What Masters meltdown?
With three flawless shots on the first playoff hole, Jordan Spieth reminded the world why he’s one of the best clutch players on the planet – and silenced any doubters following his Augusta slip-up in April.
The American superstar, in truth, never really hit top gear until it really mattered – in a three-way playoff with Australians Ashley Hall and Cameron Smith, although he did manage clutch – that word again – pars at the 71st and 72nd holes to stay in the contest.
With solid rounds of 69, 70, 68 and 69 around The Royal Sydney Golf Club, Spieth found himself on 12-under the card and tied at the top alongside Hall and Smith – sending the trio back up the 18th.
But Spieth only needed one sudden-death hole to remind us of his brilliance. His tee shot hit the middle of the fairway, his approach gave him 15 feet for birdie and the World No. 5 made it look easy from there, draining a trademark clutch putt to secure his second Stonehaven Cup and join some of the game’s greats – including Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman – as multiple winners.
— Australian Open Golf (@AusOpenGolf) November 20, 2016
Consolation for Smith and Hall comes in the shape of a start at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Aaron Baddeley will also receive a start given that Spieth is already exempt.
For Hall, the exciting prospect of teeing-up for a second time in the game’s oldest and most important championship (he missed the cut at Royal Lytham in 2012) is a far cry from the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School, where he was competing only two months ago. The 33-year old Melburnian passed that test successfully, but failed at the second stage. Which turned out to be not half as bad as first thought. Had Hall made it through to the third and final school, he would have been playing in Spain rather than Sydney over the past few days.
“It’s great,” he said. “I love Birkdale. I played there as an amateur in 2005, so it will be nothing new to me,” he said, right before admitting he was about to give the game away and seek full-time work.
“It’s going to be fun. The Open is one of my favourite tournaments, so knowing I’m in this far out, is kind of nice. I love links golf. I love the way they play and it’s just a different way of playing golf. Much like Australian golf, you can bounce the ball around a little bit, so I don’t think it’s any secret why Aussies have done pretty good in the past at the Open.”