AUGUSTA -- Jordan Spieth learned the lessons that many high-profile Masters rookies have faced through the years.
Macon’s Russell Henley even learned them last year with a missed cut.
Augusta National Golf Club offers no favors for rookies. The course is just too difficult and too demanding for rookies to slip into a green jacket. There are too many lessons to be learned for that to happen.
“This course is hard on you,” Henley said earlier in the week as he made the cut in his second appearance. “You have to know where to hit every shot, and those are things you have to learn as you play here.”
Spieth found out in the middle of Sunday’s final round what so many before him have discovered all the way back to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 (the last time a rookie won this tournament).
Spieth started strong with a birdie on the second hole and then a chip-in for birdie on the fourth to sit at 7 under, two shots clear of the field. He gave a shot back on the fifth but bounced back immediately with consecutive birdies to get to 8 under, and it appeared the tournament was his to win.
Again leading by two shots, Spieth stumbled to bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 to fall behind Bubba Watson, and the margin was just too much for Spieth to make up. Another bogey on No. 12 (after a tee shot into the water) pushed Spieth three shots behind Watson, and that pretty much sealed the deal. Watson cruised to his second Masters win, while Spieth could only go along for the ride in the final group.
Watson was steady and calm throughout the final round, while the players around him faltered and sputtered through the day. Watson finished the week with three rounds in the 60s, shooting a solid 3-under-par 69 in the final round. It wasn’t spectacular, and there were no wild swings of emotion or tournament-changing shots. It was just a solid, composed round that slowly put the rest of the field away.
It was the kind of round a veteran plays at Augusta National.
Spieth’s round wasn’t disastrous; none of his rounds were. In fact, he finished with an even-par 72 after rounds of 71-70-70 landed him in the final group Sunday, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the more experienced Watson. And experience was definitely the difference. This year marked Watson’s sixth Masters appearance, and he has won two of the past three years.
The 20-year-old Spieth is a terrific player with a great career ahead of him, and it’s a good bet he will win many majors, including the Masters, before his career is over. He didn’t collapse under the pressure of the week or give the tournament away. He put up a good fight on the back nine with a steady finish, but after his mid-round stumbles he needed a spectacular finish to catch Watson.
Spieth’s career is really just getting started, but rookies just don’t make names for themselves on this course. There are just too many lessons that need to be learned and rounds that have to be played before players can become Masters champions.
Watson has that experience and has played those rounds. Spieth is just getting started down that path.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org