Jordan Spieth and the record that got away
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jordan Spieth became the first player to reach 19-under par at any point during the Masters.
He just didn’t stay there.
On the final hole, he chipped too strong and missed a 5-foot par putt that would have put him alone in the Masters record book at 19-under 269. Instead, he shares the spot at 270 with Tiger Woods, who made a 4-foot par putt in 1997 to break the record held by Raymond Floyd (1976) and Jack Nicklaus (1965).
Asked on Tuesday if he was bothered by not making par, Spieth said, “A little bit.”
“I knew he had shot that,” Spieth said. “I didn’t know where I was at. I was so focused on this match I was playing with Justin (Rose).”
Not that he wasn’t trying.
“When I was reading it I thought to myself, ‘I’ve been told after each round about some record. I’m sure it’s for something. Let’s make it,’” Spieth said.
Sure enough, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on Friday that would have broken the record for the lowest 36-hole total at any major. He made par for 66 in the second round and still set the Masters record at 130.
Spieth reached 19 under with an up-and-down birdie behind the green on the par-5 15th. He made an 8-foot par putt on the 16th that was important — just look at the intensity of his fist pump — because he kept a four-shot lead over Rose on what had the potential for a two-shot swing. He narrowly missed a birdie on the 17th.
And then he bogeyed the 18th.
“It looks like I looked at the chip, but I had a lot of thoughts in my head and I was just enjoying that whole moment,” Spieth said. “I wished I had maybe glanced at it, tried to read it. But it matters very little at this point.”
Indeed. He has a green jacket. He gets to come back every year for the rest of his life. That’s what matters.
MATCH PLAY: Charley Hoffman closed with a 74 at the Masters and tied for ninth, but he gets a few consolation prizes. For starters, he is already eligible for next year. He also moved up 13 spots in the world ranking, securing his place in the Match Play Championship in San Francisco.
With the Match Play moving this year to April 29 (instead of February), the Masters could have played a big role in shaping the 64-man field. It worked that way for Hoffman, but not so much for Ben Martin.
Martin missed the cut. He is No. 64, though he is projected to drop this week because of his tie for third at Hilton Head a year ago. Martin at least is playing the RBC Heritage this week, so he can make the Match Play on his own.
Thomas Bjorn is No. 63 and should be OK unless a couple players pass him.
Among those outside No. 64 going into this week are Tommy Fleetwood (No. 66), who is playing in China; Kevin Streelman, who tied for 12th and moved up three spots to No. 71; and Daniel Berger, the PGA Tour rookie who is at No. 69.
Streelman is playing Hilton Head. As a rookie who has played fewer times in the last two years, Berger won’t have to finish as high as someone like Streelman.
Still to be determined is if everyone shows up at Harding Park in San Francisco. Tim Clark (No. 57) did not play the Masters as he recovers from injury.
TIGER’S TIME: Tiger Woods not only returned to competition at the Masters, he looked more like the player from a year ago with a stronger back — not sharp enough to win, but certainly good enough to believe he is headed in that direction.
Woods tied for 17th and made it sound as if he would be taking more time off to keep working on his game. Then again, he always has been vague about announcing his schedule in case he changes his mind and causes an uproar for backing out.
He’s certainly not playing the next three weeks, including the Match Play Championship — at No. 101, he won’t be eligible for a second straight World Golf Championship. He likely will be at The Players Championship, but he won’t be playing the Wells Fargo Championship again. His 17th annual “Tiger Jam” is that weekend in Las Vegas.
THE STARS ARE OUT: Jordan Spieth was No. 4 in the world ranking when he won the Masters, making it the 13th consecutive major won by a player from the top 50. The last player outside the top 50 win a major was Keegan Bradley, who was No. 108 when he captured the 2011 PGA Championship.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the deepening talent in golf.
Whatever the case, it’s the longest such streak since there were 14 consecutive major champions who were in the top 50. That streak ended with John Daly, who was No. 109 when he won the 1995 British Open.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR: Just because Jordan Spieth led by at least four shots the entire back nine at the Masters doesn’t mean there wasn’t something at stake even for those who had no chance of winning.
The 18th hole in that respect was pivotal.
Kevin Na was alone in 12th place at 7 under when he missed a 6-foot par putt. Kevin Streelman was at 6 under when he made a 10-foot par putt. That enabled Streelman to finish among the top 12 and ties and earn a return to the Masters next year.
Streelman got in this year by winning the Travelers Championship. He is No. 71 in the world.
MASTERS MINUTIAE: The Masters might be busier than usual updating its record book this summer.
For starters, the scoring average for the final round at the Masters was 70.91, the lowest of any round in tournament history.
Jordan Spieth set or tied at least one record in every round — lowest start of a champion (64), 36-hole (130) and 54-hole (200) scoring records, and tied with Tiger Woods for 72-hole record (270).
And while Spieth set the Masters record for most birdies — 28, beating by three the record set by Phil Mickelson in 2001 — he also broke the record for most birdies by a Masters champion. Woods held that mark of 24 in 2005.
Meanwhile, Mickelson set a Masters record with his eighth tournament finishing at 280 or better (he was runner-up at 274). Woods has done that seven times. Lefty also tied Woods with his 11th finish in the top five. They trail Jack Nicklaus at 15.
Mickelson also moved into a tie for second with Tom Watson with his 17th finish under par. Nicklaus holds the record with 22.
DIVOTS: Jordan Spieth said he plans either barbecue or Tex-Mex for the Champions Dinner at the Masters next year. ... Porsche will be title sponsor of the European Pen that will be played Sept. 24-27 in Germany. The European Open was last held in 2009. This is the first time Porsche has been title sponsor of a professional golf event. ... Spieth is playing the RBC Heritage this week at Hilton Head. The last Masters champion to play Hilton Head was Zach Johnson in 2007. ... Spieth has shot par or better for his last 17 rounds.
STAT OF THE WEEK: In the last three majors Tiger Woods has completed, he finished a combined 50 shots behind the winners.
INFLATION STAT OF THE WEEK: Jordan Spieth has earned $2,692,000 in two Masters appearances. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Sam Snead collectively earned $1,639,616 in a combined in 191 Masters appearances.
FINAL WORD: “The only reason I wouldn’t come back is if my heart wouldn’t allow me.” — Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient on whether anyone would ever skip the Masters.