FORT WORTH, Texas – Jordan Spieth heard him. It happened after the turn, somewhere on the 10th hole. Some guy, blending in with the massive galleries following Sunday’s final group at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, had the benefit of being heard but not necessarily seen.
“Remember the Masters, Jordan! Remember the Masters.”
Yes, indeed, Spieth had heard.
o be fair, he wasn’t sure if the message was one of encouragement or disparagement. In a state in which the most famous battle cry is “Remember the Alamo,” you would suspect it’s a show of support. C’mon, Jordan. Let’s go win this battle!
Also, to be fair, Spieth doesn’t need anybody to remind him of his last Masters appearance, the back-nine unraveling that dashed his hopes of becoming a repeat champion. Spieth is clearly aware of his shortcomings on that day, and he won’t soon forget them. Remember the Masters? You might as well tell Jordan to remember to breathe.
Still, he had heard.
“Either way,” Spieth said, “there’s a little red-ass in me – and it came out on the next few holes.”
Birdie. Birdie. Birdie. That moved him into the lead. Then one stumble at 13, and two pars to follow. Then …
Birdie. Birdie. Birdie. Magical back-nine 30. Three-stroke victory. First in his home state. One of the biggest days of his young life.
Moments later, Spieth was slipping on the red-plaid jacket that goes to all PGA TOUR winners at Colonial. It wasn’t Augusta green, but it’ll do just nicely. “They both fit great,” he said.
More important, he was back to being Spieth. Back to being the golfer that blew us all away last year with an electrifying performance that included two major wins and the FedExCup.
Back to being the guy who could get the job done on Sunday.
That wasn’t the case last month at Augusta National, when he entered the final round with a one-shot lead, built it to five at the turn, and then saw it disintegrate with a bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey stretch. He eventually finished with a 73, losing by three shots to Danny Willett.
And it wasn’t the case just a week ago in his hometown event, the AT&T Byron Nelson. He was just two shots off the pace entering the final round but never gave himself a chance, shooting a 74 that was among the worst scores of the day. It was a different kind of disappointment for Spieth, who felt it as much for his local supporters as for himself.
Yet he never lost confidence in himself, even as he sought to gain total confidence in a swing he could rely on. And now here he was again, facing another pressure-packed final round. The crowds expected him to come through. He expected to come through. Would the last two failed attempts linger in his mind?
They certainly lingered in the questions he was asked, the comments he was hearing. Maybe “Remember the Alamo” really was a pointed jab.
“I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get over the hurdle of having to come in to every single interview room, having to listen to crowds only talk about what happened a month ago,” Spieth said. “It’s very difficult – and I’m 22. It’s not like I hadn’t won. We’ve won two majors.
“It’s very difficult to stay present, stay positive when that’s happening, when those are the only questions.”
Perhaps appropriate in a place known as Cowtown, it was time for him to get back on the saddle and ride to the finish line like he had done last year.
His 21-foot birdie putt at the 10th was the trigger to a thrilling back nine that, dare we say, seemed very Tiger-esque in its approach. Take the lead, and then stomp out anybody else’s dream of contending with some magical shots.
For Spieth, it was shots like his approach at 12 to 4 feet; his birdie putt from 20 feet at 16 (loudest roars of the day); his chip-in at 17 after a couple of nice breaks; and then the final birdie putt at 18 that he didn’t really need. He seemed to have a sheepish look on his face, the kind that Tiger used to have when he could do no wrong.
After a couple of Sundays in which everything went wrong, Spieth didn’t mind making one last positive statement.