Sunday at Augusta is when the stakes are the highest. It’s golf’s biggest stage, and you’re lucky if you haven’t missed the cut and had to pack your bags come Sunday.
But on Sunday at Augusta, starting the day with the lead is a curse.
In the history of The Masters tournament, only about half of the golfers with the lead heading into the final day of the tournament have come away with the green jacket.
This may not seem like a very impressive statistic at first glance. But it’s pretty remarkable when you consider how locked in each golfer must be for the first three rounds—the focus and poise needed to be better than 88 of the world’s best golfers in the world’s biggest tournament for three rounds—only to be statistically just as likely to lose your composure as you are to remain on top on the final day.
If you’re a casual fan of golf, you might recall Rory McIlroy’s collapse at The Masters in 2011. To this day, that one Sunday round at Augusta is the sole reason McIlroy’s closet is without a green jacket.
This year, Jordan Spieth pulled a Rory.
This collapse in particular was extraordinary. You might think it stings a little less because Spieth was the defending champ, but just looking at Spieth’s demeanor as he walked off the 18 th green empty handed, it surely felt like he’d never have a chance to win another one.
And to make matters worse, Spieth’s collapse wasn’t even about imploding in the final round—it was about imploding in the final-half of the final round.
Just a year after going 18-under for the tournament, tying Tiger Woods in 2002 for the all-time lowest total score recorded at the Masters, Spieth was well on his way to bringing another green jacket home to Texas.
Spieth headed to the 10 th tee with four consecutive birdies to his name. He led eventual winner Danny Willett by five strokes. Even the announcers were hinting that the tournament was all but over, making comments that could even make Willett’s family members start to lose faith.
Spieth bogeyed both 10 and 11, dropping his lead to just three shots.
With the lead still very much in hand, the wheels began to fall of as Spieth teed off on the par-3 13 th .
Putting not one, but two tee shots in the water, Spieth walked off the 12 th green with a one- shot deficit, recording a quadruple-bogey seven.
It was a self-inflicted blow that Spieth would never recover from. Spieth went on to finish tied for second in the tournament, trailing by three shots when it was all said and done.
Undoubtedly, if Spieth could have avoided the water on number 12, he would have continued full steam ahead to his second Masters victory in as many years.
The Masters is accustomed to the Sunday at Augusta collapse, but it was truly unbelievable to see such a composed and clutch world-class golfer choke so uncharacteristically right before our very eyes.
Blowing a 54-hole lead is bad enough, yet oddly common. Losing the lead after 63 holes is even worse.
But when the most shocking collapse in recent memory can all be blamed on two golf balls landing in the water—two measly swings of the golf club in a four-day tournament—it could be unimaginably difficult to recover from to rescue a golfer’s confidence.