Tour Confidential: Spieth’s shaky finish, rollback takes, Scheffler’s Masters menu
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It was a thrilling final hour at the Valspar Championship, with Taylor Moore birdieing two of his last four to win his first PGA Tour event. Moore had the clubhouse lead and watched as Jordan Spieth made a huge error on the 16th tee (but still made bogey) followed by another bogey at 18; Adam Schenk also made a closing bogey to lose by one. What’s your main takeaway from how this one unraveled?
James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): We learned that Spieth could play a “boring” (his word) round of golf with a share of the 54-hole lead and still lose. He might be further from the 2015 world-beater than we realized.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): This is basically the ideal recipe for future non-designated events: Close finish involving a mix of big names and relative unknowns. There’s so much at stake that the results are intriguing either way, and now we can put those results in better context.
Alan Bastable, executive editor (@alan_bastable): I don’t know how that tee shot into the water at 16 doesn’t stick with Jordo for a while. In a tie for the lead at that point, at 10 under, his destiny was squarely in his own hands, and he missed his mark by 40 yards, maybe more. He said afterward he was trying to hit a “straight fade” with his 3-wood but bailed on the swing and caught the ball on the heel. Hard to win in tight contests on the PGA Tour without fully committed swings. The short birdie try on 17 also looked a bit tentative. By the way, big hat tip to Taylor Moore — a Sunday 67 on this major-grade setup was proper golf.
Spieth has had an interesting past few weeks, with a cold putter holding him back at Bay Hill, some inconsistent rounds at TPC Sawgrass and now this uneven finish at Innisbrook. He’s been top 20 in his last three starts, but has the mix of flashes and burnouts over the past few starts given you more reason for optimism or concern when it comes to his Masters prospects?
Colgan: Given the state of his game, it’s always fair to assume Spieth will be a relevant part of the conversation come Masters week. But his penchant for the big mistake means if he’s in the hunt, he’ll be must-see TV — for better or worse.
Dethier: Optimism, for sure. Spieth demonstrated something important at the Valspar: a well-rounded attack. He gained strokes off the tee, with his irons, around the green and on the green. And even though he had disappointing shortish misses on both the 17th and 18th greens, this week was only encouraging. There’s no mistaking this version of Spieth for the youngster we saw win the Masters nearly a decade ago. There’s more effort. But Spieth also seems to be embracing his current game, for better and for worse. That appears to be working.
Bastable: Dylan framed it well — the game has never looked effortless for Spieth but of late even his best play looks like really hard work. But you still have to like how he’s trending. Spieth said he made only two bad swings Sunday — the water ball at 16 and another Big Right Miss into the trees on 6 — and his one-under 70 on a tough Copperhead course was bested by only three players in the top-15 finishers. If he can keep himself in contention week to week, Tour win No. 14 won’t be far off. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it comes at ANGC.
Major news dropped earlier this week, when the USGA and R&A announced a proposal for a local rule (to be instituted as soon as 2026) that would give organizers of “elite competitions” the option to require players to use a rolled-back ball. We already thoroughly covered this topic in an emergency Tour Confidential roundtable several days ago — which you should definitely check out here — but now that we’ve had some days to digest the news, let’s ask this: What’s one major angle here that hasn’t received as much attention as it deserves?
Colgan: That these changes affect so few golfers in the grand scheme of golf. It’s fine to have an opinion, but for the overwhelming majority of golfers, this news won’t mean much of anything at all.
Dethier: Au contraire! These changes will affect far more golfers than people think. Are low-handicappers going to be negotiating ball types on the first tee? Will they keep different indexes based on the rules they’re following? A simple system is now further complicated. I’m hoping we get more clarity in the months and years ahead.
Bastable: I’m deeply intrigued to see how the PGA Tour handles the pressure to adopt the rule. We know most of the players are anti-rollback (at least among those who have spoken up), as is Jay Monahan, who said back in 2019 that he believes “the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules.” Yet at least half the majors will be require players to use a slower ball beginning in 2026, and if was I betting man, I’d wager the Masters and PGA Championship will follow suit. So where might that leave us? With players having to adjust to a different ball only for the four biggest tournaments of the year? Wild prospect!
A simple system is now further complicated. I’m hoping we get more clarity.
Danny Lee won LIV Golf’s event in Tucson in a playoff, but 16 strokes back and in a tie for 44th place was Bryson DeChambeau, who was also 24th at LIV’s first event of the year and never finished better than 10th at any LIV event last season (although he did tie for 8th at The Open). Not playing on the PGA Tour has led to less spotlight for DeChambeau, who not long ago was a fixture on headlines across golf websites everywhere. Is this too small a sample size to say something is up with his game? And do you expect him to be a threat at the Masters in two weeks?
Colgan: I think it’s fair to wonder what happened to Bryson, whose every moment used to receive the breathless attention of the golf world — an attention he seemed to resent. In that regard, he may be one of the few golfers who benefitted from LIV’s obscurity. But his game is a long way from the U.S. Open winning form of 2020. It has been for some time.
Dethier: Would it surprise me to see Bryson contend at Augusta? Yeah, it would. It just doesn’t seem like his stroke-play golf is in top form; he’s never finished better than 10th in a LIV event and even MC’d at the Saudi International at a course that should set up fairly well for him. He’ll be a fascinating follow for an abundance of reasons, but one such reason is that we just don’t know what we’re going to get.
Bastable: Gosh, it wasn’t all that long we were speculating about what Augusta National would need to do to “Bryson-proof” its course. Now, the same guy we thought might win the Masters by 10 in the fall of 2020 has dealt with a litany of injuries and devolved into a questionable LIV investment. DeChambeau has never finished top-20 at Augusta, a streak he’s on the fast track to extend in April.
Augusta National revealed Scottie Scheffler’s Masters Champions Dinner menu, and the reigning champ has a feast fitting his Texas roots. How would you grade Scheffler’s spread?
Colgan: D-minus. Call me a food snob (I am!), but with the full culinary weight of the golf world on your shoulders, couldn’t we do better than a cookout?
Dethier: Solid B. Look, Hideki Matsuyama has set the standard of late, and I dearly appreciated Dustin Johnson’s ode to pigs in a blanket. I’ll gladly dock Scottie points for lack of creativity, but as much as I’d like to be snobbier I have to admit the menu just looks delicious. I’m a 5-year-old eater at heart. I love cookout food, and I love chocolate chip cookies. I’d gladly attend, invite or not.
Bastable: Who am I to judge a man’s palate?! But I will say, the way the LIV guys have been dining, they will not be impressed.