April 13, 2014

It may not be 'One and Done' but Spieth still having a good year

One and done, which has gotten a bad rap lately, almost worked out perfectly for Jordan Spieth.

The 20-year-old, who was a Texas Longhorn for about a minute, looked for a moment Sunday afternoon like he would win the Masters in his first appearance at Augusta National. Spieth drained a squirrelly 15-foot putt to birdie the seventh hole, prompting CBS announcer and three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo to marvel at his maturity. The shot also gave him a two-shot lead over the field at 4:10 p.m.

Thirty-four minutes and two holes later, that lead was gone, replaced by a one-shot deficit from which he would never recover. Bubba Watson would go on to win his second Masters, while Spieth will have to settle for heading into a future of infinite possibility. It is a future in no way sullied by the fact he spent only one season as a collegiate golfer.

“It’s a stinger. I had it in my hands and could have gone forward with it, and just didn’t quite make the putts, but ultimately I am very happy with the week,” Spieth said.

“I have accomplished one of my goals this year which was to get into contention in a major and see what I can do.”

The Masters came one week after college basketball’s Final Four, where the one-and-done subject was all the rage as Kentucky and its freshman-stocked roster advanced to the title game. The very sanctity of the student-athlete experience (or employee experience if you’re at a private school) was questioned again and again.

The Masters, though, has been free of such handwringing. College golfers and tennis players leave after one season regularly, and no one worries about the future of today’s youth when they do.

Kentucky coach John Calipari grew so weary of hearing about his “one-and-dones” that he tried to rebrand the phenomena as “succeed and proceed.” It didn’t work, but Spieth certainly succeeded in his time in Austin, winning the 2012 NCAA team title with the Longhorns. (The man who won the NCAA individual title that season was Illinois Thomas Pieters, who dutifully finished out his collegiate eligibility last season and has missed the cut in seven European Tour events this year.) Since turning pro in December of 2012, Spieth has proceeded to win $6,551,193.

He did not shoot a round over par here this week with Sunday’s 72, which featured four birdies and four bogeys, the worst of the bunch.

“I was nervous, but I enjoyed it,” Spieth said. “I had a great time out there today.

Whether my face showed it or not on the back nine, I was really, really enjoying myself and taking it all in.”

Despite his short time in Austin, Texas, Spieth was able to lean on his University of Texas connectionthis week. His caddie, former sixth-grade teacher Michael Greller, has been taking lessons from Carl Jackson, the longtime Masters caddie of former Texas golfer Ben Crenshaw. Jackson has caddied more than 50 Masters, and he tried to squeeze as much of that experience as he could into Greller this week.

When Spieth was asked earlier this week who has been the most helpful this week, he replied, “Carl Jackson, first and foremost.”

“I told Michael I was going to buy a tee shirt for him that says, ‘Carl says’ because he keeps saying that to me out there. So we'll have to get that made.”

Crenshaw, who won in 1995 at Augusta and announced this week that the 2015 Masters will be his last, helped Spieth prepare for the emotions of Augusta.

“I'm 20 and this is the Masters, and this is a tournament I've always dreamt about and, like Mr. Crenshaw has always said, it brings out more emotion than ever in somebody,” Spieth said.

However, beyond an “oh Jordan, come on, not again” after a short drive on No. 5 and a “dangit Jordan, golly” after his tee shot on No. 16 didn’t go where he wanted, Spieth showed nothing but steely calm on golf’s biggest stage.

“When it was obvious it was over, he said, ‘I’ve worked my whole life for this moment.’ It was kind of some frustration coming out,” Greller said. “I reminded him that he’s going to have a lot of these moments.”

Seems like a good trade-off for sophomore year.

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