History was about to repeat itself. Stood on the 10th tee, Jordan Spieth had a five-shot lead at the Masters. His imperious putting touch was rendering the 2016 Green Jacket shoot-out something of an anti-climax. Four birdies in a row at the end of the front nine had turned this into a procession. Done deal - right?
But there’s a reason Augusta stirs the emotions of golfers all over the world. Danger lurks at every corner and yet, what we were about to watch was a Masters horror show like few we’ve seen before. Don't forget, Spieth was the defending champion, and it had looked as if this little slice of Georgia was made for him only.
Bogeys at 10 and 11 had suddenly opened the door but nobody was predicting what was about to happen. Spieth pushed his tee shot at 12 and it never looked like carrying the water. Suddenly, golf fans all over the world found themselves shuffling towards the edge of their seats. This was the most un-Spieth-like moment imaginable.
If the first attempt at reaching the 12th green was poor, the second was shocking. Let's not dress this up - it was a duff, plain and simple. This was one of the best players in the world left to look hopeless.
Within five minutes, Spieth had etched his name into the history books yet again at Augusta, but it wasn’t the way he wanted. That it should happen to the one man who seemed completely oblivious to the mental stresses of this uniquely beautiful but menacing layout, made it even more jaw-dropping.
What this proved more than anything else is that golf, and in particular the Masters, is perhaps the purest of all sporting tests. Not many sports balance the demands of skill and pressure so neatly. Nobody is immune to the emotions that can render a golfer helpless. Not even Jordan Spieth.
The Texan has contended here since his infamous collapse, and may very well capture another Green Jacket, but the events of 2016 hurt, make no mistake about that. His post-round interviews were conducted in a state of numbness.
The question now is - will he ever regain a positive outlook when he stands on the 12th tee? It was excruciating to watch, but ultimately, it's moments like these that make golf so enthralling.
As he returned in 2017, you could sense the internal struggle. That he dunked his ball in the water again on Sunday was a sign the demons were still there, lurking. It could be a story with yet more chapters to come.
Even in 2018, the Texan was well in contention, probably needing a birdie down 18 to win or reach a play-off, which would have yielded Augusta's first 62. However, a poor drive led to an untidy bogey after a missed short putt, a sign of the mental fragility that seemed to haunt him throughout a prolonged barren spell following an epic Open Championship triumph in 2017.
We're now nearly six years removed from Spieth's Masters horror show that allowed Danny Willett to swoop in and capture a maiden major victory. And looking at the evidence, perhaps it has taken something out of him at Augusta, similar to Rory McIlroy and the 2011 tournament. The only difference - Spieth already has a Green Jacket.
In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."
Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points.
Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X
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