Schwartzel Emerges from the Pig Pile.

Can You Pick Schwartzel out of a One-Man Line Up?

There’s really no substitute for the Masters.  U.S. Opens can produce a lot of bogeys, but you won’t often see one where a dozen guys have a legitimate chance to win on Sunday afternoon.  After Rory McIlroy tripled the 10th by way of a couple of member cabins, the tournament was a wide-open, 9-hole shootout.  It was Tiger Woods who stole the show early, surging into a tie for the lead despite some costly short misses.  Tiger’s 67 could have been a few shots better, and those were the shots that kept him from really being in contention when the last 1/2 hour played out.

The thing about the Masters is that is very easy to get ahead of yourself.  When Tiger threw that dart into 15 and it looked like he was going to take the outright lead, it’s easy to forget there were still a handful of golfers behind him with several birdie holes left to play.  Augusta National sets up for back nine runs, and so often times it matters more how many holes you have left rather than what your score might be.  Jason Day, for example, just ran out of holes.  The clutch putts that Adam Scott holed ended up not being enough, because Schwartzel had those holes left behind him and he birdied the last four to win by two.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the failure of Rory McIlroy to maintain the form he had for the first three days.  McIlroy’s demise was probably worse than Kenny Perry’s bogey-bogey into playoff loss from a couple of years ago, but certainly can’t rank with Greg Norman’s implosion.  Rory has work to do to accumulate that level of pain.  Still though, when he rope hooked one into the water on the 13th tee after falling all the way back to 5-under, the resulting sight was one the saddest I’ve seen on a golf course in recent years.  I’ve said all along that these guys have to close to merit the hype, and it is interesting to me that the guys closing recently, guys like Schwartzel and Oosthuizen don’t have the pedigree of a McIlory or Dustin Johnson.

We hear a lot about learning experiences.  I’m sure Rory will say he wants to use this as a positive in some way.  It’s what Johnson parroted after his two major letdowns last year, but the golf world is so deep in talent right now, I wonder if you can have these learning experiences?  Look at Adam Scott.  He was a player hyped like McIlroy, it was assumed he’d have multiple majors by now, but Sunday (at 30 years of age) was his first real look.  He played well this time, but still didn’t convert.  When will his next chance be?  With a rabid pack of forty or fifty guys that look like they can win majors, it’s hard to see anyone piling up wins, let alone golden opportunities.  If you want to be a multiple major champion, your learning experiences are probably going to have to come on a different stage.

And, that is the point that might be Tiger’s biggest stumbling block to getting to 18 or 19 Majors.  For the rest of his prime (or possible winning years) how many times will there be someone from the pack like Schwartzel or Oosthuizen that just catches fire?  It’s hard to beat everyone, every single week and Tiger having five more of those weeks, when he hasn’t won in over a year, seems unlikely.  It was almost vintage Woods on Sunday.  There was the fury in the game, the confidence, the ridiculous shots that so few can pull off, but there were 3 or 4 putts that didn’t drop.  Add those to the ones he missed earlier in the week and you have your story.  It was a nice performance by Tiger, one that makes me think he will win somewhere this year, but I doubt it will be the US Open and his next best chance to win a major will probably be this year’s PGA Championship.

The other big takeaway from this tournament has to be how global the game is becoming.  Every continent was represented on the leader board, though at times the Americans were sorely lacking.  The Americans who ended up finishing the highest (Woods, Bo Van Pelt and Fred Couples) are hardly young guns.  I do have to give Fred a shout out for tying 16th at 51 with a totally shot back.  If golf was measured in quality starts, Fred might be the king of Augusta. But Champions Tour players aside, you have to wonder where the young Americans were.  Kim, Johnson, Watney, Bubba, Kuchar, Fowler.  Do you see any of these kids winning a big one any time soon, or are Tiger and Phil still the U.S’s best shot?

It was a hell of an afternoon of golf viewing and those who complain about Tiger getting too much coverage, or the media being fixated on him, I’m sure all you’ll have to do is check the ratings, or ask some non-golf fans you know if they were tuned in.  I think I set a personal record for text messages on Sunday afternoon–a lot coming from people who very rarely say peep about golf, and that’s the Tiger effect.  This was more exciting because he was around, and his run might have been the best part of the afternoon.  He came up short, though, and now we have to get accustomed to another major champion who is largely unfamiliar to most American fans.

