KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jordan Spieth hit 8-iron over the bunker on the 12th hole at Augusta National. He watched his 15-foot birdie putt tumble into the cup on the last turn, and he raised his arms in celebration.
Too bad this was December.
Eight months earlier, that birdie most likely would have led to another green jacket at the Masters.
Spieth, who lost a five-shot lead on the back nine last April in his bid to become only the fourth back-to-back Masters champion, returned to Augusta National for the first time during a visit with AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson and Geoff Yang, a founding partner of Redpoint Ventures. Both are club members.
The birdie on the 12th brought a small measure of redemption. At the Masters, he was still leading by three shots when he dumped two shots into Rae’s Creek and made a quadruple-bogey 7. By the time he finished the hole, he was three shots behind Danny Willett and never caught up.
“First time back,” Spieth said of his December round. “I was very nervous when I got on 12 tee.”
And he was determined when he stood over the putt on the slower, softer greens of Augusta in the winter. Determined not to leave it short, he watched the putt slow at the front of the cup and then drop for a 2.
“I probably gave like a big fist pump,” Spieth said. “I was walking around with my hands up, like, `Demons gone.“’
And he wasn’t done.
Spieth played again the next morning and, with a left pin position, hit 9-iron that spun back and nearly went in. It settled about 3 feet away for another birdie.
“So I got two 2s out of No. 12 the first time back,” he said. “Last two times I played the hole, I made birdie.”
Spieth made no secret of how much he wanted to get his revenge on the 12th hole. He said he turned to his group and said: “Guys, we have some demons to get rid of here. I’d appreciate if y’all stood to the side of the tee box while I do my work here.”
He also had a phone call to make after his round to Michael Greller to share the news. “I know there’s cameras out there, and I’ve requested footage from those two birdies,” Spieth said. “I haven’t received it yet. Saw the chairman (Billy Payne) and requested some footage, because somebody was watching, I’m sure, when that happened.”
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