Monday Finish: Details you missed from Jordan Spieth’s cliff adventure

Jordan Spieth stole the show at Pebble Beach.

Jordan Spieth stole the show at Pebble Beach.


Welcome to the Monday Finish, where we’re wishing we had Michael Greller to push back against our dumbest sentences. Like this one. But we don’t. So let’s get to it!


Last words on the cliff.

An abundance of ink has been spilled on the subject of Jordan Spieth‘s Saturday cliffside adventure, and I know the internet tends to run things into the ground ad nauseam, but in my mind this cannot possibly be overplayed. We’re talking about one of the most popular golfers on the planet playing one of the most famous holes on the planet and making a full swing from such a precarious position on the cliff’s edge that I still get the heebie-jeebies on rewatch.

Eek! With that in mind, let’s take a closer look; I’d like to break down five little details you might have missed. (And listen the podcast below, too!)

1. The run

The best way I can make sense of The Cliff Shot is that Jordan Spieth’s instincts are optimized to make the lowest golf score possible; that acts as an override even when something like “his life” is under threat. I think that’s why, post-impact, Spieth’s survival instincts finally kicked back in. Re-watch the video and you’ll see that after contact he literally runs away from the edge of the cliff.

Jordan Spieth, man on the run.
Jordan Spieth, man on the run. CBS

Either Spieth snapped suddenly back to reality of he feared the entire cliff might collapse under the magical strike of his 7-iron, like Gandalf taking out the bridge (and the giant fire-monster Balrog) in Lord of the Rings. Makes sense; Spieth’s 7-iron is about as close to a wizard’s staff as you’ll get on Tour. I hope that reference lands with even 10% of you. Either way, let’s move on quickly.

2. The twirl

Speaking of instincts: As he ran to safety, Spieth couldn’t help but give that iron a little twirl, sliding it down his hands even as he retreated. The twirl is just in his DNA at this point.

Jordan Spieth, twirling on the run.
Jordan Spieth, twirling on the run. CBS

3. The history

This is hardly Spieth’s first brush with drama at No. 8 at Pebble Beach. Heck, it’s not even his first tense exchange with caddie Michael Greller while standing at the edge of the cliff. in fact, Spieth has said his “most embarrassing moment” came in that exact same spot at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Spieth hit 4-iron off the tee, but the landing area was so firm that his ball raced through into the penalty area. Then he dropped, consulted with caddie Michael Greller on his 8-iron and sent that over the green, leaving himself a terrifying chip shot coming back.

The Fox broadcast picked up what happened next. It didn’t look flattering for Spieth.

“Two perfect shots, Michael,” he muttered as he strode forward, steaming. “You got me in the water on one and over the green on the other.”

“After that round I saw it and I had never been more embarrassed for myself, ever,” Spieth told No Laying Up last spring. “I was like, ‘Wow. Not only does that look bad, it was bad.’ And boy, I was upset but that was just — that was awful.”

Spieth explained afterwards that he was expressing “frustration, not blame,” and Greller himself didn’t even hear it in real time. But the moment didn’t sit well with Spieth that night — nor at a caddie dinner at the end of the season.

This time around, player and caddie weren’t exactly in agreement.

“Michael hated it. He tried to talk me out of it three times,” Spieth said of his shot selection. He took that under advisement, hit the shot anyway and escaped with a par. Saturday’s cliffside adventure was a reminder that this duo goes through it every single week — and as a result, their bond is probably stronger than we realize.

4. The height

On the one hand, conflicting estimates had been bouncing around as the actual height of the cliff, so I was genuinely curious. On the other hand, I literally burst out laughing when CBS busted out this graphic:

5. The follow-up

The best part about Spieth is that he does not and will not learn his lesson. When he and Greller returned to the scene of the crime on Sunday, the broadcasting crew joked that surely this time Spieth would lay well back. Instead? He hit it further than he’d hit it the previous day! He reached the literal end of the fairway!

That’s why this weekend was a Spieth metaphor come to life. He’ll keep playing on the edge of the cliff. We’ll be on the edge of our seats, hoping he doesn’t slip.


Who won the week?

Irish Golf

Leona Maguire became the first Irish golfer to win on the LPGA Tour when she took down the Drive On Championship, a 54-hole event in Fort Myers, Fla. this weekend. Maguire’s debut victory has been a long time coming; unlike several of her high-profile competitors, her pro career didn’t begin until she’d finished four years of college — and spent a ridiculous 135 weeks at amateur No. 1. This feels like just the beginning.

North Dakota Golf

Tom Hoge‘s most recent professional win was the Bobcat North Dakota Open in 2017. That event doesn’t have world ranking points, never mind a Masters invitation. (“I think that paid $10,000. This is a little bit better,” he said, reminiscing as $1.56 million headed towards his bank account.) Winning at Pebble Beach has both.

Now Hoge will become the first North Dakotan to play in the Masters since Mike Podolak, an amateur from Oxbow, teed it up at Augusta in 1983. Based off an informal poll, he may now be the best male golfer in North Dakota’s history. The ales are flowing in Fargo tonight!

phil mickelson and jordan spieth
Tour Confidential: Mickelson’s media rights, and riding the Spieth rollercoaster
By: GOLF Editors

Twin bombers

If you’re not dialed in on the weekly happenings of the DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) you may only vaguely recognize the name Rasmus Hojgaard, a young Danish star who has won three times in the last three years, ascended to world No. 63 and won’t turn 21 until March.

