Unlike Greg Norman 20 years ago, Jordan Spieth won't allow his awful performance Sunday in the final round of the Masters to have a lasting effect on his career.
If Jordan Spieth needs a little empathy in dealing with his epic collapse Sunday at the Masters, he should give Greg Norman a call.
Norman’s fall at the Masters 20 years ago was every bit as dramatic as Spieth’s. Norman entered the final day with a six-stroke lead before hitting one poor shot after another from the ninth hole through the 16th and losing by five shots to Nick Faldo.
Norman, who entered that Masters ranked No. 1 in the world, never recovered. His career quickly declined: He never again finished in the top two in the majors and never won at all after 1997.
He’s not alone. The emotional wounds of such a collapse have derailed many careers in golf.
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But don’t worry about Spieth. I am certain he will be just fine. Consider this a freak blip, one that he will never forget, but one that won’t hurt nearly as much after he wins several more majors.
Norman was 41 when he had his epic collapse over a span of eight holes. His body language was terrible. He looked like a beaten man, and it made me wish I could reach through the TV to give him a big hug. And it was just another of a long string of gut-wrenching losses in majors for Norman — some his own doing and some bad luck.
For Spieth, it was one extremely bad hole — two balls in the water for a quadruple bogey on the par-3 12th — that cost him another green jacket. Unlike Norman, Spieth initially recovered and he had the look of someone who expected to come back and win after birdies at the 13th and 15th gave him a realistic chance. He exuded the same type of confidence that Tiger Woods used to, looking nothing at all like Norman did during his collapse.
And why not? At 22, Spieth has already proved he can close out major tournaments and has proved he can bounce back after a bad day or a bad hole.
So don’t worry about Spieth. If you really feel the need to worry about someone, shift your attention to Rory McIlroy. He had an epic collapse at the Masters in 2011, leading by four shots going into the final round and then shooting an 80 on Sunday to lose by 10.
McIlroy was also in great position to win last week, trailing by one entering the weekend and was part of a dream final pairing with Spieth on Saturday.
That type of scenario should bring out the best in a great player. Instead, McIlroy did not make a single birdie, shot a 77 and knocked himself out of contention while Spieth was brilliant (at least until the final two holes). It was the fifth straight major where McIlroy has not been in contention in the final round, and he no longer seems confident on the biggest stages.
In two months, Spieth will get a chance to defend the U.S. Open title he won last year at Chambers Bay. He will be ready, because he is mentally tough. It’s what sets him apart.
Many golfers near the lead avoid looking at the leaderboard at all costs, fearful that knowing will ruin them mentally. Spieth, by contrast, wants to know where he stands at all times. He can handle the truth. And here are some numbers he can take comfort in: Two wins, two seconds and a fourth (just one shot back) in his past five majors.
So while Sunday’s collapse made for great theater, don’t expect him to produce a sequel.
Scott Hanson is the golf writer for the Seattle Times. He vividly remembers every agonizing shot of Norman’s 1996 collapse and witnessed McIlroy’s 2011 Masters collapse in person.
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