Heading into Masters week, I asked our JC Golf PGA professionals why the tradition at Augusta National is so special. They spoke of the great finishes and historic performances by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

They also spoke of Greg Norman and his ultimate collapse in 1996. It appears now they can add Jordan Spieth in the 80th Masters to that painful list.

Within a span of less than an hour, the 22-year-old from Texas let a commanding five-shot lead slip away with just nine holes to play by going bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey. Hero to zero in a blink of an eye.

“This one will hurt,” a stunned Spieth told reporters after the nightmare ended. “It will take a while.”

The debacle really had to be seen to be believed. Even then it was hard to believe. In reality, it was surreal.

Hitting into the water on No. 12 was one thing. But doing it again by chunking his next shot into Rae’s Creek like a 25-handicapper? That was simply unfathomable for a guy who seemed destined to defend his Masters title. After all, he had held the lead after each of his last seven rounds at Augusta National dating back to last year.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to Spieth, who already has six career wins, including two majors under his belt.

But if you stop and think about it, this is golf. I remind myself that it’s the cruelest game on earth, the one endeavor that is impossible to master. It’s a game about managing defeat more than celebrating victory.

Should we be so surprised?

Oaks North head pro Lloyd Porter may have said it best about the Masters: “The drama is always with the best players.”

He said this a week before Spieth’s calamity ensued. He was right then. And he’s right now.

The golf gods giveth. And the golf gods taketh away.

Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.