The U.S. Masters golf tournament wrapped up this weekend, and the big story wasn’t the winner, Danny Willett. It was 22-year-old Jordan Spieth, who blew a lead in the last half of the round to come in second. Some are calling his bungling of the 12th hole the biggest golf meltdown of all time. Here & Now's Peter O’Dowd speaks to sports psychologist Patrick Cohn about what was going on in Spieth’s mind, and how he could recover.
Interview Highlights: Patrick Cohn
On Jordan Spieth’s 12 hole collapse
"It ranks up there for certain. I’m sure what he did on number 10 and one had him reeling a little bit, he went bogey, bogey as you said, had a five-shot lead and went bogey, bogey. That has an effect, certainly, going into hole number 12, which he doesn’t have a great history on.”
The hole is considered one of the toughest holes in golf.
“Yeah, it’s only 150 yards, standard 9-iron for him.”
What do you think was going on in his mind when all of this was happening?
“I’m going to go back to the previous round one Saturday, where he collapsed at the end of the round. He didn’t have a good finish and then all of a sudden you go bogey, bogey and then dump two in the water. So he’s thinking ‘here we go again,’ often athletes will default back to what’s happening to them in either previous rounds or previous tournaments, and so he’s probably thinking ‘am I having another meltdown like I had at the end of the third round on Saturday,’ or ‘am I going to blow my chances like I did in 2014?’”
How much of a mental game is golf?
“Golf is very mental. Once you have the skills down and you’re able to consistently hit a shot to the target maybe seven or eight times out of 10, then it becomes very much a mental game for these golfers and just a little bit of doubt, a little bit of indecision, can derail you on an important shot like that.”
How could Spieth get his confidence back after suffering this defeat?
“Well going 1-2 in the Masters over the last two years is not a bad record. Certainly having a five-shot lead and collapsing - he’s going to have maybe some nightmares about that, certainly. He’s going to be upset for a while, but he’s a professional. Even at 22 years of age, he’s really a professional and what he’s going to do is instead of beat himself up and say ‘woulda, shoulda and coulda,’ he’ll focus on what he needs to do to improve his game, and that’s what all great athletes do. Instead of whining or hurting their confidence, he’ll respond by what is it I need to do in pressure situations under important situations like that, how do I get better. He’ll not only look at it from a physical standpoint, and how he can improve his consistency, but he’ll also look at it from a mental standpoint. How can I learn from that situation? How can I do better the next time? That’s how player break through on the tour that never won. They figure it out.”
Does it help that he’s just 22 years old?
“Oh yes, absolutely. It does help that he’s only 22 years old and he’s done so much already in the game of golf.”
On how the mental game can ruin careers for golfers, like Tiger Woods
“Oh, it absolutely will. In Tiger Woods’ case, when you have all those injuries and you need surgeries, it’s not just coming back physically from the surgeries and the injuries and playing injured, it’s how those affect the mental part of the game too because there’s always what we call, there’s the mental scars that are left over. Even though you are completely healed, there’s the mental scars of doubt and lack of confidence that linger.”
So we haven’t seen the last of Jordan Spieth
“Oh, I expect that he’ll rebound and in a big way.”
This segment aired on April 11, 2016.