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Jordan Spieth collapsed at the Masters with a mistake he never makes

The most consistent player at Augusta National over the past three years went to the second nine on Sunday with a five-shot lead. How did it go so bad so fast?

Golf, like any other sport, has things you can control and things you can't.

You can't control course conditions, or weather, or burrowing animals, or fans hollerin' in your backswing. You have some, albeit possibly limited, control over your golf swing and physical condition entering a golf tournament. You can control how you play a golf course, the shots you choose to hit, how you commit to those shots, and so forth.

All week at Augusta, Jordan Spieth had controlled those controllable factors to a point of scorn from the just hit the dang ball crowd. He backed off ball after ball in Friday and Saturday's winds, he analyzed and over-analyzed shot after shot after shot with Michael Greller to near exhaustion. For some, it's why won't he play faster. But for anyone that's been in a competitive situation on the golf course, Spieth's slow down was likely birthed out of insecurity with his own golf swing and putting stroke.

The human body is not mechanical and golf swings will always ebb and flow throughout a career, season, whatever. But Jordan Spieth's success has never been predicated on mechanical or physical perfection. Jason Day and Dustin Johnson hit the golf ball miles longer. Rory McIlroy is yoked as all hell. Heck, he doesn't have Louis Oosthuizen's picture-perfect golf swing. He doesn't take protractors to his swing like Bryson DeChambeau. His putter's magic at times, sure, but we've often just tried to quantify Spieth's success by chalking it up to "intangibles." The reality is Jordan Spieth most often doesn't beat himself something that will get you quite far on a Tour with a bunch of dudes that haven't ever seen a par-5 they weren't swinging at in two and, uh, Zach Johnson.

That doesn't mean Spieth is a lay-upper, or conservative. He and his caddie, Michael Greller, overwhelmingly know when to hold, when to fold. Some greens you swing at, others you don't. Hit driving iron here, driver there. With what Spieth might lack in size and clubhead speed, he's always made up for in sound on-course decision-making.

And that's what makes his meltdown that cost him his second green jacket so jarring.

Bad golf shots happen and people recover from them, because bogeys don't lose golf tournaments. Spieth admitted in his post-round interview on CBS that his attempt to take it over the greenside protecting bunker on the 12th wasn't smart. But that's recoverable. You can either (a) hit a good shot and you look like a hero or (b) miss it, end up in the drink, and make bogey or double and move on. It won't be fatal, in most cases. You can hit a dumb golf shot and be fine, you can hit a bad golf shot and be fine. Do both? Take your L, limit the damage, and move on to the next hole.

You just can't do the same thing again on the very next shot.

Spieth combined his poor execution of a bad plan off the tee with the same after taking his drop. In what was likely a mildly panicked and reactionary attempt to keep his grasps on the lead by salvaging bogey, Spieth played his third using his point of entry location rather than the drop area where he knew the exact yardage and had prepared from in practice rounds, assumedly. That's not a good decision, but again, golf doesn't necessitate always having sound decision-making. Good things can happen from dumb shots. You can, in theory, hole it and make par.

You can also chunk it into the drink and effectively eject yourself from competition.

If this were another player more apt to such implosions, such as guys named Bubba or Phil or Sergio or whatever, it wouldn't be as remarkable. They are freewheeling risk-takers that have a knack for the spectacular, but the bloodletting can come quick.

At just 22 years of age, it'd be foolish to assume we've seen enough of a sample size of Jordan Spieth to fully understand his nuances as a player as much as one can from the outside. But the body of evidence would indicate that such an attempt to pull out something miraculous against his best judgment is remarkably Unspieth. And it's a stark contrast from the slow, methodical Spieth that admittedly battled his swing all week.

And right after the round, Spieth was back to his cerebral, analytical self. "I just didn’t take that extra deep breath," he said about his tee ball. 'And I remember just getting over the ball thinking I am just going to hit a little cut to the hole and that’s what I did in 2014 and it cost me the tournament then too. It was the right club. It was just the wrong shot. I was more comfortable hitting a draw with my irons, and I knew that, every time I had played fades this week, that shot kind of came out."

He screwed up, and he was well-aware of at least the beginning of the why. That's why despite the decision, this doesn't need to turn into a referendum on Spieth, or his career trajectory, or his moxie. It will, and someone else with a talk show or a column will openly wonder if well, maybe Spieth's a little bit of a choker and cite the 2014 & 2016 Masters as evidence. Sometimes good and smart players do dumb and bad things. Golf is hard as hell, and for every star it creates, it breaks hundreds of others. Spieth hit two bad shots, consecutively, and allowed a small mistake to snowball into a big one. If it repeats itself in coming majors, we'll discuss it. Right now it's wasted breath. Great players lose major tournaments. Jack Nicklaus did it quite a bit, if you remember.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There's an upshot to all this, too. Spieth was two swings away from winning another major championship with what he called his "B-minus game." Few people really expected him to win here heading into the week. He probably didn't. I openly wondered if he'd miss the cut, because I'm horribly dumb and get horribly caught up with "form" and "how a player's hitting it." Actually hitting the golf ball well seems to no longer be a prerequisite for Jordan Spieth to contend in major golf tournaments, and that should scare the hell out of the rest of the Tour.

Don't be confused, this one will hurt. With his swing in a less-than-ideal spot and reeling from his self-inflicted defeat, the game's brightest young star now faces a crossroads. And in the immediate aftermath, he's speaking like a broken man. "At one point I told Mike, 'Buddy, it seems like we're collapsing.' Big picture, this one will hurt. It will take a while."

That kind of on-course thinking and the decision-making surrounding it was incredibly Unspieth. Unless it becomes a trend, we won't remember this as a turning point in the career of the game's brightest young star.

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Watch Ernie Els' putting disaster from six feet out

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