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Posts Tagged ‘The Masters’

Bubba Watson Wins at Augusta!

PGATour.com

2:23 PM.  It is the final day of The Masters – Sunday – and Phil is in the final group, one behind Peter Hanson.  Hanson is unproven in this position, while each of the three wins Phil has had at The Masters has come as a member of the final twosome on Sunday and in each case he shot no worse than 69.  It is a beautiful day at Augusta today and Phil is on the practice green awaiting his tee-time at 2:40 – seventeen minutes from now.  There are players within reach of the -9 total Hanson currently holds.  Mahan, Harrington, Westwood, Kuchar, Bubba Watson, and Oosthuizen are lurking and trying to make a move…it may take some help from Hansen and Phil.

2:55 PM.  Boy was I wrong that it would take some help from Hanson and Phil…Oosthuizen just double eagled the second hole to go to 10 under!!  It was one of the most perfect shots I have ever seen.  It has changed the complexion of the tournament in a single shot.

3:28 PM.  Phil holds on to 8 under par through the third hole, Hanson drops a second shot to go to 7 under, and Oosthuizen drops a shot on the fourth hole.

3:41 PM.  Watching Phil fall apart on the fourth hole.  He hit his tee shot left off the stands and into the bamboo and finally in with a triple bogey 6 taking him to 5 under par.

7:35 PM.  I couldn’t make any entries until now, I couldn’t pull away from viewing the tournament long enough.  Bubba is in tears after tapping in a 6 inch putt for par and the win on the second playoff hole (number 10) with Louis Oosthuizen.  Louis played near flawless golf, but could not reach the green on the final playoff hole from 235 yards after hitting trees on his drive.  Bubba hit an amazing hooking wedge from the trees right of the fairway from 155 yards to about 15 feet.  The new father of a two week old adopted son, he shed tears even as he was pulling the ball from the hole.  He was met on the green by his mother and his pals, Rickey Fowler and Ben Crane.

I was glued to the television during this final round.  My poor dogs only got a hurried walk because my wife had to get back to watch.  Matt Kuchar made a valiant run, but fell short at 8 under.  Phil made the strokes back he lost on his triple bogey on number four, but it was not enough as he finished at 8 under.  And, Peter Hanson hung in there shooting 1 over par today to also tie at 8 under par for the tournament.

Today Bubba out-“Phil-ed” Phil.  He is a swashbuckler on the course, with Seve-like imagination and the heart of a lion.  It is great to see him win the green jacket.

Darkness and Light

The Masters is magical.  The Augusta National Golf Club always has their course in pristine condition for Mr. Jones’ grand old tournament.  The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom and are gorgeous against the dark green hues of Georgia pines and freshly leafed deciduous trees and the closely mown fairways and putting greens.  The club membership rules the media with an iron fist, allowing only a certain number of minutes of advertising during each hour of telecasting.  The media adores the venue as they provide grand music on intros and exits and creative graphics and flowery words from color commentators, former players, and past champions.  Fans migrate to this special shining place in Georgia every year, and while it costs a mortgage payment to attend, once there the sites are profound, the food and drink is famously delicious and inexpensive, and the access to golf’s great past and present is awesome for the crowd who gather outside of the ropes.  It is golf’s Mecca.

But, as we stroll through the heavenly gates of this paradise and absorb the intended greatness and beauty we see an occasional dark smoky shadow pass through as profanity and ill-behavior come to the fore.  We watch in awe and wonder as one of the greatest golfers of all time goes to battle with the golf course, then wretch back instantly in revulsion when this same golfer spits a venomous God Damn It or throws his club and kicks it with disgust!  And we wonder, “Was I the only one to hear that? Was I the only one to see that?” as the commentators, former players, and past champions go on as if nothing happened.  Like a rotten seed in a bowl of rice, this warrior’s behavior belies the acts of a knight doing battle.  It is more recognizable as the rants of a frustrated toddler.  How do we cheer for this knight, rising from the depths of personal shame?  How do we enjoy his moments of brilliance when they are tainted with a continuing color of vulgarity and offensiveness?  We want to so badly, but he poisons his own well of greatness.  He is searching, that is clear.  It is not his golf swing that needs repair, but his soul.  The swing coaches of the world cannot help, others watching his motion cannot comment, he must look through his image in the mirror and find the real problems and seek to repair them.

Like King Arthur, we have come to both love and hate this bright knight Lancelot.  We abhor the darkness yet empathize and remain optimistic for his return to greatness and purity.

There are other dark clouds that waft around and through this mecca as well, they are waning, but still present and will be the subject of later discourse.

Rory McIlroy Wins 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional

What a U.S. Open Weekend!

