Published: April 14, 2016
I admire Jordan Spieth more after his collapse Sunday at the Masters Tournament.
Because of the way he handled his immense let down.
Spieth dominated the PGA Tour scene last year by winning the Masters and the U.S. Open, finishing tied for fourth in the Open Championship and finishing second in the PGA Championship. At 21 years old, Spieth won two of golf’s four major tournaments and was a combined four strokes back of the winner in the final two majors. He also tied for second in the 2014 Masters.
He was favored to win back-to-back green jackets at this year’s Masters; a feat only accomplished by three of golf’s best ever, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. And everyone watching Sunday thought he would do it with just nine holes left.
After four straight birdies, Spieth was up five strokes on the competition through the front nine. As a golf team member at The University, I thought this was a guaranteed win for Spieth. This guy is just 10 months older than me, and he’s going to have two Masters and three majors, I thought.
Then, disaster struck.
Spieth dropped back to the field largely because of a quadruple bogey on the par-3 12th hole.
He never recovered.
At 5:05 p.m. Spieth was ahead by five strokes. At 7:10 p.m. he had lost the Masters.
The 28-year-old Englishman Danny Willett won the championship by three strokes over Spieth, finishing five under par.
Willet played extremely well, but Spieth lost that tournament.
Too often in sports, however, we measure an athlete by their performance in the competition and not by their character.
Although Spieth’s performance was poor, his character held strong.
In his post-match interview, Spieth honestly explained that he played too conservatively on the back nine with the big lead and said how disappointed he felt.
Then he said, “We still have the confidence that we’re a closing team. We can close. I have no doubt about that ability…”
That is a competitor. He showed honesty about his shortcomings and confidence about his abilities in his weakest moment—traits that should be admired and learned by all people.
If Spieth’s heart was torn into two pieces after his collapse, the post-match ceremony saw his heart put through a paper shredder.
Still, his character held true.
At the Masters, the winner is presented with the “green jacket.” A symbol of the championship.
It is a Masters tradition that the winner of last year’s Masters puts the green jacket onto the new winner.
If his collapse was not heartbreaking enough, Spieth now had to hold up the jacket as Willett slipped his arms into its silky sleeves.
You may have seen the recent memes of Spieth trying to keep it together while giving the green jacket away. It looked as if he was being forced to put his beloved child up for adoption.
Masters champion Willett’s comments about Spieth presenting him with the green jacket show the 22-year-old’s maturity and respect.
“(Spieth’s) a classy guy. Shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Well played, great Sunday,’” Willett said. “That’s the guy he is. He’s going to win many more majors, many more green jackets…”
This Sunday transcended sports. As college students, we got to see a young man, who is only one year older than our seniors, deal with embarrassment in front of the world.
And he handled it beautifully.
After letting down his fans around the world and more importantly himself, Spieth’s morals and character did not waiver.
My fellow senior on the golf team Ryan Brown said Spieth and Scranton students share these Jesuit ideals of good moral character.
“His perspective that he has formed because of his family and his past Jesuit education (at the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas) allowed him to handle that the way that you would hope University of Scranton students would be able to handle it,” Brownie said. “Life’s going to move on. Even though it seems to be the biggest stage, Jordan Spieth can handle it.”
Our head golf coach Ed Karpovich, one of my role models, said Spieth taught golfers and people about character through his handling of Sunday’s collapse. Spieth showed that even the best make mistakes and must handle
them with integrity.
“What Spieth did is good for golf,” our coach said.
In life, as in Spieth’s Masters disappointment Sunday, we will inevitably try our best and come up short sometimes.
It is how we accept and respond to that failure that defines us.
Will you fight after failure or give up?
Spieth will be back after his failure.
I hope you will after yours.