But don’t get confused: This week’s DP World Tour winner at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship was Nicolai Hojgaard, Rasmus’ twin brother. He now has two wins of his own and, as of Monday, has climbed to No. 67 in the world. Oh, and these two finished first and third in driving distance this week. We’re seeing the future, and we’re seeing double. Time will tell if we’re seeing a future Ryder Cup pairing, too.

Walk-off eagle

There were layers and layers to this week’s Saudi International. There were issues related to rival tours, breakaway tours, geopolitics, appearance fees, human rights, moral obligations, Pebble Beach and the future of professional golf. But at the end, zoomed in, there was a snippet of golfing brilliance from Harold Varner III, who won with a brilliant walk-off eagle from the front fringe that could change his career trajectory, send him to the Masters (if he stays inside the top 50; he’s up to No. 45) and certainly help pay the bills for a little while, too.


No trophy, but plenty of other good stuff.

Beau Hossler

Considering Hossler had logged just two top-10 finishes in the last two seasons combined (with T9 his best) Sunday’s third-place result must have felt like an enormous victory. And it was! We imagine it still took a few minutes for him to get over the sting of bogey on 18, though, given he was greenside in two and birdie would have earned him an extra $350,000.

Jonathan Byrd

The 43-year-old Monday qualified into the event at Pebble, battled all week, then shot the low round of the day on Sunday to climb to T9 and guarantee himself another start. That’s a heck of a grind for the five-time Tour winner, who’s still very much in the chase.

Lexi Thompson

Nobody was beating Leona Maguire this week, but Thompson came the closest, playing her first seven holes in seven under par on Saturday to climb right into the mix. Thompson hasn’t won since 2019, but it feels inevitable she’ll get over the line again soon.


Not this week, at least.

Spieth’s ‘best swing of the week’

Said swing came at No. 17, where Spieth pulled 8-iron and flushed it. Unfortunately he needed another yard of carry; that flushed 8-iron ended up in the front bunker instead, leading ultimately to bogey. One extra yard and he’d be left with a short look at birdie and a very real chance at winning.

“We were pretty confident in [8-iron] and when I struck it I thought it was all over it,” Spieth said. “I hit the dead center of the face, high, hold-off straight ball, the wind just took it a little.”

Bunker. Bogey. Game of inches.

Phil’s name-calling

This could easily belong in a different category for a different person, but since I’m the one typing I have to admit: Phil Mickelson’s assertion that the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” is pushing him to consider jumping to the Saudi breakaway tour missed the mark.

Mickelson may have some reasonable gripes about media rights, revenue sharing and various other ways in which the Tour is maximizing profit off its product. Those are fair negotiations and players should fight for what’s theirs. And Mickelson is also free to take the money and go — but it feels disingenuous for him to say he would do so because of the Tour’s greed. (Brooks Koepka agrees.)

Typically when Mickelson goes public, he has a specific plan. Perhaps he’s attempting to cash in on his public approval and trashing the Tour to the media to build either leverage (if he stays) or goodwill (if he goes). But the Tour has helped Mickelson earn incredible sums of money over the last three decades, turning him into one of the highest-paid athletes on the planet some of those years. In a greed-off, nobody wins.


Pebble Beach!

No. 6 at Pebble Beach is an awe-inspiring par-5 with plenty of risk down the right-hand side off the tee. But much of that risk can be avoided by merely aiming left of everything and taking your chances near the cart path that runs down the left side of the hole, as shown in the screenshot below. If you’re particularly lucky you might even scamper down the path itself for a few bonus yards, leaving just a mid-iron approach from an appealing angle. Brandon Hagy, the furthest red dot, had just 184 yards left, while Pat Perez had just 190.

Pebble Beach's sixth hole includes an alternate strategy up the left side.
Pebble Beach’s sixth hole includes an alternate strategy up the left side. Shotlink

The clear takeaway from the red dots (birdies) blue dots (pars) and black dots (bogeys) is that you want no part of those fairway bunkers. If you’re going left, go left! You just might get rewarded.

No. 10 at Pebble featured its alternate tee box, which has become a Sunday tradition of late. It’s fun, scenic, dramatic, strategic. All in.


Monday Finish HQ.

There’s something glorious about a sunny weekend day in mid-winter Seattle. On Sunday afternoon the clouds gave way to unrelenting sun and temperatures near 50. I took advantage because I felt some deep biological inclination to head outdoors, so I went for a run and then hit balls at Interbay Golf Center, the greatest place ever, where I was surrounded by giddy folks looking to score some Vitamin D. It was awesome.


Three things to watch this week.

1. The Winter Olympics.

If you need to talk curling, cross-country skiing, speed skating or really anything Winter Olympics, I’m here for you. And so is not-just-golf announcer Shane Bacon, apparently:

2. The LPGA’s behind-the-scenes documentary.

A three-part series with terrific behind-the-scenes access from last year’s CME Group Tour Championship. Insightful and satisfying. Here’s the first episode:

3. The Super Bowl Preview Show

Aka the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I used to feel like this tournament was actually over-hyped because of the festival atmosphere and relatively weak field. Now I’m pleasantly surprised that every year, it ends up being a super-fun watch — and the field is pretty sturdy this year, too. Game on!

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.