What a week for golf.
I didn’t plan on talking about another national golf story this week, but after watching Jordan Spieth’s British Open victory, how could I not?
A lot of focus has been paid to Jordan Spieth winning three majors before the age of 24. Jack Nicklaus is the only other person to accomplish that. It’s an unbelieveable feat. But Spieth’s win record is not what I want to focus on.
Rather, I want to try to get to the mental side of his victory. For the life of me, I can’t imagine the switch Spieth was able to flip for the last five holes of that tournament.
And I don’t want to overstate this, but I honestly believe that the last hour of that tournament could be a career-defining stretch for Spieth.
I probably need four or more columns to properly dive into all the different components this column should cover, but I’ll try to make due with one.
The Background: In April 2016, Jordan Spieth had an opportunity to run the table with a wire-to-wire Masters victory. Back-to-back victories that would have cemented his place in golf history at the ripe age of 22. He played with the lead the whole tournament and gave a few shots away early on Sunday. Then made two infamously bad swings on 12 en route to a quadruple-bogey 7.
The loss was crushing. Devastating. His second-place finish and defending champion status meant he not only had to endure the loss. But that he had to do it publicly by sliding “his” jacket onto Danny Willett’s shoulders in front of the entire world. Commentators all asked the same question: How would Spieth handle himself should he ever get to that position again?
Six majors later, we all waited for the answer. Spieth once again found himself with the lead heading into the final round of a major. Again there were a few shaky swings and some uncharacteristic misses on the green. It was evident from the start he didn’t have the same game with which he finished Saturday’s third round. By the time he threw his arms up and grabbed his head on the 13th tee, it was looking like deja vu.
Even with an amazing bogey on 13, Spieth found himself on the wrong side of the leaderboard for the first time since his round on Thursday. He was 4 over for the day and trailed the steady Matt Kuchar with just five holes to play.
At that point, it was certainly possible, if not probable, that he would lose the tournament. Can you imagine what the golf world would have said had Spieth made a few more bogeys down the stretch and lost the tournament? He’d have been called a choke artist. He’d have been labeled unable to win the big one. Even his U.S. Open victory from 2015 would have been re-examined and viewed as a Dustin Johnson loss instead of a Spieth win.
And then it happened. A long iron almost went in off the tee on the par 3 14th lead to birdie. He had a near 50-foot bomb for eagle on 15. He made another 25-foot birdie putt on 16. And his “anything you can do I can do better” dagger to Kuchar matched his already-in birdie on 17. The resulting two-shot lead let him coast down the difficult 18th and two-putt for a three-shot victory.
I can’t remember watching someone flip a round like that, especially in a competitive situation. Spieth was the final group of a major on Sunday — a career-defining situation.
Tiger was the best frontrunner in the history of the game. But I can’t remember a mid-round comeback from him like this one.
Spieth won his third major this past Sunday. Three majors before the age of 24 is amazing. But that mid-round comeback will go down as one of the greatest rallies of all time.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.