#AskAlan: Given Jordan Spieth’s close calls at Augusta, is he a Masters overachiever or underachiever?

April 11, 2018

What a Masters. So much to chew on.

Is Jordan’s recent run at Augusta (constantly near the lead) more impressive or disappointing (“only” one jacket to show for it)? #askAlan — @ShoshEAK

I had already been thinking about this. Spieth is clearly a generational talent, and Augusta National is where he is most able to express his gifts, so it makes sense to compare him to the greatest Masters champions of all time. Both Nicklaus and Woods had similar runs in their early 20s. From 1963-66 Big Jack had three victories and a runner-up finish, which, if you think about it, will make your face melt. From 1997-2002, or what we could call the Butch Years, Tiger won three out of six Masters while having two other good chances. Arnold Palmer won his first Masters in 1958 and took three more in the next six years, also mixing in a tie for second and a third. So clearly Spieth’s .200 batting average is well below these historic benchmarks, and worse still is the scar tissue accumulated in the losses. Beyond the epic collapse in 2016, he led by two strokes late on the front nine in ’14 before getting run over by Bubba Watson, and as electric as his play was on Sunday he’s going to be thinking about those missed putts on 13 and 18 for a very long time.

The near-misses are also costly because the Masters is generally a young man’s game — it’s best to putt those crazy greens before the nerve endings get too fried. In one of golf’s great stats, Nicklaus went the entire 1970s without finishing outside of the top eight at the Masters — but he won only twice. Woods didn’t contend in 2003 and ’04, the beginning of the Hank Haney years, but from ‘05-09 he had five prime chances to win but collected only one more jacket.

So, to answer the question, Spieth having only one victory has to be considered a little disappointing. I expect he’ll win more, but it doesn’t get any easier from here.

Why ask a personal question about Reed’s parents and sister at the Masters presser when you have already written an article where he has stated he won’t comment? Anything changed since your 2015 article or was it to get a response on a bigger stage? — @ckrishna

As you can imagine, I got a lot of questions about my Reed story, so I broke it all down for you here in what is essentially “The story of my story.”

If you were a pro-ready female amateur would you hold off on going pro in order to play at the new tourney at ANGC next spring? (Asking for Wake Forest, which has two pro-ready elite female amateurs…) — Todd (@tamcfall)

Of course! It’s going to be one of the most buzzed-about events the women’s game has ever seen, with a global audience tuning in. What better way to launch a pro career than win that first?

Will Fred Ridley be the chairman to make bold changes to the course and return it closer to the original intent in design and strategy? — Jeff (@GolfInPebble)

Ridley is the answer to a trivia question: who is the last U.S. Amateur champ not to turn pro? He played in the Masters in the 1970s, when ANGC was a wide-open canvas that encouraged artistic impression. Ridley is a student of golf course architecture, unlike his clueless predecessor Billy Payne, who didn’t know that Bobby Jones’s and Alister MacKenzie’s genius idea for Augusta National was to bring the shot values of the Old Course to a parkland setting. Ridley sees the course through the eyes of an elite player. He reveres Jones, having become a gentleman lawyer like his hero. So I would say that Ridley is our last, best shot to return the width and angles of the old Augusta National by chopping down trees and losing the rough. Here’s hoping, anyway.

What’s the appropriate patron dress code at the Masters? Seemed a little Kentucky Derby-ish this year. I wore a red USA Hazeltine Ryder Cup t-shirt on Thursday and felt out of place. I like to think I helped Patrick though. — @Spencer_wideman

For women, it always seems to be sundress season. For men, try to imagine you’re Webb Simpson going to brunch at Jay Gatsby’s house.

How distraught are you about Rory’s performance on Sunday? — T.J. (@TheRealTdotJ)

Very. He looked so lost and helpless out there. From 150 yards and in Reed is much more proficient, so McIlroy’s only hope to run him down on Sunday was to overpower the golf course and get in his opponent’s head. Instead, on the first hole, he hit literally the worst drive I’ve seen in McIlroy’s career. It was a telling moment. But the ensuing par save was stout, and two jaw-dropping shots on the second hole put him in position to erase Reed’s lead and send roars cascading through the pines. Instead, Rory yipped the little itty-bitty eagle putt and just like that he was toast. Following the third round I wrote about his travails at Augusta National, so peruse that story if you want the gory details about his past meltdowns and the haunting reflection of fellow greats Norman, Miller and Els, all of whom should’ve won a green jacket but never did. After this brutal debacle, it’s impossible not to fear that McIlroy is headed for the same fate.

Does Rickie win a major in the near future? If so, when? #AskAlan — @brianros1

I’ve been saying for a while that Fowler is the best player in the world in a casual game. He holds a bunch of course records, in South Florida and beyond, and is a legend in the Tour’s Tuesday practice rounds. There’s nothing he can’t do to a golf ball. Obviously he’s been getting in his own way at the majors, and even when trying to win lesser Tour events. I think this weekend at the Masters was massive for him: 65-67 while going toe-to-toe with the best players of his generation, and unlike Spieth, Rickie gutted a do-or-die putt on the 72nd hole. I fancy his chances at Shinnecock and Carnoustie, two stout tests that demand a strong all-around game.

How should I/we feel about Reed’s win? #AskAlan — Matt (@PurdueMatt05)

It’s complicated, man. You can’t understate what a macho performance that was. Rory McIlroy has long been every internet fanboy’s favorite player but Reed utterly emasculated him during the final round. Throw in the 2016 Ryder Cup and Reed now has a timeshare in Rory’s head. He’s younger than Fowler but has more wins, and Reed now owns as many major championships as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and other more celebrated contemporaries. He’s a better Ryder Cupper than Tiger or Phil could ever dream of being. It’s going to be fascinating to see where he goes from here as a player. I can’t wait to watch.

Various point-missers on Twitter have accused me of having some kind of vendetta against Reed, but that’s poppycock. Until Sunday night, I’ve always found him to be cordial, if a little distant. I love his cocky muttered asides in press conferences and his rascally grin. But he and his wife have always projected a standoffish vibe, not only with reporters but pretty much the entire Tour community. It’s like they’re always in a defensive crouch, waiting for someone to say something about Patrick’s checkered past. Now that the story is out there in such a public way, hopefully they’ll find a way to move past it – maybe a Players Tribune essay, or perhaps a tearful chat with Tom Rinaldi. Tiger, for all of his flaws, has always taken ownership of his mistakes. Bubba Watson has, too. That has allowed them to move on and the rest of us to enjoy watching them play the game. I hope Reed can similarly make peace with his past. Golf is undeniably more interesting with him as a keynote player. I look forward to him winning more big tournaments, and hopefully I can ask him in the champion’s press conference how good it feels to be on top of the world.