Another great ending to the Masters. I wonder if today, sitting around the well-pledged libraries of the clubhouse if the members are just congratulating themselves? Someone takes a sip of Scotch, gazes lovingly at a life-sized oil painting of Bobby Jones and says, “We run the perfect golf tournament.” It’d be hard to argue. We’re on a run of years now with scintillating finishes and memorable shots and it’s all happened without Tiger Woods sliding into his 5th green jacket. For a sport that seems to be reliant on individual star power, the Masters and Augusta National pull themselves above that level most years.
What I’ll take away from the event this year was the quality of the golf of the playoff. My Masters’ playoff memories include Scott “Choke” Hoch, Len Mattiace making a thousand on 10, Ray Floyd splashing down on 11, Kenny Perry squandering his chance at history and of course, Bubba’s awful tee shot before, “THE HOOK.” The Masters makes people choke. Jason Day all but admitted it in his post-round comments. The playoff is even worse. Perhaps this is why a Masters sudden death playoff has never extended beyond two holes. You either see something miraculous, or someone gives it away.
If you want to be picky, I suppose you could criticize the shots Scott and Angel Cabrera hit into 18 on the first playoff hole, but that would ignore the inherent difficulty of that shot. And then Cabrera nearly holed his chip, Scott made a nervy 3-footer and they were off to the 10th. Cabrera’s monster iron off the 10th tee was something from another era. Thirty years ago professional golfers carried 2-irons to “get the ball in play,” and now they’re practically extinct. Whatever souped up driving iron Cabrera hit in the playoff was something to behold. Of course, his putt ended up teasing the edge like Oosthuizen’s last year, but there was no choke in Cabrera. When the guy shows up–he’s there to stay.
And, Adam Scott has always been a great ball-striker. He’s the kind of guy who would make a 2-handicap quit the game if they had to hit balls next to him on the range every day. We’ve been hearing, “if the guy could ever make some putts,” for years. Last year, when Scott gave away the Open Championship you had to wonder if the cumulative impact of his missed putts was starting to take hold on the rest of his game (Sergio-itis). But, Scott found the putting stroke late Sunday and made two of the more memorable putts in Masters’ history, the first of which, I thought he had no chance to make.
I’ve always had Scott in the category of guys who I thought could eventually get a major (Hey, I picked him 3rd–not bad?). It’s a group populated by guys like Dustin Johnson. Eventually, these guys are just too good to not put it together for one week. Greg Norman was the most snake bit player in the history of the majors and he gave away plenty too, but he still went out of his mind a couple of times and won the Open twice. One of these days, Dustin will get so far out in front that he can’t blow it, or he’ll lip-in a crucial putt when he needs it, like Scott did on Sunday. These guys are too talented to not win a major, where as players like Lee Westwood and Luke Donald–you wonder.
I’m sure it’s a relief for Scott this morning to be free of “the label.” He’s been a guy who has been pigeon-holed his entire career. First, he was the guy with Tiger’s swing–an automatic and unfair heir apparent. Since then, he’s been replaced by an even younger group of Australian golfers and become the favorite of women who are stuck on the couch watching golf. An honorable distinction, but I doubt something Scott aspired to. Now, he’s a major champion. He’s a guy that could have, should have won 2 of the last three majors. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes it from here.
Some other things of note…
Disappointing Performance by the Top of the World:
Rory and Luke Donald were never factors, Tiger got lost in controversy and didn’t meet his own standards and I’m not sure if Phil Mickelson even played the event. Did anyone see him? It’s strange to me how someone like Mickelson can have a week like he did. The guy has owned the course in the past. You’re telling me Fred Couples (god that he is) can get around with relative ease for 3 of 4 rounds, can play in the last group Saturday and end up 13th at 53 years old and Phil someone with a (better?) set of similar skills and a decade younger finishes with 77-76-73? I don’t get it.
Speaking of the Tiger Rules Controversy:
First, I don’t believe that Tiger intentionally took a bad drop. He knows that every eye is on him and he would have never admitted to it in his interview after the round. In fact, I wonder if as those words were coming out of Tiger’s mouth if he didn’t have an alarm go off in his subconscious saying, “OH Fudgesicle.” I think he was flustered, or enraged by that terrible break and made one of the bigger bonehead moves you’ll ever see. Joe LaCava failed miserably here too. There’s really no question Tiger took a bad drop, the question is whether he should have been disqualified. Prior to a rule change a couple of years ago, Tiger would have been out, but a new rules allows the DQ to be waived under “exceptional circumstances.” That’s quite vague wording for a rule, but that’s golf’s style. I don’t know that Tiger’s free pass falls in line with the spirit of the rule, but you can certainly shoe horn it in there. Bottom line, he didn’t win anyway, and we’ll forget about it soon enough.
I think they’ve found a nice balance in the setup at Augusta. I looked at scores on Friday and wondered how hard they could make the course if they wanted to…I’m quite certain with some moderate changes +10 would win. But, the balance they seem to be at now is that we’re seeing less eagles and maybe fewer “runs,” but the course is still vulnerable to a hot back nine, you simply have to be playing near perfect golf to take advantage. So, a guy like Scott who is closing well can still make the needed birdies, while someone like Brandt Snedeker, who is leaking oil, is quickly shuffled toward the back of the pack. It may not be perfect, but it’s working for me.
That it for now–See you at Merion!