By Kevin Currie
Jordan Spieth made playing at Augusta National look easy over the weekend. Whether it be his birdie at 18 on Thursday, his up and down for par on the 18th on Saturday or his par-saving putt at 16 in the final round, nothing appeared hard for the second-youngest Masters winner.
Those were just a couple of the shots that Spieth pulled off en route to winning his first major championship.
It may have looked easy for the 21-year-old, but Spieth joked at the green jacket ceremony, “There’s a reason I have a hairline like this right now and that’s because it’s stressful what we do on a daily basis.”
The hairline may be receding, but that is the only thing going the wrong way for Spieth these days. Four top-two finishes in his last four PGA Tour starts have moved the Texan to No. 2 in the world rankings. The goal is to be No. 1, of course, but Rory McIlroy will have plenty to say about that.
Spieth handled the pressure for three straight days after opening the Masters with a 64. Sleeping on the lead three consecutive nights got a little harder each night, he admitted.
The only thing that lack of sleep will affect might be Spieth’s game this week at Harbour Town. Spieth said after his win that he still plans to play the RBC Heritage, and good for him if he does.
Many winners would take the television appearances and interview requests that come with winning the Masters, then go home for relaxation.
Spieth only needs to watch the look back that CBS aired on Sunday about Raymond Floyd to understand the travails that lie ahead. Floyd admitted to chasing the money after one of his major championship victories and forgetting to play golf.
Spieth’s special-needs sister helps keep him grounded, so him chasing the money likely won’t happen.
Reporters asked about the run he was on – a win, a runner-up finish and a share of second place in his previous three PGA Tour starts – but Spieth scoffed at that.
He expects to play like that. And after watching him dissect Augusta National, we should expect that, too.
Just maybe not this week considering he’ll be a little tired.
The records Spieth set are too numerous to list here. The biggest among them were setting the 36- and 54-hole tournament scoring records. He tied the 72- hole record that Tiger Woods established in his first Masters win in 1997.
But, it was the one that got away that seemed to stick in Spieth’s craw. He was 8-under par in the opening round and heading to the par-5 15th. A birdie there and another over the following three holes would have given him a course-record 62.
“When I was there on 15, I was in between clubs (on a second shot) and I knew if I could birdie there and get one more in, I could get to 10(-under) on the day, and I’ve never shot 10-under in a professional round, and, obviously, here that would be pretty special,” Spieth said after the round.
Spieth will have to carry the disappointment with him. Poor guy. He has the next 30 or 40 years of Masters starts to atone for that one mistake.
Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose shared second place, while Rory McIlroy took third. Those totals of 274 and 276, respectively, were good enough to win the previous three Masters titles, and six of the last nine. That’s how good Spieth was.
Spieth had shared the 54-hole lead with Bubba Watson in 2014 and lost the lead with a 4-stroke swing over the eighth and ninth holes in the final round. He used that loss and his loss of the third-round lead a week earlier in Texas as motivation at the Masters.
He was asked what his goals are now because winning the Masters had been a goal since he was a teenager. Spieth joked that he wanted to win two green jackets, like Watson.
After watching his performance over the weekend, it’s easy to anticipate Spieth doing exactly that.
A ‘WIN’ FOR TIGER
Tiger Woods bookended his Masters with 73s, but it was the middle two rounds of 69 and 68 that were the more important rounds for the four-time winner at Augusta.
In his own words, Woods only tees it up when he thinks he can win. That was a small part of the reason he had taken the previous two months off to work on his game.
Woods had played all four rounds in just four of his previous 11 worldwide starts, and that included his own Hero World Challenge, which is an unofficial event.
Winning for Woods means hoisting the trophy at the end of the tournament he is competing in, but his share of 17th at the Masters was a win of a different kind.
Gone were the chipping woes from earlier this season. Gone were the back issues of the past 14-plus months.
Woods hit a root with a swing on No. 9 on Sunday and hurt himself, but kept grinding. He played the final nine in even-par with three bogeys, an eagle and two birdies.
With little chance to win heading to that final nine, many players would have packed it in or just played for the best possible finish for the extra money.
Once the pain wore off, Woods continued to play hard. He poured in an eagle putt on the par-5 13th and gave a signature putter raise as the ball dropped into the cup. If he wasn’t grinding so hard, he would have just given a small tip of the cap after making that putt.
You could almost sense Woods knew the importance of that eagle. He had played his last 110 holes without an eagle dating back to the Phoenix Open.
“Well, considering where I was at Torrey and Phoenix, to make the complete swing change and rectify all the faults and come here to a major championship and contend, I’m proud of that part of it,” Woods stated. “Just wish I could have made a few more timely putts and moved up that board.”
Baby steps are not in Woods’ vocabulary, but that’s what this was. Baby steps toward contending on a regular basis and winning again.
The way Woods played on Friday and Saturday, winning doesn’t seem far off for the greatest winner of his generation.
* Outside of the prize money players earned at the Masters, it is always fun to see the other things they won. Spieth picked up a pair of crystal vases for the low round of the day Thursday and Friday, and anyone who made an eagle was given a pair of crystal highball glasses. Players who had a hole-in-one at the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday also won crystal.
* With Spieth’s victory and move to No. 2 in the world rankings, that marked the first time that world Nos. 1 (McIlroy) and 2 were both 25 or younger.
Kevin Currie is the Golf Editor at SportsNetwork.com.