Jordan Spieth erased memories of the 2016 Masters collapse winning the 2017 Open Championship thanks to some anger and the hatred of losing.
There is a phrase in sports that goes something like, “You have to lose one to win one”. Or sometimes it’s “the loss you needed to have”.
It’s based on the idea that to once you fully grasp the emotion, that feeling of losing, you can use the anger and heartbreak to triumph the next time around.
It doesn’t always work out of course. Some athletes never get another shot at redemption, some can’t harness the emotion when the next opportunity is presented and sometimes they simply come up against a better opponent. Again.
Several months after Adam Scott collapsed over the closing holes at The Open Championship at Royal Lytham, Tom Watson was back in Sydney to play the 2012 Australian Open.
This budding golf writer thought he’d ask one of the game’s greatest ever golfers how he harnessed his own heartbreak to go on to win eight majors – the sixth highest in the history of the game.
You see in 1974, Watson was playing in just his fifth major and found himself with a one-stroke lead going into the final round at the US Open at Winged Foot. The 24-year-old Watson had a disastrous Sunday carding a 9-over 79 and fell back into a tie for fifth place, five shots behind the eventual winner Hale Irwin.
The tournament was described as “The Massacre at Winged Foot” because of the brutal conditions and Watson was reportedly inconsolable after the round. With the help of Byron Nelson, Watson finished in the top-10 in every major of 1975 including the first of his five victories at The Open Championship.
So I asked him how the heartbreak at Winged Foot strengthened his resolve to win.
Watson’s affable nature disappeared at the mere mention of Winged Foot in 1974 and his steely-eyed glare had me wondering if my media pass would soon be rescinded.
“You have to hate losing.” Watson said very slowly. “I hated it.”
It wasn’t the fear of losing that drove Watson but his hate of it.
Watson played a practice round with Scott later in the day and told him the same thing. Six months later Scott had erased memories of Royal Lytham by winning the 2013 Masters.
Jordan Spieth, in Australia this week to defend his Australian Open title at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney had a remarkably similar response when questioned about his incredible victory at The Open at Royal Birkdale in July.
Spieth’s remarkable bogey at the 13th hole during his final round will go down as one of the great scramble bogeys in the history of the game.
It wasn’t pretty but somehow Spieth go the job done to win his second major, banishing the demons of the 2016 Masters collapse in the process.
“I was almost just so angry at the way that year went after that Masters, the constant questioning even though I had a pretty successful season,” Spieth said.
“I just refused to go through it again and just say I’m going to do everything in my will power, don’t care about how I’m hitting it, how I’m putting it, just do not allow yourself to lose this event and was able to pull off the shots necessary.”
Jason Day recounted the controversial incident at the Presidents Cup during his chat to the media ahead of the Australian Open. Spieth inadvertently picked up Louis Oosthuizen’s golf ball while still in motion after the South African had just missed an attempt at albatross.
“Louis hit the putt for eagle and Jordan picked it up and lost the hole,” Day said. “We wanted to give him the hole, the next hole and walk to the next tee, and Jordan didn’t want to do that, he goes, “Let’s play”.
“I think at that time we were either one-up or even or something like that and they ended up winning the match. That just goes to show how much of a competitor and the nature that he has with regard to competing out there.”
Jordan Spieth now has two majors under his belt and while some have criticized his unorthodox golf swing, few would question the young Texan has the best mental golf game on tour.
Spieth has a knack for getting it done no matter what the condition of his golf game and his hatred for losing will see him win many more golf tournaments. Possibly starting with a third Australian Open trophy this week in Sydney.