Spieth stumbles in Augusta's water again

At least Willett will be back on Sunday to put the green jacket on the new champion.

Danny Willett has found it hard - and at times impossible - to ignore the criticism which comes with being a major champion struggling to rediscover his top form.

In fact, he birdied the next hole and went on to finish the round at 3 over.

In three starts, Spieth has gone T2-Win-T2. He's slid to 17th since. I've always thought Augusta National looks great on TV. "But you can't change your game like that". "And then when you actually drive down Magnolia Lane and you park in the vehicle park and go put your shoes on, obviously it's going to be different". On Tuesday, he had a short conversation with Nicklaus, driving by in a golf cart, as McGirt was taking photos with his family and some friends near the Augusta National clubhouse. "I guess everybody else felt maybe more than I did on it", he added.

"So rather than address that specific instance, what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on TOUR that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it".

"People think you're a major champion now and you should play well".

"That's where the game jumps up and bites you". You can't just peg it up and take on the golf course. "There's a few men that have been able to do it over the years", he added, nearly wistful, "but they are few and far between".

After LPGA player Lexi Thompson was penalized four strokes for improperly marking her ball on a green at the ANA Inspiration championship, there has been plenty of talk at the Masters on the subject of proper ball-marking technique.

"Getting the confidence back has been a bit tricky", Willett acknowledged.

As much as Spieth got jammed in reverse, it is important to note that no other player besides Willett in a stellar field overtook Spieth, with only perennially "close, but ..." The two most prominent were British Open champ Henrik Stenson and U.S. Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed.

Willett believes last year's experience will help him this week.

Asked if Augusta's chef was confident of making Yorkshire puddings, he responded: "He'd best be, otherwise I'll be in the kitchen making sure his oil is hot enough!"

The green jacket has been plenty of other places, such as snooker competitions in Britain and even a few weeks ago when he hosted the "Wee Willetts", his own program near Yorkshire where almost 100 kids play nine holes over three courses during their summer holidays.

With another blustery day forecast for the second round, Spieth figured a sub-par round would vault him back toward the top of the leaderboard.

How long they'll stay that away, though, remains to be seen.

We know the feeling, Hideki.

  • Julie Sanders