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Sports

Spieth's Gamble Pays Off on Hole 11 at Masters

Risky shot from the pine trees keeps defending champ in the hunt

Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after putting on the 11th green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday., Photo: AP/Charlie Riedel
2 years ago

AUGUSTA, Georgia – The shot was so risky that Jordan Spieth’s caddie practically begged him not to try it Thursday in the Masters.

A great shot always beats a bad decision.

“That was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in tournament competition given where it was,” Spieth said of his escape from the pine trees on the 11th hole. “And I was laughing afterwards. That’s how dumb the decision was, and pulled it off.”

Spieth was coming off a birdie on the 10th that put him at 4 under and in the lead during a deceptively windy day at Augusta National. He blocked his tee shot to the right on the 11th hole and didn’t have many options. His ball was on the pine straw. By going through the widest gaps in the trees, he figured the best he could have done was punch it out to 100 yards or more from the green. His caddie, Michael Greller, at one point motioned back to the fairway.

Spieth picked the tiny gap in the trees.

“I would like, if anyone gets a chance, to go look at that shot,” Spieth said after his 6-under 66. “Because Michael did everything in his power to call me off of hitting that shot. I had a 4-iron in my hands from about 210 (yards). And I had a gap where it had to rise over a tree, under another branch and split.”

So why bother?

Apr 7, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Jordan Spieth plays a shot from the straw on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth plays a shot from the straw on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY

After all, this was only the opening round. He was off to a great start as the defending champion. All it takes is one mistake to make a big number.

Spieth liked what he saw.

“I knew the trajectory that was going to come off of my 4-iron, and it was the right club for the distance,” Spieth said. “I thought that if it were to hit a couple of pine needles, worst case it knocks it down a little it stays short.

“So I liked the option, and Michael didn’t,” he said. “And I said, ‘Just trust me on this one.’ I actually hit it a touch fat, but I knew that as long as it split that gap that it should be OK.”

It came off perfectly, though there was one last moment where Spieth held his breath. The ball took a hard hop to the left when it reached the green, running fast toward the water. He bit his lip. He grit his teeth and said quietly, “Bite.” It held up on the collar, and Spieth repeatedly slapped his thigh.

He had to made a 7-foot putt to escape with par.

Asked if the fact he was 4 under and it was only the first round of a major ever came into the discussion, Spieth smiled.

“It should have,” he said. “And I should not have hit the shot I hit.”

DOUG FERGUSON

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