It's hard to quantify the importance of experience in the sporting arena. For every experienced team that succeeds, there is one that fails, and even if said teams succeeds or fails, there's no way to pinpoint experience as the key factor. The one exception, however, is golf. Jordan Spieth entered the final round of the Masters tied atop the leaderboard with Bubba Watson, but Spieth was already at a huge disadvantage before he even put the first tee in the ground on Sunday, and that was because of one thing and one thing only -- lack of experience.
Sure, Spieth has made a career of succeeding in spite of his inexperience, but this was different, this was Sunday at the Masters. We've heard it mentioned a million times, Sunday at the Masters, or any major for that matter, is a different beast, but why? For starters, everything is magnified. The number of people watching, media, everything. Every shot means more, every decision is critiqued, everything. In the golfing world, the Masters means everything. Well, not everything, but you get the picture; it's a big deal.
So here was Jordan Spieth, faced with the burden of a 54-hole lead and about to play 18 completely unfamiliar pins. Sure, Spieth, like all the others had his handy-dandy pin sheet, but seeing the pins plotted on a map and seeing them in-person are two entirely different things. To Spieth's credit, he passed the first test with flying colors on Sunday. The first test being the first few holes, where jitters generally leave their mark. Sunday at the Masters, however, is a series of tests, not just one or two or even three. Although Spieth was able to pass many of those tests, he failed on just a couple, which left the door open for the eventual champion Bubba Watson. Was experience the deciding factor on Sunday? We might never know, but it sure looked like it played a huge role at the 2014 Masters.
This week: RBC Heritage - Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, S.C.
Last Year: Graeme McDowell shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Webb Simpson.
Players to Consider:
Although he didn't walk away with the green jacket last Sunday, Spieth did about everything you could expect of a 20-year-old in that position. A normal golfer in this position, fresh off a disappointing loss, might be too distracted to play well the following week, but as we've seen time and time again, Spieth is not your average 20-year-old.
Weekley won this event in 2007 and successfully defended his title the following year. He struggled a bit at this event in the years that followed, but that was the case as a whole for Weekley as his game crumbled. Now that his game appears to be back, Weekley should again find himself atop the leaderboard at some point this week.
Donald's ultimate upside remains a mystery as he seems to disappear at the majors, but one thing he does very well is pick his spots during the non-majors. This is one of those spots as Donald has done as well as you can do at this event without winning. Donald has finished in the top-3 here four the last five years. Let that sink in, four of five years inside the top-3.
Furyk's had plenty of trouble closing the last few seasons, but if he's to get that monkey off his back, this might be the spot. Furyk has five top-10s here in the last nine years, and he actually pulled off a win here in 2010.
Sabbatini is not a name you think of often during the PGA Tour season anymore, but this is one spot where he merits a look. Sabbatini has played here four times in the last five years and his worst finish is a T17.
Players to Avoid:
What looked like a promising season for Stanley in 2014 has turned disastrous. Since the calendar flipped, Stanley has missed six of eight cuts, and it doesn't look like it will get much better this week as he's missed the cut here in two of three tries.
Speaking of promising outlooks, Horschel came out of nowhere last year and became the new "it" guy for a while, but 2014 has not been kind. He did finish in the top-10 here last year, so perhaps he can kick-start his season this week, but that's not really the scenario you want out of a one-and-done player.
Levin was on the short list of "bounce-back" players this season, but he has really struggled. Levin enters this week on a streak of four consecutive missed cuts. He has plenty of time to turn it around this season, but judging by his recent form, that turn-around will have to wait at least one more week.
Snedeker seems to have recovered from his early-season swoon, but he's still not back at the top of his game yet. He won this event in 2011, but that was a bit out of character as he'd missed the cut the two years prior. As a whole, his track record here is not great, which is why it's probably best to wait on him for a while.
Crazy, I know. Kuchar is playing about as well as anyone entering the week, but there's one problem, he's never played very well here. He's had his moments, but he's never finished better than T10. That's not why he's on the list, though. Kuchar is certainly capable of winning this week, but if you are looking at a one-and-done format, you might want to look elsewhere.
ONE AND DONE GOLFER
Last week: Phil Mickelson (MC) - $0; Season - $1,989,884
This week: Luke Donald - Often, the decision in a one-and-done format comes down to timing. Although Jordan Spieth looks like the best pick this week, there are certainly a number of spots where he could be useful down the road. Considering Donald hasn't played at a high level during the majors lately, this might be the best spot to use him all season.
Group A: Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar
Group B: Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Zach Johnson
Group C: Graeme McDowell, Boo Weekley
Last week: Adam Scott; Streak - 6
This week: Luke Donald - Judging by his track record, it would be surprising to see Donald miss out on the top-10, let alone the Friday cut. Donald is pretty reliable when he enters the week with a good track record, and that's certainly the case here.