Spieth takes another quad at Augusta

By Art Spander

AUGUSTA, Ga. — So Jordan Spieth took seven more shots at the 15th than Gene Sarazen. Let’s not pick on the poor guy. He’s got enough troubles with those water holes at the Masters.

Young Mr. Spieth unquestionably is one of golf’s premier players. In 2015 he won the Masters and U.S. Open, in the last 70 years a double accomplished only by a couple of guys named Arnie and Jack.

Spieth even had his own bobblehead doll, which is not to be confused with a bobble or, as the pros like to say, a hiccup. Less painful to say than “quadruple bogey.”

Which is what Spieth had Thursday on the 15th hole in the opening round of the 2017 Masters. And, as you remember and Spieth chooses to forget, what he had in the final round in 2016 at the 12th hole.

A year ago at 12, a hole that some say is the toughest par-3 in the game, give or take an island green or two, Spieth, seemingly headed for a second straight Masters win, hit consecutive shots into Rae’s Creek and — yikes — took a four-over-par seven.

All summer and winter, Spieth was asked what the heck happened and if the memory would haunt him this spring. No, he said over and over. That’s in the past. It may be in our heads but not in his.

On a dangerously windy afternoon, Spieth had no problem on his return to 12. But he had a huge problem with 15, described in a spectator guide as “a reachable par-5 when the winds are favorable.” The winds weren’t favorable Thursday, nor was the manner in which Spieth played the hole.

We pause. At the second Masters in 1935, Sarazen took a 4 wood, then called a spoon, for his second shot at 15 and from 235 yards away knocked the ball in the cup for a double-eagle or, as it is known in Britain, an albatross.

“The shot heard ‘round the world,” it was named, a line first used about patriots at Concord Bridge in the American revolution and subsequently repeated for Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home for the New York Giants in the 1951 playoff.

What Sarazen’s shot did was make the Masters a major story about a tournament not yet a major and help get him into a 36-hole playoff against Craig Wood, which Sarazen won.

So much for history. What Spieth’s shot, his third Thursday at 15 since he was forced to lay up, did was spin back into the evil pond that waits menacingly between a sloping fairway and the green. Splash. He dropped a new ball and hit that one long.

“I obviously wasn’t going to hit in the water again,” said Spieth. “So it went over, and from there it’s very difficult.” Four more shots difficult. When the ball plopped into the hole, Spieth — oops — had a four-over-par nine.

But ain’t golf bizarre? Spieth followed with a birdie on the difficult par-3 16th — sure, 9-2 on consecutive holes — and finished at 3-over 75. That didn’t seem too bad until Charley Hoffman, out of nowhere, shot a 7-under-par 65, leaving Spieth 10 behind.

The good news is he has 54 holes to play. The bad news is two of those holes are the 12th and 15th.

A very unusual first day of the 81st Masters, the first since 1954 without Arnold Palmer on the grounds as either a normal contestant or honorary entrant.

Palmer died at 87 in September. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who along with Arnie formed golf’s Big Three of the 1960s, wept as they prepared to strike the traditional first balls following a memorial tribute from Masters Chairman Billy Payne.

A very unusual first day. Until first William McGirt finished and then Hoffman emphatically followed, there was a strong possibility this would be the first Masters in 59 years in which no one broke 70 in the opening round.

A very unusual first day. After warming up, Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world rankings, went to the first tee and then walked away, unable to take an unhindered, painless swing after a fall down a flight of stairs Wednesday.

"It sucks," Johnson said using the vernacular of the times. "I'm playing the best golf of my career. This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. Then a freak accident happened (Wednesday) when I got back from the course. It sucks. It sucks really bad."

Jordan Spieth could say the same about the way he played 15.

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