FORT WORTH, Texas – As he made the short walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee Sunday at Colonial Country Club, Jordan Spieth walked past a throng of fans eager to get a glimpse of the day’s final group.
Many applauded. Some yelled cheers of support for any of the Dallas-Fort Worth area schools that Spieth attended as a youth.
But one fan offered a piercing statement, one that caught Spieth’s ear and stood out above the din.
“Remember the Masters, Jordan,” he said.
When the lights have been on and the crowds have been gathered, Spieth has said all the right things about his collapse at Augusta National. The bitter disappointment, he said, is a thing of the past; his future bad shots won’t be a product of the two he deposited into Rae’s Creek last month in stunning fashion.
But weeks later, the wounds are not that far beneath the surface. They can be accessed and aggravated with comments like the one Spieth heard, and they can elicit a number of possible responses.
The response Spieth chose left the rest of the field at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational in his dust.
“There was a little red-ass in me,” Spieth said, “and it came out on the next few holes.”
Spieth birdied each of the three holes after hearing the comment, sparking a thrilling back nine that led him to a convincing three-shot victory. It marked Spieth’s first professional win in his home state, and it’s a victory that will help keep the ghosts of Augusta National a little more at bay.
“I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get over the hurdle of having to come in to every single interview room, having to listen to crowds only talk about what happened a month ago,” Spieth said. “It’s very difficult to stay present, stay positive when that’s happening, when those are the only questions. In our third tournament back, to come back and close this one out the way we did is really, really special.”
Spieth started the day with a one-shot lead, but the opening nine at Colonial turned into more of a struggle than he expected. It took all he could muster to maintain a clean card, including a 32-foot save on No. 8, as Spieth began his round with nine straight pars to fall behind the pace set by Harris English.
But once Spieth made the turn, his all-world short game reached a new level. Spieth needed only nine putts to complete the inward half, carding six birdies including each of the last three holes: a 20-foot make on No. 16, a chip-in from behind the green at No. 17 and a 34-foot make on No. 18 to polish off a three-shot win in style.
It’s the type of finish that marks the difference between good and great, and it’s one that left those chasing him to simply shake their heads.
“He’s tough to beat. It’s kind of like what we used to see with Tiger,” said Webb Simpson, who tied for third after playing the final round alongside Spieth. “It was fun to watch.”
“You can almost laugh at it,” added playing partner Ryan Palmer. “He’s young, he’s fearless, but that confidence he’s got is high. You can tell with his putter, it just takes one putt to go in and that hole has got to feel like a bucket to him.”
Spieth’s victory means each of the top three players in the world have won tournaments over the last 15 days, following Jason Day’s victory at TPC Sawgrass and Rory McIlroy’s triumph in Ireland. It bodes well for the game, both next week when all three clash at the Memorial and this summer when a flurry of important trophies will be handed out.
But this win wasn’t about the future. It was about erasing the pain of the green jacket he left hanging on the rack.
It wasn’t just winning a tournament – it was stomping on the throat of the field and leaving no lingering doubt about his ability to close.
“I heard it a few times in the crowd today, you know, ‘Go Palmer, he’s going to do the Masters’ or whatever like that. I mean, that’s not fun to hear,” Spieth said. “Trying to throw all that out and just focus on what me and (caddie) Michael (Greller) are talking about on the next shot is the toughest thing, and we got through that at the end of the round today.”
Spieth added that perhaps the man behind the 10th tee was well-meaning. Perhaps he was offering an inspirational note that Spieth, after all, does still have a green jacket from his 2015 triumph.
But more than likely, it was the product of a fan trying to get under his skin, trying to evoke memories of a collapse that still remained in the minds of his fellow players and peers.
“Watching him kind of do what he did at the Masters, I felt really bad for him,” said English. “But I knew he would come back from it and kind of do what he did here. He’s one of the best putters in the world, and best players in the world, and I knew he was going to come back.”
Spieth will still face a different series of questions at the upcoming majors, and his scars will be picked at again every spring until he adds to his jacket collection at Augusta National.
But Sunday’s win elicited a sigh of relief from Spieth, who with trophy in hand felt liberated to speak more candidly about the true toll the Masters took on his psyche.
It also means that, next time, the voices in the crowd will have a little less ammunition at their disposal.