The 2015 Masters Golf Tournament truly was a tradition unlike any other — even if we didn’t have the dramatic finish down the stretch, unless you count Jordan Spieth’s duel with Masters history.
Spieth did get it to 19-under on Sunday, but a bogey on the 18th hole pushed him back into a deadlock with Tiger Woods' 1997 performance.
Even without a winning putt on 18 to decide the outcome, however, this Masters will go down as one of the most epic of all time. You didn’t have to be a true golfing diehard to enjoy this theatre and I believe the TV numbers will reflect that as the ratings dial should have been spinning.
Spieth was making only his second Masters appearance at age 21 and all he has done in his two starts is finish second and first. You’re supposed to play Augusta National about five or six years before you can truly tame the beast.
The stockpile of challengers was mostly a Who’s Who of golfers known only by their first name — Rory, Phil, and, yes, even Tiger for a fleeting moment. That’s some pretty heady company for the youngster from Texas to vanquish. All that was missing was Bubba (Watson), whose bid for his third green jacket in four years flamed out like a soggy firecracker. Justin Rose actually applied the most heat, but he hasn't reached first-name status yet.
Spieth — or is it just Jordan now? — may not have been a household name to the average fan before this week, but those in the know believe he’s about to embark on a duel with Rory that could last for decades. They’re the new Big Two, as Tiger and Phil ride off into the sunset.
Woods and Mickelson basically have carried the tour for 20 years and it’s time for them to pass the torch. McIlroy has assumed some of the void, but finding his foil is the big question. Bubba is too inconsistent and some of the other possibilities are too vanilla.
But Spieth might be the guy. He doesn’t hit it miles — fans are enamored with the long ball — but his wonderful iron play, unusual putting style (he looks at the hole and not the ball) and his Socrates-like thinking around the golf course generally help him avoid disaster. It seems like every time he had a miss during the week, he missed the shot in just the right place.
And he's just so darn likable.
Tiger and Phil aren’t totally ready yet to be ceremonial golfers. Woods’ performance this week certainly had to be encouraging, even if he was allergic to hitting fairways on Sunday as he spent most of the day finding every pine needle on the course. Mickelson seems to save his best for the majors and even at 45, can gin up the fan base like Arnie used to do. They love his go-for-broke style and groan at some of his ill-conceived shots. They want to see what he’s going to do next, no matter the consequences.
The next major is the U.S. Open and it’s going to have a tough act to follow. Hopefully we can have a star-stuffed leaderboard again. Golf is just more exciting when all the big guns have their A-game at the same time.