AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth played the final round of the Masters precisely how he planned – which is why he couldn’t believe his run at another green jacket Sunday turned into one of the worst rounds at Augusta National in his young career.
He was still shaking his head when he walked off the course.
Spieth, the 2015 Masters champ, began the day at 4 under, two strokes behind the co-leaders, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, and was thrilled about his chances of winning his second Masters. Instead, Spieth opened with bogeys on two of his first three holes.
It took a late run to get to 75, a score he shot in the opening round and his largest number in 16 career rounds at Augusta National.
Spieth wound up eight shots out of the playoff and scratching his head why what he saw unfold on the course didn’t match up to his bogey-filled scorecard.
He said the results weren’t shocking, “just a little bizarre.”
Spieth was filled with positive vibes from his comeback over the past two rounds. After opening with that 75, which included an ugly quadruple-bogey 9 on the 15th hole Thursday, Spieth made only three bogeys over the next 36 holes to shot 69-68 and close in on the leaders.
With positive memories from his first major title here two years ago and picture-perfect conditions, Spieth was eager to embrace the challenge of moving up the leaderboard. But he had just one birdie Sunday to go with five bogeys and a double-bogey 5 on the 12th hole, when his tee shot went in the water, to fall out of contention.
Spieth thought distance control was his undoing. He said when he hit crisp, high arcing shots, often they landed a yard or two into the rough, making it difficult to navigate the subsequent approach.
“It’s a coin flip, is it going to jump or come out spinny,” Spieth said. “And I missed those coin flips, five for five. I lost five coin flips on my guesses. But they were all good swings and I was proud of them.”
Spieth used a late rally to control the damage, making birdies on the 15th, 16th and 18th holes to finish at 1 under overall – the fourth time in four career appearances he broke par at the Masters. He tied for 11th, ending a remarkable run of finishing second, first and second the past three years.
“I’m really pleased with the way we finished this round to get back to red” under-par numbers, Spieth said. “Because for a while there, it was ‘What are we doing?’ And I wasn’t doing much wrong and that’s what was so tough.”
IF THIS WAS Ernie Els’ final round at the Masters, he’s made peace with the long-ago predictions for Augusta National success that never came true.
Els, a 47-year-old four-time major champion, completed his 23rd Masters with a 6-over 78, better than the 83 he scored Saturday but still nowhere close to what he still expects out of his game.
He finished at 20 over, last in the field and three shots behind 58-year-old Larry Mize. Els’ five-year exemption into Augusta National for winning the 2012 British Open expired this year. He’ll have to earn his way back through better golf.
Els is content either way, desiring another chance to play amid the Georgia pines but grateful for the 23 years he’s had to chase a green jacket.
“This tournament was just not for me,” he said. “I’ve won a lot of events around the world but this one just eluded me. And that’s fine.”
MATT KUCHAR made a hole-in-one at the 16th hole of the final round.
Kuchar sent the crowd into a frenzy when he aced a 7-iron at the 170-yard hole, the ball landing on the green and curling back toward the pond before dropping in the cup.
The fans chanted “Kooch!” as the popular golfer walked toward the green.
He retrieved the ball, signed it and gave it to a young boy along the ropes.
AT 57, FRED COUPLES showed he still knows his way around Augusta National. He climbed up the leaderboard with four birdies on the front nine.
Even though he faded down the stretch, shooting 3 over after the turn, he closed with a 72 and finished in a tie for 18th at 1-over 289.
RUSSELL HENLEY was the last player to qualify for the Masters by winning the Houston Open last week.
He’ll have no such concerns for next year. By finishing in a tie for 11th place, he’s already claimed a spot in next year’s field.