Jordan Spieth is hoping to put his 2016 Masters meltdown behind him but Rory McIlroy has said: Its not as if its going to be the last year he gets questions about it
For 12 months, Jordan Spieth has played questions relating to the Masters with such a straight bat you had cause to wonder whether he was a professional in the correct sport.
That stance changed on the eve of the WGC Match Play, with Spieth admitting he will be delighted when the 2017 version at Augusta National is over if only because it means people will stop talking about his nightmare last year.
Spieth was on course for consecutive Masters titles before an extraordinary meltdown in the final round when he took seven at the par-three 12th.
With the first major of the season little more than a fortnight away, the 23-year-old has broken away from what had become his standard approach by conceding the event comes with an element of external pressure he can do without. This sounded like a private frustration suddenly becoming public.
No matter what happens at this years Masters, whether I can grab the jacket back or I miss the cut or I finish 30th, it will be nice having this Masters go by, he said. The Masters lives on for a year. It brings a non-golf audience into golf. And it will be nice once this years finished to be brutally honest.
It would be best if I could reclaim the jacket but I believe Ill be back up there sooner or later because of the way I play the golf course, the success Ive had and the comfort level I have there. Whether it happens this year or not it will just be nice when its over, because that tournament, its a 365 day thing. Theres no other Masters.
I won in Colonial three starts later. So as far as affecting me when Im in a tournament, I think that answer is clear, it doesnt do that. But as far as just having all the questions be done, Im pretty sure they will be.
In what might be interpreted as an attempt to play mind games with a rival, Rory McIlroy intriguingly cast doubt on whether Spieth will ever dismiss the ghosts of 2016. McIlroy knows this scene better than most; he had his own fourth-round collapse in 2011.
Its not as if its going to be the last year he gets questions about it, the world No2 said. That might be the way hes approaching it, the mentality of I just cant wait for this to be over so all the questions are. But if he doesnt banish those demons or win this year, the questions will always still be there.
I still get questioned about the back nine at Augusta in 2011. Its just something you have to deal with. Its something that happened. Its not going to go away. Its there and it always will be.
I sympathise with him. The guy had a chance to win the Green Jacket and didnt. But he can console himself by opening up his wardrobe and seeing one hanging there. Its a little bit different to me in that respect. No matter what happens this year, those questions will still be there and linger a little bit.
In 2012, I couldnt wait for the Masters to start, because I wanted redemption and I wanted a chance to prove myself again. So that was a little bit of a different mindset. Everyone is different, I guess.
Jordan still has an amazing record at Augusta. Hes played three times, he hasnt finished outside the top two. Once he plays that 12th hole, once he gets it over and done with on Thursday, hell forget about it and most other people will, and hell go on. Im sure hell have a great chance to win again this year.
The Match Play at Austin represents McIlroys last start before the Masters. Spieth will also play in next weeks Houston Open. The group stage format here before 16 players move forward to the knockout rounds means an unorthodox start on a Wednesday.
Jason Day, the defending champion after beating Louis Oosthuizen in last years final, said he prefers the straight knockout version.
I like it the other way, where you win or go home, Day said. It forces you to go out and play. Its like: I need to play well here, if I dont Im going to watch these guys on the weekend.