Not since Jack and Arnie in their pomp has Augusta seen anything quite like Jordan Spieth.
When you break down the numbers on the Texan’s record since his debut in 2014, something new pops up every time you turn a page.
In his rookie year, Spieth carded rounds of 71, 70, 70 and 72 to finish three behind Bubba Watson. But that doesn’t tell anything close to the whole story.
The pair began the final round neck and neck, and Spieth was two shots clear thanks to a birdie at the second and a Watson bogey at three. Spieth led as far as the eighth, where back-to-back bogeys gave his opponent an advantage he never relinquished.
Watson slipped into his second Green Jacket in three years, and Spieth looks back on his debut with little regret – after all, you have to go back to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 for the only rookie champion outside of the tournament’s maiden years – and says Watson’s Augusta experience gave him the edge that year.
“The difference with the Masters is that it’s at the same place every year, guys gather course knowledge, and there are tricks to that place that you learn through playing it in tournament play,” Spieth tells me at the launch of his new Under Armour shoes at Dallas National Golf Club.
“It adds that extra bit that makes it harder mentally on somebody because it’s not just a normal event it’s a major. You don’t see that in any major championship but especially at Augusta.
“There are different angles to attack from, and different spots that you have to lay up to even, if you have a short iron in your hand.
“So the knicks and knacks make it a little more difficult. I’m not saying that I couldn’t have done it in 2014, but there were probably shots in there that I would have tried differently now that I didn’t back then.”
A year later Watson was slipping Spieth into the Green Jacket as he used that course knowledge the following year to break his major duck at just his ninth attempt. And it was the one he wanted.
At the top of the interview when I had told him I wanted to talk about the Masters for a few minutes, his eyes lit up. “Well that’s easy,” he had told me, “it’s my favourite tournament, it’s number one, the Mecca of golf.”
Spieth had broken into a broad smile as the wheels start turning. “I had some of the coolest memories that I remember seeing in golf,” he pined, “from Tiger’s chip-in to Phil’s first major with his jump and, going way back to Nicklaus dominating and winning six times, I just saw highlights of those.” Indeed, Spieth was born almost a decade after Golden Bear’s sixth a final Masters.
Many of us who can only dream of being single figure handicappers, let alone playing in the Masters, are overcome with emotion just thinking about it, let alone actually getting to take that famous drive down Magnolia Lane.
“I was just trying to take it in,” Spieth reflects. “I was thinking this is hopefully the first time of many that we come down this lane.
“It was different than I expected. I didn’t know there are holes on either side and there’s are practice ranges on both sides. There was just stuff I didn’t know about it.
“It was beautiful. I remember going in there and playing it for the first time in October 2013 and then the first time I drove in to play in the Masters was a unique experience.
“My first tee-shot was as nerve-wracking as any shot I’d hit. I was just trying to get started.
“I fell in love with the course, the beauty of the place, and started to get to know the course and the greens prior to even stepping on the course. Then, when I did it, it outlived all of my expectations.”
In his three starts since that victory, Spieth has finished tied-second, tied-11th and third and is a total of 39-under par.
Only three players have gone back-to-back at the Masters – Nicklaus in 1965-66, Nick Faldo in 1989-90, and Woods in 2001-02 – and Spieth should have added his name to that list in 2016, but we all know what happened there and he’s spoken about it so many times it seems pointless to ask him to trot out the same response. There is almost a look in his eye that is pleading with me not to make him go over it again.
Instead, we stick to the positives.
His winning score of 18-under-par in 2015 is a joint record he holds with Woods as he crushed the field to win by four from Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson – whose scores of 14-under would have been good enough to win all eight Masters in history.
“The year I won, I’d just come in after finishing as runner-up for the past two weeks, I’d played well in San Antonio and got second, then I played well in Houston and lost in a play-off,” he explains.
“So I knew I was in form and I was coming to a course where I’d had the chance to win the previous year and one I felt was a good course for me. I had the utmost confidence and at that point I’m just trying to stay out of my own way and play the course how it’s meant to be played.
“I was kind of free-rolling, I’d already won that season as well and it was a good feeling going into ’15 and it led to a win.”
Jordan Spieth on Augusta
As in awe of Augusta as he is, Jordan Spieth says he would make one change to the course – and, no, it’s not the position of the drop zone at 12, but the par-3 4th hole.
“I would make a tee box in between the far back tee and the forward tee, he explains.
“That would make it maybe a 5-iron hole rather than a 3- or a 7-iron. We play it as a 3- or 4-iron hole usually for three days then one day as a 7-iron.
“It would be an easier hole but it would be really exciting rather than just being brutal.
“There isn’t much, I’d change. I had to think about that question!”
Jordan Spieth’s Masters results
- 2014: Tied-2nd, -5 (71-70-70-72)
- 2015: 1st, -18 (64-66-70-70)
- 2016: Tied-2nd, -2 (66-74-73-73)
- 2017: Tied-11th, -1 (75-69-68-75)
- 2018: 3rd, -13 (66-74-71-64)
Jordan Spieth’s record breaking 2015
- Became the youngest player to ever lead a Masters through 18 holes (21 years, 8 months and 13 days)
- Opening rounds of 64-66 took him to 14-under-par to break the 36-hole Masters scoring record
- A 3rd-round 70 took him to 16-under and was enough to break the 54-hole record at the Masters
- A 64 on Sunday tied the lowest final-round score at the Masters
- His 18-under-par matched Tiger Woods for the lowest score ever at Augusta
- Spieth briefly reached 19-under-par before a bogey at 18 – no one has ever reached 19-under at the Masters before
- Recorded 28 birdies, the most ever in a single Masters
- At 21-years, 8 months and 16 days, became the second youngest to ever win the Masters behind Woods (21 years, 3 months and 14 days)
- Became just the 5th player to go wire-to-wire at the Masters (Craig Wood in 1941, Arnold Palmer in 1960, Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Raymond Floyd in 1976)
For more in-depth features and interviews from Augusta, visit our dedicated Masters website.