Today, that drought is going to end --- and it will end thanks to a 20-year old.
But Jordan Spieth is not your typical 20-year-old. He’s a young guy with a mature game. He also has enough knowledge to know what he doesn’t know, and considering the subtleties of Augusta National Golf Club, that would be a lot, so Spieth found some people with some sage advice.
He started by talking with Carl Jackson, Ben Crenshaw’s longtime caddie at Augusta National, who has caddied all 43 Masters that Crenshaw has played in, and a few extra.
Then he sought out Crenshaw himself. The two-time Masters champion loves to teach younger players the finer points of the course. He loves it even more when the players he talks with does what he says.
And finally, Spieth went to Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion and arguably the greatest player of all time.
Combined, the trio represents more than 130 years of Masters experience.
“I had a talk with Mr. Nicklaus, and he helped me out,” Spieth said. “This was Wednesday evening at a dinner here.
“I really don’t want to get into specifics about what was said, because I don’t … but, yeah, certain things.”
Spieth didn’t have to say what Nicklaus told him. We already knew, because the Golden Bear let us in on a secret Thursday morning.
He said that a couple of the younger players these days come to ask for his advice, but not many. But when they do, Nicklaus said he is always willing to answer any questions they have.
After that, he asked us a question.
“Why would you ever aim for anything other than the middle of the greens here?” he said.
From there, he pointed out that players who aim for the middle of the greens are likely going to have a good angle to putt from without much of the severity that comes with putting the ball on the wrong side of the hole.
This is what Spieth said after his 2-under par round got him into today’s final group with Bubba Watson.
“I’ve never picked so many targets at the middle of the greens when I see the pins on the side and committed to it.
“I’m like, well, I want to go at the pin, but you can’t do that here.”
Heading into today’s round, Spieth is one of only two players in the field to play under-par golf all-three days, joining fellow first-timer Jonas Blixt. He’s shot 71, 70 and 70, and he’s only three-putted twice.
When Nicklaus won his 18 majors and 73 PGA Tour titles, he didn’t do it by making more birdies than everyone else. He did it by making more pars and letting everyone else around him make the mistakes — i.e. Watson (74 on Saturday), Adam Scott (76) and John Senden (75) who were all in front of Spieth when the day started.
This isn’t to say that Spieth is going to be the next Jack Nicklaus, but it looks like he’s taken Nicklaus’ advice to heart.
“As far as being patient shot-to-shot, I think I’ve done that the best I’ve ever had with my mental game,” Spieth said. “A lot of it this week has been, ‘We’re going to be all right. We’ll make bogey at worst. Hit the smart shot and you take your birdies where you can get them.’ My putter feels great, and that’s leading to a lot of confidence in the rest of my game.”
If Spieth wins, he will become the youngest Masters champion and one of the youngest to ever win a major title. He will have already earned more than $8 million, been a member of the Presidents Cup team and will have likely wrapped up a spot on this fall’s Ryder Cup team.
All that will be left to see is if someone says about Spieth what Arnold Palmer said about Nicklaus after the Golden Bear won his first major at the 1962 U.S. Open.
“Now that the big guy’s out of the cage,” Palmer said at the time, “everybody better run for cover.”
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jbednarowski.