Jordan Spieth looked deep in shock as he sat in the Butler Cabin, sitting next to the man who had just succeeded him as Masters champion.
No fault of Danny Willett’s, of course. The Englishman had simply taken advantage of Spieth’s calamitous errors at the 12th hole on Sunday, where a quadruple-bogey seven cost him the lead and the chance to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods as the only men to retain the Masters title.
Having to sit next to the fella who has denied you, though, that was a particularly cruel twist to the Augusta National tradition of having the previous year’s champion place the famous green jacket on his successor’s shoulders.
“As you can imagine, I can’t think of anybody else who may have had a tougher ceremony to experience,” Spieth said afterwards. “Obviously happy for Danny. More important than golf, he’s had a lot of really cool things happened in his life. Like he said, maybe fate had it this time for him. I certainly wanted to control fate, myself.
“But it was very tough given that it’s so soon after the finish and it was tough but I thought he handled it with extreme class. And I felt that I stood up there and smiled like I should, and appreciated everybody who makes this great tournament possible.”
Just as Rory McIlroy had suffered his meltdown in 2011 at the 10th, so the 12th and Spieth will now be inextricably linked, although he had also bogeyed 10 and 11 in a nightmare start to his back nine. The difference, as McIlroy pointed out on Sunday, was that at least the American has already won the Masters.
“I saw what happened to Jordan on the board,” McIlroy said. “It just shows what can happen on the back nine here. I have been in that position before and I know it’s not that nice but he won it last year so I don’t feel too sorry for him.”
That 2015 win will be no comfort to Spieth in this immediate aftermath. He had twice sent his ball into the water at the 12th and had sought a reaction from his friend and caddie Mike Greller to try and reignite his round with six holes to play as he tried to catch Willett.
“At one point I told Mike, I said, ‘Buddy, it seems like we’re collapsing’. And I wanted to be brutally honest with the way I felt towards him, so that he could respond with what was necessary to get us to rebound. And we did. I rebounded. I hit a great drive, I hit a good seven-iron, got a tough break. I made two birdies coming in and almost made a couple more.
“But, boy, you wonder about not only just the tee shot on 12, but why can’t you just control the second shot, you know, and make five at worse, and you’re still tied for the lead.
“Big picture, this one will hurt. It will take a while.” What Spieth will ponder most is what he considered a “B minus game tee to green, and I made up for it around the greens with my putter”.
After nine successive under-par rounds in three Masters appearances and having led for a record seven rounds in a row, from the opening day in 2015, Spieth’s luck finally ran out, hitting three over-par rounds to conclude his 2016 performance.
“It’s a lot of holes significantly over par, which is really tough for me to swallow, for me to shoot three over-par rounds in a row after opening up with a 66. I understand the conditions were tough. But it’s my expectations, I should never shoot two over-par rounds in a row, no what the golf course is, even a US Open.
“So to shoot three on a course where I was under par through nine holes each round, that’s just tough to take away.”
As will be that horror show on 12. “Just a lapse of concentration and it cost me,” he said.
“It’s a tough one. I knew the lead was five with nine holes to play. And I knew that those two bogeys weren’t going to hurt me. But I didn’t take that extra deep breath and really focus on my line on 12. Instead I went up and I just put a quick swing on it.
“I just didn’t take that extra deep breath. I just hit it fat.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved