This year’s Masters looked like it was destined to be an all-American showdown, but instead turned into an international shootout between two of golf’s biggest European household names.
Dustin Johnson appeared to have a great chance to take home the green jacket, but a bizarre, fall-induced lower back injury kept him from competing in the tournament at all. Fellow countryman Jordan Spieth also looked primed for a lights-out Sunday round and come-from-behind win, only to match his worst round of the tournament on the final day with a 75. Not to mention Spieth’s playing partner Rickie Fowler, who started only one shot back of the lead on Sunday, but choked away a chance at his first career major with a final round 76, and a T-11 finish.
Several other Americans in contention cleared the way for eventual winner Sergio Garcia and runner-up Justin Rose with poor final rounds. After battling all day, Sergio came out on top of Rose with a birdie on the first playoff hole after a tie at nine-under par in regulation.
Garcia and Rose never faced much of a threat from the rest of the field, and sparred all Sunday long. It certainly was entertaining, and wonderful for Sergio to finally add a major to his resumé, but was hard to watch a multitude of Americans fail to come in clutch.
Spieth and Rickie’s respective implosions were easily the most disappointing storylines of the tournament. All eyes were on Jordan Spieth after he turned his week around with a beautiful 68 on Saturday, and it seemed that his woes from last year’s collapse were well behind him. Fans and analysts alike almost expected poor play from both Sergio and Rose, and for Spieth to put on a clinic at Augusta.
But Spieth was completely out of sorts yesterday, and even hit another ball in the water at the infamous 12th hole. He made silly course management mistakes and was sloppy and around the greens on Sunday, which are usually some of his best weapons against the field. His misses were in the wrong places and his putter didn’t keep his round alive like it usually does. The normally unflappable Jordan Spieth looked drained and visibly affected by the pressure that had mounted around him.
Similarly to Spieth, Rickie clearly was rattled by pressure. Fowler looked ready to finally eclipse the field in a major after putting up three solid rounds in a row, but played himself out of contention on the back nine in the final round, posting a four-over 40. Rickie would have needed to shoot an impressive four-under 68 to tie Rose and Garcia at the top, but the tournament may have been entirely different if someone (like Rickie or Spieth) put pressure on the leaders in the final round.
Matt Kuchar saved the Americans some face with a final round 67, an ace on the 16th, and a T-4 finish, after starting six shots back on Sunday. A few other yankees posted reasonable fourth round scores, but none were enough to worry Sergio or Rose.
Though it was a beautiful moment for Sergio, who had come up short so many times in majors, the poor American play was disappointing. To add salt to the wound, the majority of American golf fans have had a lasting grudge Sergio, and often dislike international players receiving the green jacket.
American golf is in good hands however, despite coming short at the year’s first major. DJ, Spieth, Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and countless other Americans are starving for a major title, and have excellent chances of capturing one this year. The U.S. also has come home with the last two international competitions (2016 Ryder Cup, 2015 Presidents Cup), and look to be getting better all the time.
American winner or not, the 2017 Masters was incredibly exciting and special for a man whose career would not have been complete without a major win, and after Sunday’s exhilarating finish, it’s hard not to start counting down the days to U.S. Open.