Friday, March 23, 2018

Young, scrappy and hungry; no throwing away his shot

The shot was so risky that Jordan Spieth's caddie practically begged him not to try it Thursday in the Masters.

A great shot always beats a bad decision.

"That was one of the best shots I've ever hit in tournament competition given where it was," Spieth said of his escape from the pine trees on the 11th hole. "And I was laughing afterwards. That's how dumb the decision was, and pulled it off."

Spieth was coming off a birdie on the 10th that put him at 4 under and in the lead during a deceptively windy day at Augusta National. He blocked his tee shot to the right on the 11th hole and didn't have many options. His ball was on the pine straw. By going through the widest gaps in the trees, he figured the best he could have done was punch it out to 100 yards or more from the green. His caddie, Michael Greller, at one point motioned back to the fairway.

Spieth picked the tiny gap in the trees.

"I would like, if anyone gets a chance, to go look at that shot," Spieth said after his 6-under 66 gave him the first-round lead. "Because Michael did everything in his power to call me off of hitting that shot. I had a 4-iron in my hands from about 210 (yards). And I had a gap where it had to rise over a tree, under another branch and split."

So why bother?

After all, this was only the opening round. He was off to a great start as the defending champion. All it takes is one mistake to make a big number.

Spieth liked what he saw.

"I knew the trajectory that was going to come off of my 4-iron, and it was the right club for the distance," Spieth said.

"So I liked the option, and Michael didn't," he said. "And I said, 'Just trust me on this one.' I actually hit it a touch fat, but I knew that as long as it split that gap that it should be okay."

It came off perfectly, though there was one last moment where Spieth held his breath. The ball took a hard hop to the left when it reached the green, running fast toward the water. He bit his lip. He grit his teeth and said quietly, "Bite." It held up on the collar, and Spieth repeatedly slapped his thigh.

He had to made a 7-foot putt to escape with par.

Asked if the fact he was 4 under and it was only the first round of a major ever came into the discussion, Spieth smiled.

"It should have," he said. "And I should not have hit the shot I hit."

Arnie sits out

Arnold Palmer didn't hit a ceremonial tee shot Thursday morning, but he rode to the first tee in a golf cart and joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the official start of the Masters. Nicklaus said he asked Palmer, 86, about hitting a shot. "I don't care if you putt it off the tee," Nicklaus said. Palmer decided against it. "It's probably the right thing," Nicklaus said. "Arnold's balance is not good." Player, 80, said he did 1,300 crunches and leg-pressed 400 pounds Wednesday to get ready. Nicklaus, 76, was outdriven. "You were outdriving me for 50 years," Player told him. — tbt* wires

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