Analyzing Jordan’s Epic Collapse

Jordan Spieth lost the 2016 Masters by making a number of really bad swings. I take a deeper look into his collapse.

Thrash TalkWinning a major golf tournament is an effort many years in the making. All of the practice fine tuning your swing, studying the course and pin positions. All of it take hard work. In 2015 Jordan Spieth had the golf world by the tail. He had won the season’s first two majors and was in the conversation at the British and PGA. It was a masterful year. All the hard work he had put in was paying off.

At the conclusion of the 2015 season, Jordan stated that he wanted to make some changes to his swing along with a workout plan to hit the ball farther. Nick Faldo, the guy who pretty much invented the long-term swing change, immediately came out and said Jordan should be careful to tinker too much.

At the 2016 Masters Spieth had an epic meltdown that actually started on the first tee. From my simple analysis of his swing, it looks as though one of the changes he was trying to make is to open the face a bit more. The details of why or how are probably locked away in conversations with his coach, Cameron McCormick. This is not really the time or the place to be discussing if Jordan is making the right kind of changes to his swing. The funny thing about swing changes is they take time to lock in. For most golfers you can perform the action first on the range, then you can do it regularly on the course, then during competitions, then the last step, on the course during a major championship.

When I watched Jordan make his opening tee shot, he hit what would become his Achilles heel for the day, the high right miss. He had hit it a few times on Saturday as well, but seemed to get away with it. I didn’t watch every shot on Thursday and Friday, but I suspect that it was there also. His opening tee shot with his three wood was a high right, short shot. He would recover and hit the green, but the swing was there, waiting, lurking. He did it one more time on the front nine on four. A masterful chip and par-saving putt meant he was able to keep a bogey off his scorecard.

It seems to have stayed away for the most part until the tenth tee. He hit basically the identical shot. Then again with the drive on eleven. I suspect if you’re reading this, you know he did it again on twelve with tragic consequences. He did it one more time for good measure on seventeen as well. It is clear that his swing change had not yet been baked into his swing.

This is one of the things that make golf such a hard sport. No matter how many times you make a swing on the range you just can’t replicate the pressure and intensity of the final round of a major. So the reality is, it is simply not about repetition for Jordan, to truly trust the changes, he needs the test of major championship golf. Unfortunately for him, it was clearly not ready for prime time.


There will be debates on whether or not Jordan choked. I say no. He simply needs more time to tune the swing changes he is trying to make and have them be able to handle the pressure of the back nine of the a major championship. He showed that even after the disaster of twelve he was able to turn it around birdie thirteen, and hit it pretty close on sixteen. He showed heart and grit to attempt to make a comeback. He putted great the entire week and his run to close the front nine was breathtaking. He will put this Masters behind him and go on to be a great golfer. This effort will barely be a blip when we review his career later.

I think most of us golfers can take solace in what happened to Jordan. We need to understand the time it truly takes to make a major swing change and that only the test of tournament golf can truly test the change you have made. That even guys on the highest level can struggle when trying to make a change like this.

For what it’s worth, if Spieth wanted to increase his swing speed and hit it farther, whatever he is doing is so far isn’t working. In 2015 Jordan’s swing speed measured on the PGA Tour was 112.8mph. So far in 2016 it is 111.6mph. So he has actually lost 1mph. We can say that 1mph is probably the margin for error, but still, it really isn’t going up. Neither is his driving distance 291.8 to 292.3 and his driving accuracy is basically the same as well. Of course we all know that making any kind of change takes time and he may not see the affects of his change for a year or more. Or even maybe Jordan decided to make no change at all, the only one who really knows is him.

Photo credits: © David Cannon

5 thoughts on “Analyzing Jordan’s Epic Collapse”

  1. I think the thing to remember, to put Jordan’s choke in context, is that Jack Nicklaus had that feeling 19 times. Obviously not all of Nicklaus’s runner-up finishes involved dropping 6 shots in 3 holes to cough up a five-shot lead, but the sentiment remains. Finishing 2nd at a Masters seems like something that could set a golfer way back, but I disagree. If you’re going to win a lot of majors that means you’re also going to come close–and fail–at a lot. Tiger made some folks forget that. I think Jordan is going to win a lot of majors, and this weekend was only further evidence of that.

  2. Kevin made one comment that I was going to. Nicklaus finished second in majors a lot! He could easily have won 25 or 30 majors! Well, maybe not easily, but you get my point.

    Then there’s the thing about the swing change. I sometimes wonder why someone who’s had so much success wants to change things. I guess it goes back to the idea that no matter how good you are at golf, you can always improve. Maybe, maybe not.

    Someone who seemed to wonder like I do was Sam Snead. He was quoted in an interview written after Curtis Strange had won back to back US Opens, and decided to change his swing. Snead said, something like, “The man won two US Opens in a row moving off the ball, then decides he want to do something different. Why? I wish I could have gotten a hold of him and talked to him. I’d have told him not to change a thing!”

  3. Failures have a life of their own. Ensuing success doesn’t wipe it out. Maybe takes the sting out of it a bit simply because time blurs (not necessarily heal) but it never goes away. Phil Mick’s last round of US Open 2006 went exactly the same way. The miss was there all day.

    It is a choke because pros make a career out of managing misses not because they don’t have a miss. It is harsh but clarity and presence required to make decision amidst pressure was not there. I think tee shots on 10 and 11 were just bad misses but 12 should have been managed. After all, he had played the hole a few times, as many as thrice in as recent time as three days before. Please.

    As far as the swing change is concerned, I have no opinion or feel. He obviously was comfortable enough to be few shots up to bust.As we all know, no matter how good his short game scrambling was/is, not possible without a solid workable full swing. It’s not like his old grooved swing worked100% of time either. Nobody’s does.

  4. FWIW, and not to dispute the underlying point or the cited stats, but I remember hearing someone, maybe the broadcasters, say that Spieth and his caddy had agreed on a draw on 12, but Spieth changed his mind at the last second and went for a fade, which he achieved excessively well (and a shot I know only too well). If this is correct, then it suggests that on that hole he didn’t fail so much in his swing as in strategy.

    And I apologize for playing grammar mom, but I believe you meant that Faldo said “Jordan should be careful NOT to tinker too much ..”

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