APRIL 9, 2012
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | It always works,
doesn’t it? What they’ve got going at
Augusta National, at The Masters – and
we’ll cut to the chase and cut out the
complaints – somehow always produces a sporting event that seems more
than a mere golf tournament. Mainly
because as proved once more it isn’t a
mere golf tournament.
It’s a festival, a fascinating concoction of flowery prose (this year in lieu
of flowers, since the azaleas bloomed a
week early) high hopes and the greatest drama this side of the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford.
No matter what we think will happen
(that Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy battle
did occur, but for 40th place) what
the experts predict will happen (Phil
Mickelson was a lock starting Sunday
morning, right?) something unusual
Such as Louis Oosthuizen holing a
253-yard 4-iron for the first double-eagle
on the second hole in 76 years of Masters
(and the first televised one ever). Such as
Bubba Watson coming from four shots
behind Oosthuizen and then beating him
on the second extra hole.
You know that lyric from Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate,” “ ... you cross your
fingers and hold your heart.” That’s
the way it is every April at Augusta,
where inevitably there’s controversy, an
overwhelming demand for tickets (in the
vernacular, patron badges) and competition that has all asking what’s next.
One day, you have 52-year-old Fred
Couples (here we will not refer to a
man in his sixth decade as “Freddie”)
tied for the lead and a 48-year-old,
pot-bellied, pony-tailed, gray-goateed
Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, a few
shots back. Another day, you have guys
(Adam Scott and Bo Van Pelt) making
holes-in-one as if they’re on a miniature golf course – except they were on
Augusta National’s difficult 16th hole
where years ago the late Seve Ballesteros once four-putted. Van Pelt tied the
final-round, all-time low of 64, but it
got him only to 1-under par.
This was the Masters Sergio Garcia told the Spanish media, “I am not
capable of winning a major,” and so far
he hasn’t won one. The Masters where
Tiger shot his worst Augusta total since
he turned pro, a 5-over 293, and in
the process, Day 2, kicked his club in
anger, which brought about an apology.
The Masters Lee Westwood again tied
for third and thus set a record of sorts.
No one who has failed to win a major
has finished in the top three places as
many times as Westwood, seven. The
Masters that Mickelson got up at
dawn’s early light Thursday morning
so, even though his
first-day tee time
was not until 1:53
p.m. EDT, he could
watch the great ones,
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, hit the
traditional opening shots.
But most of all this was The Masters
that 32-year-old Gerry Watson Jr., “
Bubba” to all the world, fulfilled his promise
as one of America’s top young golfers.
He always hits balls out of sight. He
always buttons the top button of his golf
shirts. He occasionally teased us, reaching the playoff of the confused 2010 PGA
Championship at Whistling Straits (the
tournament Dustin Johnson either was
or was not in a hazard), Watson reaching another playoff, but losing to Martin
Bubba so wanted to take that as a
farewell present to his father, who had
throat cancer and died two months
later. He couldn’t, but now he has.
Three shots behind was Oosthuizen,
the South African who won the 2010
British Open at St. Andrews. After the
double-eagle, he was
in the lead. Watson
worked his way
into a tie,
2012 Bubba Watson (par) def. Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole.
2009 Angel Cabrera (par) def. Kenny
Perry on second playoff hole (Chad
Campbell eliminated on the first).
2005 Tiger Woods (birdie) def. Chris
DiMarco on the first playoff hole.
2003 Mike Weir (bogey) def. Len Mattiace
on the first playoff hole.
1990 Nick Faldo (par) def. Raymond Floyd
on the second playoff hole.
1989 Faldo (birdie) def. Scott Hoch on the
second playoff hole.
1987 Larry Mize (birdie) def. Greg Norman on the second playoff hole
(Seve Ballesteros was eliminated on
the first hole).
1982 Craig Stadler (par) def. Dan Pohl on
the first playoff hole.
1979 Fuzzy Zoeller (birdie) def. Ed Sneed
and Tom Watson on the second play-off hole.
1970 Billy Casper def. Gene Littler, 69-74.
1966 Jack Nicklaus (70) def. Tommy
Jacobs (72) and Gay Brewer (78).
1962 Arnold Palmer (68) def. Gary Player
(71) and Dow Fisterwald (77).
1954 Sam Snead (70) def. Ben Hogan (71).
1942 Byron Nelson (69) def. Hogan (70).
1935 Gene Sarazen (144) def. Craig Wood
and the two finished at 10-under-par
278, two shots ahead of Mickelson,
Westwood, Peter Hanson and Matt
The Masters starts playoffs at 18, and
Oosthuizen and Watson both had birdie
putts that didn’t drop. On to the second
extra hole, the 495-yard downhill 10th.
Watson hit one to the right, 20 yards deep
into those pines. Oosthuizen pulled out
his 3-wood but also went into the trees.
Bubba, miracle man, hit a wedge through
an opening onto the green. Oosthuizen,
whose miracle was the double-eagle,
missed the green. Bogey. Bye-bye.
Watson reached for his tap-in par
and began to tear up. His mother,
Molly, rushed in for a family scene full
of joy and sadness. “I never got this far
in my dreams,” Watson sobbed. “I can’t
really say it’s a dream come true. I
don’t even know what happened on the
back nine. I know I made a bogey on 12
and then birdied four holes in a row.”
What else does he need to know?
Or we need to know? His wife, Angie,
“This golf course,” said Watson
when asked what it is about Augusta
that annually creates the beauty and
bedlam inherent in The Masters, “is
a tough golf course but a good golf
course. This course just lays it out
there for excitement.”
And the guys who play it, whether
well or not so well, lay it all on the line.
Everything should give us this much joy.
Call it Masterful.