Jordan Spieth still gets questions about the 2016 Masters, although the queries have quieted down a bit in the last two years. But as he gets set to renew his pursuit of a second green jacket, the 2015 champ would like to make one thing clear about the title defense that almost was.
"I didn't choke," Spieth said in a recent No Laying Up podcast.
Spieth held a five-shot lead with nine holes to play in 2016, only to endure an hour of play he'd dearly like to have back. Bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 were followed by a disastrous quadruple bogey on the 12th, where he put two balls in the water. He ended up finishing in a tie for second, three shots behind Danny Willett.
Spieth flew in his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, prior to the final round that year, and he explained that while his debacle on No. 12 got all the attention it was simply the product of poor timing and a swing flaw that had plagued him all week with misses short and to the right.
"It wasn't like I got here and the moment got the best of me. It was like, no, I just legitimately had this thing wrong with my swing," Spieth said. "When the pressure was on that day, I was hitting the ball horribly. ... But it wasn't because it was Sunday at Augusta. No, it was like I was just hitting it that bad. And unfortunately, that's not the way it can be or would be looked at, no matter what I say or who I say it to."
Spieth bounced back to win at Colonial the next month, and in 2017 he won his third major at The Open. But he hasn't slipped into another green jacket since putting one on Willett three years ago, and he realizes the drama of his closing stretch that year remains a frequent talking point with fans and media alike.
"Some guys, they get under pressure and they play worse and it's because of the pressure. And that's actually everybody to start out, until you learn to cope with it," Spieth said. "For me, it wasn't that at all. It really wasn't. I remember the way I felt. I just simply ran into a few holes where you can't miss it right in a row, after nine holes in a row where you can, and it just got the best of me."
While Spieth's final round in 2016 is remembered for his unsuccessful battle with Rae's Creek, it actually provided a moment to cherish as he fought his way back into the tournament. Spieth followed his quad on 12 with birdies on Nos. 13 and 15, and he shared that watching patrons rise to their feet as he walked from the 15th green to the 16th tee was the best memory he's taken from Augusta National outside of his victorious walk to the 72nd green in 2015.
"I just felt like the world was rooting for me to come back, and I felt like I could do it even despite what had happened earlier in the round," he said. "It gives me goosebumps when I think about it. It was one of the coolest moments I'll ever have in golf."