Rory, You Playing Golf, Or Hide-And-Go-Seek With the Neighbors?


16 thoughts on “Schwartzel Emerges from the Pig Pile.

  1. I think without Tiger, this Masters finishes completely differently. With McIlroy running his mouth about not understanding the intimidating Tiger of the past, he got a big ol’ heaping of it today. Watching it, I think McIlroy’s collapse was directly tied to Woods surge on the front. He just kept piling on the pressure and Rory felt he had to press to run away and hide and his game just got worse. With Tiger out and creating that crack, i think all the guys behind Tiger basically had a ton of pressure relieved, since he was in front they didn’t feel his pressure necessarily, and once he was in the clubhouse they were all in a groove with no “tiger’s lurking” thoughts. That was just a random line of thinking i was having watching it.

  2. I think Rory had the most to lose by losing to Tiger because of the quotes and stories.

    I think Tiger’s bogey on 12 was huge. I think it probably relaxed some people, they didn’t realize how close he was to eagle on 15, etc. So, there might have been a sigh of relief that he wasn’t going to shoot 62 or 63.

    Rory was shaky all day with the putter, the tee shot on 10 just set it all in motion, train wreck city.

  3. yeah, last year was cooler for q. like a soap opera…with clubs instead of weapons. yo….rory looks afraid of the ball? q

  4. Great post man. What an amazing Masters, one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life for sure. It was painful to see Rory McIlroy collapse in the manner that he did, especially for such a young kid to go through something like that wasn’t a pretty site. However, it once again was a little frustrating to see another supposed great talent to falter down the stretch of a major tournament and even though it wasn’t surprising to see I would like to see someone step up every now and then on a consistent basis. At this point in time I’m not sure whether I see McIlroy being the guy but at least it opened the door for another guy to step up in Schwartzel who did a tremendous job on Sunday. There were so many guys in contention that it was just fun to sit back and watch the action unfold. Golf is back in a big way and the Masters again helping show why April is the best sports month of the year.

  5. I really did feel sorry for Rory there. But at least he gave me a picture of what it would look like if I played the 10th hole at Augusta. And definitely a picture on the 12th green of what I would look like putting at Augusta.

    I wasn’t able to sell my dad on the idea that Schwartzel winning was like watching Els winning his first major. My dad kept referring to him as “Schnitzel” and was comparing him to Todd Hamilton. A bit harsh, but he will have to back this up to prove he is more like Els than like Trevor Immelman.

    I was impressed by how many guys were making runs at the lead.

  6. Yeah, Tiger’s bogey helped, and was compounded missing the eagle putt. I think him going out at the time he did, with so many groups behind him, left the door open. Once the “scoring holes”
    were behind him on the back nine, you knew the door was open and there was nothing he could do about it, so the guys behind him had a weight lifted.

    Still kind of amazing to think that he missed a ton of short putts, 3 putted half a dozen times, and still was that close to winning.

  7. On the runs, it was a perfect scoring day. Not a breath of wind. A bunch of pins in low areas. 14, 16, 18 even. 7 too. Plus the 4 par fives.

    The putting has been the thing with Tiger at the Masters for a while. It’s been 6 years since he won now, and the first four he was on great form and the putter held him back some. It was all magnified yesterday.

    Don’t know what will become of Schwartzel. Like I said, I think it is going to be really hard to win multiple majors.

    If you asked me who the next guy to get 3 would be, of the guys that have 0 or 1, I wouldn’t know who to pick. Going into the week, I think 9 of 10 people say Kaymer, but he can’t even make a cut at Augusta and seems a little I don’t know Duval-like in his reaction to being number 1.

  8. great Masters, what more is there to say. Guys were going for shots, making putts..unlike a lot of times where someone wins cause the other guys bogey it up on the last holes.

    in baseball news, i just read something about payroll this morning, and i guess i kinda already knew this in general terms but its more shocking when you see it specifically. The total payroll of pittsburgh, cleveland, san diego, kansas city, and tampa bay = 217 mill and the total payroll of the yankess = 203 mill that seems pretty fair!

    what’s the phils payroll this year?

