I have been following The Masters since I was a kid. The first time I attended in person was in 1973 when Georgia native Tommy Aaron won. Over the years since then, there have been many Sunday back nine collapses. This year, Jordan Spieth hit two balls in the water on #12, ending with a quadruple bogey. While he made a rally with two birdies, he ended up losing to Danny Willett. The difference between Spieth’s defeat and the other recent collapses is that Spieth already owns the Green Jacket that goes to the winner.
In 1979, journeyman pro, Ed Sneed, had a 5-shot lead to start the day and a three-stroke lead with three holes to play. He bogied all three, landing in a playoff with Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller, who ended up winning. In 1985, Curtis Strange had a three-shot lead when he came to the 13th hole. His aggressive approach ended up in Rae’s Creek. He then dumped his approach into the water on #15 and lost by two strokes to Bernard Langer.
Then you have Greg Norman. In 1986, Norman came to the last hole needing only a par to tie Jack Nicklaus. He flared his approach shot wide right, bogeying the hole and losing by one. The very next year, he was in a sudden death payoff with Augusta native Larry Mize, safely on the 11th green with his second shot. Mize hit his approach shot wide right, missing the green, and leaving a treacherous downhill 140 foot chip. You know the rest of the story; he holed the impossible shot and broke Norman’s heart. Fast forward to 1996. Norman held a commanding 6-shot lead going into the final round, only to shoot 78 and lose to Nick Faldo, who shot a closing 67. Then in 2011, Rory McIlroy had a 4-shot lead entering the final round before a triple bogey on #10. He then four-putted #12, shooting a final round 80 to lose to Charl Schwartzel, who birdied four straight holes to win.
All of these gentlemen showed grace and dignity in losing what many golfers consider the Holy Grail. This year, as the defending champion, Spieth had the duty of placing the Green Jacket on the winner – twice. They did it once in Butler Cabin for the TV audience, and then again in an outdoor ceremony. Spieth was bitterly disappointed, obviously hurting, but he showed uncommon maturity in both instances and especially in answering every last question from the reporters after his round. He was both honest and forthcoming in his answers. He should be remembered for the way he handled defeat – with grace and dignity.