Thoughts on Spieth’s Fifth Shot on Twelve

It's been almost two weeks, but Jordan Spieth's fifth shot at the 12th during the final round of the Masters is still on my mind. In the midst of everything bad that happened during the first three holes of the back nine, that shot stood out.

Let's review the situation as he stepped up to the tee box on twelve. On 10, he'd been short and right on his tee shot, ending up in the rough. He was short and right on his second shot, landing in the front-right bunker. His sand shot fell short, and then he two-putted for bogey. On 11, his tee shot went right, into the trees. He had to chip into the fairway for his second. He pitched from the fairway to within six feet, but two-putted for another bogey. He walked onto twelve having seen his five-shot lead cut to one. Finally, he certainly remembered his tee shot on twelve two years ago when he was chasing for the lead. That day he hit short and right. It didn't make the green and ended up in the water.

This year, his tee shot on 12 was an echo of the shot two years ago. It went short and right and bounced back into the water. After the stroke penalty, he took his third shot from about 80 yards and hit it so ridiculously fat that it barely made it to the water. Unfortunately for him, though, it did.

He took his fifth shot from the same place as the third. This time, he hit well long. The ball hit the very back of the green and rolled into the back bunker. It's not a deep bunker, and from there, he made an easy up-and-down (well, as easy as an up-and-down as it can be when you've just blown up into a million pieces) for a quadruple-bogey 7.

So why does the fifth shot on 12 continue to so fascinate me? Because after so many bad shots in three holes, with his energy all in a whirl, he hit what appeared to be another bad shot--after all, Jordan Spieth is capable of pitching onto the green from 80 yards. But that shot appeared to settle him down. He calmly made his up-and-down. He went to 13 and hit a lovely drive, which led to a birdie. He made par on 14 and another birdie on 15.

Which suggests that with that fifth shot, he substantially cleared out the negative energy. So what was it about this shot--still apparently a bad shot--that allowed him to re-center?

I have no way to prove this, but I think he hit that "bad" shot intentionally. More specifically and accurately, I think he gave himself permission to widen his target and his definition of success. Had he hit short (within reason) of where the ball ended up landing, he'd have simply been on the green. Had he hit long, he'd have landed directly in the bunker. He knew it wasn't a particularly hard bunker to play out of. By changing his approach to a broader notion of success, he found a way to make a successful shot. In doing so, he was able to re-center.

All of which leads me to suggest that he had that tool all along. Had he intentionally hit an "imperfect" tee shot on 12, perhaps even aiming to put the ball into the bunker, thereby giving himself permission for par (or even bogey), he would have been able to clear out the negative energy. My major point of evidence for this assertion is that he hit a shot that did exactly that. He just did it four strokes too late.

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