Rory McIlroy at 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy at 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy wins the U.S. Open,  his first major, in a storm of scoring on a weakened, yet still long Congressional Country Club golf course. As I watched Rory throughout the tournament I was impressed with his poise and patience, not only on the course, but off as well. I can only imagine how many times he has answered the questions regarding his Masters back nine fall a few weeks before. Even Bob Costas’ ill-timed inappropriate question about The Masters during the championship award ceremony did not phase Rory, but who would have blamed him if it did? (Come on Bob, save those questions for the post tournament press conference!) But Rory has grown up in preparation for this moment. He has proven to be gracious in losing, and now gracious in winning. He is delightful to watch.

A Vulnerable U.S. Open Golf Course

The course was vulnerable this week. With the rough down somewhat in anticipation for hard and fast greens and then rains softening the greens during the tournament, the course was ripe for better than normal U.S. Open scoring…and there was better than normal U.S. Open scoring. Not taking anything away from Rory’s performance as he did lap the field, but there were lots of players under par (20 including Rory). Also, an accomplishment of very few in past, he was not the only player to shoot all four rounds under par – he was joined by Robert Garrigus (T3), although Rory did so with all 4 in the 60’s (65/66/68/69). Garrigus shot 70 3 times making a tough clutch par putt on 18 to make it happen.

Who Showed at the U.S. Open & Who Didn’t

Jason Day once again showed brilliance in a major finishing alone in second. We saw some small glimpses of the Sergio of old. Chappel and Garrigus were the lone Americans in the top 10 at 6 under par, T3 along with Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood. Where was Phil, Luke and Martin?  The amateur Patrick Cantlay (pictured behind Rory), an incoming 19 year old sophomore at UCLA and the world’s number one amateur, did spectacularly carding an even par score for the tournament and taking low amateur honors.  His next amateur competitor was Russell Henley, a Georgia Bulldog, finishing at 4 over par.

U.S. Open Coverage

It was an interesting dynamic to watch the U.S. Open as broadcasts switched from ESPN to NBC then to ESPN again on Thursday and Friday. What a dichotomy of announcers and styles! I also listened to part on Sirius/XM ESPN. NBC televised the Saturday and Sunday rounds and we got our fill of Johnny Miller. I have to say, I would much rather watch and listen to Curtis Strange (he was broadcasting on radio) than Miller. Miller seemed to be manufacturing scenarios to make it more “interesting.” He was a little out of character I think in his incessant praise of McIlroy’s swing. Usually he will find something wrong somewhere.

What was NBC thinking when they edited out “under God” from the American pledge of allegiance in their tribute to American patriotism? Does that strike anyone else as a strange juxtaposition, to edit a pledge in a tribute to patriotism?! Did they think that most people hadn’t said it in so long that no one would remember it and it would just pass? The apology was lame. As if they simply mistakenly edited out the words. There is no doubt in my mind that it was intentional. What arrogance! Whoever made that decision needs to be fired. We just don’t change the words to fit our agendas…

U.S. Open Repercussions?

A thought came to me that maybe this is just the kind of motivation to bring Tiger out of his funk. Sure, he has injury, but motivation is key to recovery. Doubters of this theory would say that surpassing Jack’s major total is enough motivation. Is it? Now, after the personal failures and the inner searching Tiger is obviously undertaking to find his new self? Maybe this surge of 20-something talent will bring out a hungry Tiger. Just a thought.

Thanks Rory for a great U.S. Open showing!  You’re a great Champion.

Embracing Technology

I listened to the final round of the Masters on my IPhone as I drove from my parents’ house in Kentucky back to Nashville, TN.  That’s right, I listened to it.  It was terrific, even just to listen to.  As Jim Nance would say, it was “one for the ages.”  It’s too bad that I couldn’t watch it, but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes and sitting in front of the TV on that Sunday was not on the agenda.  That said, in this information age, there are ways of keeping up with events such as this.  I used my recently acquired IPhone and the Masters APP that I found online with it.  I had video available, but of course, I could not watch and drive too.  It was satisfying to at least get to listen to the events as they unfolded.  It is not intuitively obvious or apparent that listening to golf could be satisfying, but it was.  Now, would it be the same for any tournament week to week?  I’m not sure but, I guess it would depend upon the circumstances.  Sirius thinks the idea has merit – there is a PGA station on channel 209.  I have Sirius radio, but my numbers don’t go up that high.  I am not quite sure why, I have to look into that one.  Anyway, there I was driving down the highway, my wife napping in the passenger seat and I am seeing in my mind the occurrences happening as described by the announcers.  I was excited and exhilarated by the coverage and the events as they unfolded.  I am glad I have embraced the technology.  I could not have done that with my blackberry.

