The Masters - Preview Day 3

The Masters 2024

Masters 2024: Jordan Spieth and Augusta National is the love story golf cannot quit

The 10 years are undiscernable to the eye. Not by disposition; Jordan Spieth bounces down the fairway with a stride of restrained giddiness, like a kid who’s been told not to run by the pool. Not by results; the swings and shots are what you’d expect of a premier golfer. Not by appearance, because babyfaces tend to conceal the scrapes of time.

But that’s how long it’s been, 10 years, since Spieth made his Masters debut. Nine since he turned in four rounds that asked questions of who this young man was and where he could go. Eight since Augusta National reminded him that for all her beauty she can likewise be sadistically cruel. And for the last seven years, Spieth and the game have waited for a day that hasn’t and may never come, even if that’s the eternal promise.

Romanticism is rampant at the Masters, but this place and its patrons tend to develop special bonds with certain players. That’s one of the many facets that make this tournament what it is, the rapport between competitors and onlookers changing from entertainment into something more. With the greats, Jack and Tiger and Arnie, yes, but also with others, like Fred Couples and Ben Crenshaw. As of late, Spieth and Augusta National is the love story golf cannot quit.

Some of it has to do with his sentiments about Augusta. Masters fans want their stars to harbor the same type of passion for the event as they do. “It was my favorite tournament growing up,” Spieth said on Tuesday. “I fell in love with it from kind of the mid-2000s, that crazy run of Tiger and Phil and whatnot, that got me into the game. So it was the most visible tournament, and obviously the crazy shots that were hit, the history of the event and the golf course itself.”

Some of it has to do with how he plays. Most professionals play a game we are not familiar with; we know Spieth’s game, because it mirrors ours. The fits over two-footers, punching question marks into launch codes, his ball finding spots that leave cartographers scratching their heads. That he escapes many of these inexorable fates of the messes he makes is not just exciting but gives the rest of us poor pastards hope.

Some of it has to do with him. Spieth is funny, charming, thoughtful. He has been humble in victory and defeat, but he also has no poker face. Golf’s characters tend to be emotional cyborgs, but with Spieth you never have to guess what he’s feeling. He lets us in, and when he hurts—which has been often over the last decade—you hurt with him.

But most of the love story has to do with his fledgling success. He was in the final pairing in his first start at the 2014 Masters, ultimately finishing second. The following year he won in record-setting fashion. The back-nine collapse in 2016, leading to another runner-up. He played in the penultimate group in 2017 and nearly authored a final-round 62 in ‘18 that’s one of this tournament’s all-time what ifs?.