Golf fans witnessed a nightmare that golfer’s of all skill levels can relate to on Sunday at The Masters. 20-year old, Jordan Spieth, entered the final round of his first Masters Tournament with a share of the lead. Paired alongside 2012 Masters Champion, Jordan Spieth had an opportunity to rewrite history and become the youngest player to ever capture a Green Jacket.
After the round Spieth would admit to having a terrible warm up session. For whatever reason he just didn’t feel the same, couldn’t recreate the same tempo and quality ball striking he’d enjoyed the first three rounds of the season’s first major championship. Spieth had experienced bad warm up sessions before and gone on to play a good round. How he warmed up never projected how he would perform on the golf course, or so he thought.
It took all but the first tee shot to see Jordan Spieth was uncomfortable with this golf swing on Sunday. His body and arms weren’t rotating in tandem and as a result he was having a hard time hitting the golf ball where he was intending. Yet if you merely followed the first 7 holes of Sunday’s final round looking at the scoreboard, you would have thought Spieth was in total control as he maintained a 2-shot advantage over Bubba Watson as they approached the par 5, 8th tee at Augusta National.
After hitting his second consecutive tee shot left into the trees on #2, Spieth was able to manufacture a shot into sand wedge range on the downhill par 5. He proceeded to hit his wedge to about 14 feet and made the putt for birdie.
Two holes later after hitting his tee shot on the long par 3, 4th hole into the front bunker, Spieth proceeded to hole out for another birdie.
Despite holding a 2-shot lead thru four holes, Spieth continued to struggle off the tee and pulled a 3-wood into the left side of the 5th fairway. As one of Spieth’s mentors and friends would advise earlier in the week, playing well at Augusta National has a lot to do with the angles you create for your approach shot. Spieth had positioned his tee ball on the 5th hole in an extremely unfavorable position, unable to see the green surface from the lower, left part of the 5th fairway. Jordan would make his first bogey of the day on the 5th.
Still struggling to find the rhythm, tempo and feel he enjoyed just the day before, Spieth found a way to carve a mid-iron into the par 3, 6th hole to set up another great look at birdie. He would make that birdie, as would his playing partner Watson on the 6th.
Coming off a great bounce back birdie at the 6th, Spieth stepped up to the 7th tee and for the first time that day found the fairway with his driver. He followed up the solid drive with a precise iron shot just behind the hole to set up his 3rd birdie of the day.
The young, 20-year old from Texas held a 2-shot lead walking to the par 5, 8th hole. A par 5 that many players were able to challenge, despite the hole location being placed on the very back part of the green. Surprisingly, Spieth opted for 3-wood off the par 5 tee. While he found the fairway with his tee shot, he left himself no chance to reach the green in two and would have to lay up to the right side of the green leaving an wedge shot from around 75 yards to the hole. After hitting the Sand Wedge approach, Spieth anticipated the ball would react differently when it hit the green and was disappointed to see he faced a 25 foot putt up the hill. Spieth would 3-putt the 8th for bogey while Watson would take advantage of his aggressive play with birdie. A two shot swing left the players tied heading into the 9th hole.
Golf fans know the end of the story. Spieth would go on to make another bogey on the 9th hole, Watson would make his 3rd birdie in 4 holes and carry a 2-shot lead into the back nine at The Masters. Watson would go on to win the tournament by 3 shots of his nearest competitors, Spieth and Jonas Blixt.
But could Spieth have done differently? What caused a player of Spieth’s caliber to one day feel great on the golf course and then a mere day later struggle to find the tempo he had enjoyed all week?
It happens to all of us. For many of us it’s a struggle to take the game we have on the driving range, even when it’s good, to the golf course. The moment we tee it up for “real”, every smooth swing or good thought we had warming up disappears.
In an effort to find a solution to this problem we sought the advice of PGA Professional, Mike Weirich of Wolf Hollow Golf Club.
Below are Weirich’s suggestions:
Hopefully you have a shot that is a “fall back” for you. A shot that you have supreme confidence in hitting that you can rely on whenever you mysteriously “lose it” mid round. Regardless of the cause, whether it’s pressure of the competition or your mind wanders thinking about work or things you have to do, being able to have a reliable go-to shot will minimize any damage that could be done to your round.
An example of a go to shot could be a certain ball flight. For some it’s a cut shot or a knock down they will rely on when they are on the course with less than their best. If you don’t have a go to shot, the first call to action is to get one.
Second, don’t fight it. Go with what you’ve got. If you warmed up before your round and all you could hit was left to right shaped shots, don’t get to the first tee and try to find that beautiful high draw you visualized in your sleep the night before. It’s not there, so don’t try and con jour it up at that moment. Possibly as the round goes on you’ll play your way into a better tempo and you’ll have more options in your arsenal, but nothing good will come from trying to press early in your round.
Adjust your course strategy. Make sure you are giving yourself maximum area to play the next shot. If you are missing it right, be wary of a right hole location with a deep bunker or hazard looming just right of the green. Instead play your shot to the middle of the green and accept the 20 foot putt if you pull the shot off. Who knows, you just might miss right again and find yourself close to the hole. Be real with yourself and play the percentages when the hole doesn’t set up for the shot shape you have that day.
**Jordan Spieth would have benefited from this advice on the 12 tee when he took dead aim at the back right hole location. He hadn’t been sharp all day, yet here he was trying to place his ball in a 5 yard landing area with trouble short, right and long. How about we play safe and aim in the middle of the green here young Jordan?
Trust. Believe in yourself and stay patient that you will “find it”. By not pressing the situation you’re giving yourself the best opportunity to play yourself into form. Keep it simple by focusing on tempo and your target with little conscious thought to swing mechanics. You’ve played good golf before and you can do it again; but only if you get out of your own way.
Mike Weirich is a PGA Professional and member of the Gateway Section. Mike offers private and group instruction at Wolf Hollow Golf Club and can be reached by calling 636-390-8100 or visiting the club’s website at http://www.wolfhollowgolf.com.
About Wolf Hollow Golf Club – Located at the Gateway to Missouri Wine Country just east of Washington on Hwy 100, Wolf Hollow Golf Club is truly an oasis for the serious, seasoned golfer and the beginner alike. Designed by Mother Nature, the course’s natural landscape was created with more than 175 feet of elevation change across 175 acres. Claimed by many as the “hidden gem of St. Louis”, Wolf Hollow provides beautiful views and exciting golf just minutes from St. Louis. READ MORE