REUTERS - It took Jordan Spieth nine minutes and 57 seconds to complete the 12th hole in the final round at the 2016 Masters, a short chunk of time that still feels surreal to the man who called the action live for a global television audience.
Frank Nobilo was in the CBS tower adjacent to the 12th tee at Augusta National, describing the action, and the normally erudite Kiwi kept his words to a minimum, aware that the pictures of Spieth’s collapse spoke for themselves.
One seemingly inexplicable bad shot, a chunked wedge that barely made it to the water hazard, let alone cleared it, led to a quadruple bogey and ultimately cost Spieth the Masters.
After the Texan had found the Rae’s Creek tributary with his tee shot, a nine-iron, a terrible mistake, Nobilo expected Spieth would play his next shot from the drop zone.
Instead, Spieth opted to drop in line with where his ball last crossed the hazard line, which meant he could go back as far as he wanted, in this case 80 yards, his preferred distance.
“I’d walked around the drop zone but never considered someone dropping from where Spieth did,” Nobilo told Reuters.
“From that angle he had only four yards in front (from the front of the green to the hole) and four yards right (to the edge of the green). You’re choosing the narrowest part of the green. He was desperate to get away with a bogey.
“He played the ball back in the stance, got a bit steep on it and hit it a fraction fat.”
Nobilo, who finished fourth at the 1996 Masters, recalled it had rained overnight and he suspected that part of the course was a little damp, the moisture exacerbating Spieth’s error, leading to the sort of shot that would disgust a 20-handicapper.
Swing instructor Steven Bann concurred.
“That pitch I think is the hardest in golf,” Bann, who coaches several tour players and is a director at the Bann-Lynch-McDade instruction school in Australia, told Reuters.
“The fairway is mowed away from the green so it is into the grain and the ground is always soft, being low and near Rae’s Creek. Plus there is only 20 feet of green that you don’t see all of. Plus you know over the green probably means triple bogey.”
Spieth was at a loss to explain it: “I’m not really sure what happened ... I just hit it fat,” he said.
Bann thinks Spieth’s previous tee shot into the hazard sent his nervous system into overload.
“Some panic probably set in and his nervous system went into a spin, and the net result was the next chunked pitch shot.”
Less than an hour earlier, Spieth strode purposefully to the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead, the back nine seemingly destined to be a victory stroll to a second straight Green Jacket.
“If they could see this, they would cut their rope and go home,” Nick Faldo, on the TV call, said of the other players.
Yet by time Spieth arrived at the 11th tee his lead was only two strokes, and about to disappear completely.
A year later, Spieth will have no choice but to confront his demons at the 12th hole.
“He will have analysed and processed what happened, learn from the experience and be all the better for it next time he is faced with a similar situation,” said Bann, before adding “I think.”
Nobilo, meanwhile, will be back in the TV tower, wondering what drama will unfold this year at the hole named Golden Bell.
“I remember thinking I can’t believe I just saw that,” Nobilo recalled.
“Mental mistake, technical mistake, boom it’s lost.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry