, but he likely also did it a bit for the drama.
Phil is great, and I really believe he will be competitive in the Masters until he’s 55 or 56. If Fred Couples, a man with only one major title and 27 fewer PGA Tour wins, can do it, Phil can as well. He’s long enough, he loves this golf course, and he wants to get to at least four (and maybe five) green jackets before he hangs it up.
Imagine the trash talking Phil will do if he ends up with more Masters wins than Tiger. The Champions Dinner might have to be a reality show.
Hideki Matsuyama is quietly becoming the next, next big thing
Assuming Spieth is already a big thing with that win, Matsuyama could be right behind him.
Considering Phil might be peaking as we sit just 66 days away from Chambers Bay (the U.S. Open is the only major he hasn’t won), and St. Andrews is looming with both Tiger and Rory (as well as Bubba and Dustin Johnson) trending in the right direction on that golf course, we could have an epic 2015.
Do you realize our last 10 major winners are Rory, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Phil, Jason Dufner, Bubba, Martin Kaymer, Rory, Rory, and Spieth? That is incredible!
Compare that with this 10-major run from 2008-11: Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang, Phil, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Kaymer, and Charl Schwartzel.
Yes, golf is trending in the right direction.
Oh, and lastly, check out Spieth’s last month: win, 2, T-2, win.
And in that four-week stretch, he earned $4.1 million. It’s nice to be 21 and one of the two best golfers in the world.
Shane Bacon is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com’s golf coverage. Follow him on Twitter at@shanebacon.