Young Jordan Spieth arrived at The Masters three years ago for the first time — perfect swing and deep determination in hand — and promptly finished second in his rookie effort. The next year Spieth won, leading wire to wire and matching Tiger Woods’ tournament record. Spieth came in this year and led Thursday, Friday and Saturday, making it seven straight rounds leading the greatest players in the world. Onlookers wondered: What about golf? Isn’t it supposed to be hard? Doesn’t it rear up and bite even the best? Isn’t that so, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Jean van de Welde? Even Jack Nicklaus took second 21 times in majors, an astonishing fact less talked about than his 18 wins. Sometimes golf doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to. “That’s golf,” players have said, when calamity strikes, for centuries.
And yet until Sunday when Spieth hit two consecutive balls into the water on 12th hole, it seemed as if no one had informed Jordan Spieth that golf was a cruel mistress. A mercurial master. A wicked game we play, as Chris Isaak called love. Jordan Spieth has played all kinds of golf, and it’d be an exaggeration to suggest he’d suffered no setbacks until now. But Spieth’s ride had been mainly glorious and sun-kissed until Sunday, April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia when a five-stroke lead disappeared so fast you looked around for Penn & Teller in the gallery. Thing about Spieth is now that he’s met the real golf he’s bound to love the game even more. You don’t do that to me, it’s easy to imagine Spieth mutter. I will possess you again. So an even deeper romance begins between Jordan Spieth and the game of golf, now that golf has revealed its true self to the man. It should be beautiful.