Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Spieth's Masters meltdown

By Ryan LavnerDecember 14, 2016, 8:00 pm

(Editor's note: is counting down the top 10 newsmakers of 2016. Take a look at why each item made our list, along with a collection of their top stories from the year. Click here for the full list and release dates.)

It was 5:05 p.m., and Jordan Spieth was about to become the fourth back-to-back Masters winner. On the ninth green, he rolled in a 21-footer for birdie, his fourth in a row, and headed to the back nine with a five-shot lead.

The next 50 minutes remain a blur, both to Spieth and sports fans everywhere.

A bogey on 10. No damage.    

A bogey on 11. Getting interesting.

And then came the 150-yard 12th, where all hell broke loose.

Spieth chose a 9-iron. The play was the center of the green, 20 feet left of the flag. He would explain later that he didn’t fully think through the shot, that he played it too quickly. It drifted weakly to the right, kicking off the bank short and right of the green and tumbling into Rae’s Creek.     

That miscue at least was understandable – it’s the most precise, intimidating shot in golf. What happened next, however, was not. From 80 yards away – he moved farther back, so he had a full swing with a wedge – he hit his shot fat. Really fat. So fat it barely reached the hazard. He took off his hat in disbelief before his Titleist even splashed.

He rushed the next shot, his fifth, and found the back bunker. He did well to get up-and-down for a quadruple bogey-7. It was 5:48 p.m., and he had lost the Masters.

It’s a testament to Spieth’s perseverance that he gave himself a chance to force a playoff, needing a birdie on two of the last three holes to match Danny Willett. Then he missed an 8-footer on 16 after a brilliant tee shot. He finished three back. 

What followed was a series of torturous events. The walk to the scoring building. The green-jacket ceremony. The makeshift presser behind the clubhouse.

Spieth handled all of those duties with his usual graciousness, but it was clear that his career had been irreversibly altered. He likely will capture another green jacket someday – his record at Augusta, after all, is 2nd-1st-2nd – but the lowlights from his Masters meltdown will be reviewed in perpetuity. Every year, every time he reaches the 12th tee, Spieth, his fellow playing competitors, patrons and viewers will flash back to 5:38 p.m.

Spieth would insist a month later that the collapse didn’t affect him, that it was just a bad shot at an awful time. He even won three starts later.

But there was a palpable uneasiness the rest of the season. His ball-striking was uninspiring, his results pedestrian, and at times, he was understandably defensive with the press, taking issue with the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? media culture.

There was nothing wrong with his game, of course. He won three times, more than all but two players. But expectations were far greater, and that was our problem: Only 14 players have won multiple majors in a year; just five have won a major the following year.

A pure 9-iron, and Spieth likely joins that list. 

April 10: Unsure, unfocused Spieth cost himself win at 12

April 10: Spieth to caddie: 'Buddy, it feels like we are collapsing'

April 10: 'One bad swing' sends Spieth to brutal Masters loss

Reaction to Spieth's Masters Meltdown

Twitter goes crazy after Spieth's 7 at 12

Trevino: Speith went 'blank'

Pros feels sympathy

Caddie reflects on loss

Nintendo version of meltdown

April 10: Willett interview: Feels empathy for Spieth

April 10: Spieth on ceremony: 'Stood up there and smiled like I should'

The Aftermath

May 3: Spieth: The 2016 Masters will always come up

May 11: Spieth: People have moved on

May 29: Spieth wins at Colonial

June 13: Spieth still answering Masters questions at U.S. Open

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.