Rickie Fowler, left, marks his ball as Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the eighth hole of the final round at Augusta National a week ago. Neither made the charge many expected of them.
Matt Slocum / Associated Press
Rory McIlroy tied for seventh a week ago at the Masters in his latest bid to complete a career grand slam.
While Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose were exchanging memorable shots and feeding off each other on the back nine at Augusta National, two other friends who were hoping to do the same never managed so much as a nudge.
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth were paired together for the final round of the Masters, in the group ahead of Garcia and Rose, hoping they could push each other to overtake the third-round co-leaders and make a run at the green jacket.
It never happened.
Spieth bogeyed the first hole from the fairway bunker, bogeyed Nos. 3 and 6, and needed to birdie three of the final four holes to shoot 75 — the same score he posted Thursday to open the tournament. He finished tied for 11th, the first time in four Masters he did not finish first or second.
“I feel bad I went so downhill while Rickie was still in it there, because it is tough when you don't see a ball go in the hole,” Spieth said. “And when I was out of it, I was his biggest cheerleader. I don't think I helped him whatsoever on the round. And I felt like if I was able to hang in there and we were able to feed off each other, then we would have been able to push through like you saw Sergio and Justin able to do.”
Fowler started strong, making a nice par save at No. 1 and a birdie at No. 3, before his short game betrayed him. He bogeyed the next two holes, then made five bogeys on the back nine, the part of the course where he thought he could attack and make birdies. He closed with three consecutive bogeys to shoot 76 and tie Spieth at 1-under 287.
“We both could have played better,” Fowler said. “Jordan finished nicely. If I just finished the way he did, it's a little different story putting up a decent round. It would have been nice if we could have given [the gallery] a reason to get a little louder. But unfortunately didn't do a whole lot of that.”
Spieth looked like a basketball team that spent all its energy making a run and had nothing left at the finish. After falling 10 shots off the lead in the first round, he battled back to get within two shots of the lead after three rounds, thanks to a 68 on Saturday.
But, right from the start on Sunday, nothing happened. By the time he birdied three of the last four holes, he was already out of contention.
“I'm really happy with the way that we finished off this round to get back to red, because, for a while there, it was just, you know — what are we doing?” Spieth said. “And I wasn't doing much wrong. And that's what was so tough. I didn't feel like I was doing much wrong and I just look up and it just wasn't landing where I thought it would.”
Scoring mark stands
Three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson is one of a handful of players who have put together three rounds in the 60s during Masters week. He did it in 2004 when he won with a score of 9-under 279, posting three consecutive rounds of 69 after an opening 72.
But no player, not Spieth or Tiger Woods, who share the 72-hole scoring record of 18-under 270, have ever posted four rounds in the 60s. Spieth had a chance in 2015 when he opened with rounds of 68, 65, 65, but missed a birdie putt at the final hole and shot 70.
“I think it will happen, but we'll have to have the right conditions,” Mickelson said. “It will have to be probably wet, maybe a little bit of rain, and very little wind. And then I think it will happen. But we had some challenging conditions these first couple of days, I loved it. I thought that the way the course played and the setup was just a 10. It was a 10 all week.”
McIlroy gains confidence
When Rory McIlroy blew his big lead on the back nine in 2011, it was generally assumed there would be plenty more Masters to win for the young star from Northern Ireland. Especially after he rebounded from that disaster and blew away the field in the U.S. Open at Congressional just two months later.
But, six years later, McIlroy is still looking for that green jacket, the one major title that has eluded him in his quest to complete golf’s Grand Slam.
McIlroy is the only player to finish in the top 10 at Augusta National each of the past four years, including tied for seventh last week. He was fourth in 2015, but that was still six shots behind Spieth’s record score.
“I'm getting more comfortable here, I really am getting more comfortable,” McIlroy said. “I feel like every time I tee it up here I have a real good chance to win. My record over the past four years sort of reflects that in terms of being in the top‑10. Top‑10s right now isn't good enough. It's going in the right direction. And every time I come back here I feel like I have more and more of a chance to win.”
McIlroy has won each of the other majors, including the PGA twice, and needs a victory at Augusta National to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only players to win all four major titles.
However, the 2018 Masters will be his fourth attempt to complete the career grand slam. All the other players never needed more than three attempts to win the final leg.
“I feel encouraged, if nothing else,” McIlroy said. “I’ve had four top‑10s in a row here, and top‑10 is not what I'm looking for. But, at the same time, the ups and downs that I've had here in the past don't seem to be quite as up or quite as down. It seems a little more steady and that can lead to a lot in the future, I hope.”
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