Jordan Spieth figured out putting over the weekend.

After barely missing a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green Saturday at the RBC Heritage tournament in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Jordan Spieth had only 12 inches remaining for an easy par and a round of 67.

It was the sort of short putt that might have led the television hosts to say something like, “And Spieth has that tap-in left for his par.” 

Spieth walked up to the ball, barely stopped his stride, tapped the ball, and then watched it horseshoe around the hole and out.


It was a ridiculous miss, one Spieth is likely to experience in his dreams for some time to come. He rushed the putt, but even speeding up play unnecessarily shouldn’t have resulted in a tenured professional player missing such an easy tap-in. 

It was a putt that most everyday golfers would have dismissed as a gimme, even giving it to their worst enemies. That doesn’t happen in the pro game, of course, except in match play when conceded putts are normal.

Spieth’s too-casual approach to the putt made it clear that he essentially considered it good before tapping it. But, as we know all too well from far too many baseball games and one particular Super Bowl (remember that New England comeback, Atlanta?), it ain’t over until it’s over. Your work on the green isn’t finished until you hear that wonderful noise of the ball finding the bottom of the cup.

Missing this kind of putt is the kind of mistake that professional golfers simply cannot make. They spend far too much time on the range, in the practice areas, and on the practice green, pounding ball after ball, gripping clubs until their hands bleed, to lose focus and miss such a simple putt.

Spieth had learned the lesson by Sunday when he was under the gun with a chance to win the tournament despite Saturday’s error. On the first playoff hole, he produced one of the magical bunker shots for which he is known, leaving the ball about seven inches from the hole. Fans could have been forgiven for thinking he might miss that one after Saturday’s misadventure, but, of course, he made it and won the first tournament after the Masters. (And kudos to Spieth for hanging around and signing autographs after the win).

For those of us on the extremely non-professional side of the game, Spieth’s Saturday miss offers a good lesson. You stand a much better chance of winning your buddy’s money in a dollar-per-hole round if you concentrate on every shot, especially in the putting arena, where most matches – and money – are won.

Don’t take any putt – even the short, apparently straight ones – for granted. Crouch on the green to get a perfect reading on the break. Check the grain. Take note of the wind direction. Be sure your putter is clear of debris.

Step up to the ball. Get your balance. Take a few practice strokes. Demand quiet.

Then declare it a gimme and walk away.