  9. yeah, it was nice that there were plenty of people out there making birdies when rory took the pipe.

    if he had buckled and someone had snuck in at 10 under or something, it wouldn’t have been too impressive.

    the phillies payroll is about 170 million i think, so no room to complain there.

  10. so these payrolls are just based off the revenues the teams bring in aka what they can afford or want to pay… and then if the teams payroll is over a certain # they have to pay a tax on that higher amount? is that basically how it works? has the yankess payroll been even higher in the past?

    i wonder if kansas city pays more to maintain their water fall in the outfield than they pay some of their players?

  11. yeah, there is no league wide revenue source like with the NFL, so the individual markets have their own tv deal, etc. the yankees obviously dominate there and that is where a lot of their money comes from. but, the phillies do all right in that regard too. a smaller percentage becomes attendance and merch sales.

    the smaller teams, the majority of them, still are making money, it’s just on a much smaller scale. There was some controversy last year when some documents got released that made it appear that some of the smaller teams were basically surviving on the luxury tax money and putting everything else into their pockets.

    I think tampa is probably the only franchise that isn’t really viable, or a candidate for contraction. Although, if you cut one team, you have to cut a second. my choice would be arizona.

    i doubt the Yankees have been much higher than this, just because it’s been increasing over time, so those deals they signed a couple winters ago (tex, burnett, and c.c) i think put them over the 200 million mark where they’ve been hovering.

  12. Just to be clear, I really didn’t feel truly sorry for Rory until somewhere around his third or fourth putt on 12. And then for sure by the tee shot on 13 where he was just a broken soul. I guess that means I was rooting for him to finish at about +4 on the day, but beyond that, I was sorry for him.

    An interesting point about the limited opportunities to win a major. I was thinking that the only thing you can take away from this is the Michael Jordan quote about failing over and over again in life as the key to success. (Which in a lot of ways isn’t all that different than basic horseface theory in my mind).

    But, part of converting on the wins is putting yourself in position to win them on Sunday. I don’t think you can say that Adam Scott has been putting himself in that position–his case seems to me to be more about not living up to talent hype in terms of putting himself in contention, as opposed to not pulling out the wins when in contention. Westwood fits that category more to me.

    To bring it back around to Rory, I think there is a distinction between what happened at St. Andrews (a failure to put himself in contention to win) and what happened here (a failure to convert once in contention). If that makes any sense?

  13. i agree there is a distinction between someone like Scott and Westwood.

    Rory led after the first day at St Andrews and then imploded in the wind. It was more like he got going bad in the wind (which happened to a few players that day) and packed it in.

    I’m not sure we can draw a connection to Michael Jordan’s experiences. He had his taste of failures, but it’s still a team sport. I don’t think you can compare the Pistons beating the Bulls to what Rory went through on his own, or what Greg Norman did.

    Golf is brutal and aside from a few born closers, guys like Nicklaus and Tiger and I’m sure some of the older guys…

    Anyway, I think Rory could have a nice career, he might win a few majors even, but I would guess that he won’t become a transcendent player.

    People make a big deal out of Rory being 21. Well, Nicklaus was a 20 year old amateur in 1960 playing the US Open. He’s paired the final 36 holes with Ben F’Ing Hogan, and trying to out duel Palmer. He didn’t close it out, but he finished 2nd and won 2 years later. Now, 1960 hype can’t compare to 2011 hype, but Rory has been on the World stage for 3 years now. Nicklaus was a student at Ohio State.

    Rory’s spot on Sunday was as close to anything as we’ve seen as Tiger in ’97. Is there any way Tiger shoots 80 in that position ever? At any age? It’s not happening. He obliterates the field.

    so, while I think you can learn a bit from losing and sometimes guys need to fail first, I think in golf it is relative.

    I watched all those highlight videos of Nicklaus this week and its amazing to listen to the other pros talk about him. They speak as if they can’t comprehend how he handled or embraced the pressure.

  14. I think it’s a mentality that few golfers have bc it seems to belie the game in general. Tiger wants to destroy everyone, run away and hide, put people to shame, if he had a chance at eagle on 18 leading the field in the final group, he’d pull out the 3 wood no matter how dicey (exaggerating). Meanwhile, golf is a “gentleman’s game”, a thinking game, and so growing up i don’t think a lot of these guys learn the killer instinct b/c golf is so inner focused and polite.

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