In the wake of this year’s Masters, I’ve seen Jordan Spieth’s failure likened to Greg Norman’s colossal 1996 meltdown. One headline even classified Spieth’s collapse as “the most shocking in golf history.”
I beg to differ.
Was Spieth’s 12th-hole hockey unexpected? Of course, especially given that he had led The Masters for seven consecutive rounds. But shocking? The short-lived rock band Jane’s Addiction once put out an album whose title would be apt for what transpires on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta: Nothing’s Shocking.
By his own admission, Spieth hadn’t had his best ballstriking stuff leading into the final round and had continually bailed himself out with his world-class putting. Close PGA Tour followers might recall that Spieth’s battle with the wide rights had begun a few weeks earlier at the WGC-Dell Match Play, when a slice reared its ugly head during his warm-up for a round-of-16 match against Louis Oosthuizen that he subsequently lost. That right-field miss proved to be Spieth’s undoing on the 12th tee on Sunday.
With regard to the Norman comparison, I’d submit that while Spieth blew The Masters with a bad hole, Norman kicked it away with a colossally bad day.
Norman led Nick Faldo by six strokes – six strokes! – entering the final round in ’96. Spieth had a slim one-stroke lead through 54 holes, with a host of contenders within sniffing distance. If Norman plays half-respectably instead of ballooning to 78, he wins, Faldo’s closing 67 notwithstanding. The final round of the 2016 Masters was far closer to anybody’s game.
Despite having won two Open Championships, Norman brought a deep history of major failure and misfortune into the final round in ’96. Still, at 41 he came to Augusta in the midst of a 96-week run as the world’s No. 1 player and seemed destined to add the green jacket that long had eluded him to his closet.
Spieth, meanwhile, already had proven himself at Augusta with his “Hello, world” victory in 2015. And it’s a fair bet the 22-year-old will do so again, despite his crushing loss last Sunday, and perhaps multiple times.
As collapses go, I’d argue that Norman ’96 was far more stunning than Spieth ’16.