There are lots of golf APPs available for the IPhone.  I also have a Golf News APP provided free by Golf.com.  It is an “RSS Feeder/Reader” and provides stories of the day.  There are GPS APPs, score keeping and handicapping APPS, swing analysis APPs, a Golf Channel APP, etc…Easily accessed and up to date, it’s a pleasure to be as connected as you want to be these days.  But…and it’s a big but…you can go overboard!  They used to call blackberry’s “crackberrys.”  Well, the IPhone is that times ten.  It is easy to lose time and the “outside world.”  I intend to keep the technology in perspective and use it to my advantage.  I like the access and the different APPs that are available.  Some are free and most are very affordable (under $5).

Masters Review

This year’s Masters was a “masters-piece!”  Aside from (and also because of) all the Tiger focus and distractions pre-tournament, it proved to be an event to remember.  The Tiger saga was interesting as we watched his tournament unfold, each day like a four-step program of reintroduction into the competitive world of PGA golf – surprise, elation, reality, and struggle.  He finished fourth and he was disappointed, and if not for a very sloppy three-putt from six feet on the 14th hole during the final day he would have tied for third.  Only he could be that disappointed after the layoff he had.  If only I could struggle so mightily and still shoot 3 under par…but he’s Tiger. 

Lee Westwood has finished in the top 3 of the last 3 majors.  He’ll win The British Open if he wins a major this year – so much for my predictions to date, but there it is.  The big surprise for me was the surge of Anthony Kim in the final round, the failures of my South Africa contingent to place, and Harrington and Furyk missing the cut so badly.  Freddie and Mr. Watson should be a surprised, but somehow they don’t feel that way. And we have, yet again, another possible Seve from Europe…the young  Italian 16 year old Benissimo Matteo.  Can he live up to the billing?  Obviously, only time will tell.  This youngster is about to turn pro so we’ll hear a lot more about him in the coming months, I hope.

Phil was masterful, and did it his way which made it all the more satisfying to watch.  No laying up for him!  When asked about the shot off the straw through the trees on 13 during the last round he shrugged and said, “It was only a 6 iron.”  Hmmmmm….

Comment on Tiger’s language.  I was watching the tournament when I thought I heard him drop the “F-Bomb” as clear as day after hitting an apparently abhorrent shot from the tee on the par 3 sixth hole…hit the green by the way.  Jim Nantz jumped all over it, as he should have.  Except, it really wasn’t the “F-Bomb,” it was another word that sounded like it.  In an ESPN replay, I heard it more clearly and he said, “Tiger Woods, you SUCK.”  SUCK accentuated louder than the other words, which is why it sounded like *UCK.  I really don’t consider telling yourself out loud that you suck as profanity.  Other than this instance, I don’t recall hearing any ‘profanity’ from him.  I do recall, however, hearing him say aloud Tigeeeer, in his best valley girl imitation.  That seemed a bit odd, but probably came out that way as a result of trying to control his words.  What is interesting is that previous to all his controversy, that “…you SUCK” event would probably have wafted by like a near silent popcorn fart, no one mention it and it will quickly go away.    We’ve seen the genteel segues occur before in tournaments when Tiger has cut loose an expletive because his ball didn’t do exactly as he desired.  But he has since lost his luster and now is seemingly free game.  In fact, we are poised to target the small lapses from his promised good behavior on the course.  Interesting.

The Masters

Alright!  No mas!  Enough already with the Tiger analysis at the Masters!!!  Yeah, I was guilty with my post a couple of weeks ago, but that was my one, we all get one.  Now it seems we haves an endless stream of supposition and conjecture about Tiger on all channels carrying the Masters.  Sure, he’s the world’s number one golfer and has popularity parity with Michael Jordon, but DAMN, can we talk about something else? 

I love this tournament – The Masters.  I love the “cleanliness” of it.  It seems pure to me.  It came from the vision of arguably the greatest golfer that ever lived – Bobby Jones.  OK, it has had its problems not the least of which is the color barrier, now shattered.  OK, it’s one of those rich good ole boy exclusive clubs.  OK.  They can run their club anyway they want as far as I am concerned.  If you don’t like it, make millions and start your own club. 

It’s an “exclusive” tournament.  That is some of the beauty of it.   Only the best get to play.  It is a major coveted by all who would be a professional golfer and those amateurs who have earned a spot to play.  No other tournament portends sudden failure and filets so quickly the promising winner like The Masters.  Greg Norman comes to mind.  We watch on the edge of our seats because of it.   The greens are so treacherous. There isn’t any rough to speak of, there doesn’t need to be.  Opportunity knocks even if you aren’t on the fairway.  The danger exists nearest the goal – the hole.  The wrong part of the green, too short or too much spin and you’re in Rae’s Creek, too long and you’re chipping downhill from the azaleas onto an unforgiving surface.  It is about the short game.  The touch and feel.  Even the shortest putt makes us hold our breath.  Watching a ball as is ekes out another quarter inch to fall in as a result of a 90 degree off-line chip is the magic.  Watching the heartbreak of missing the final putt to win – Kenny – is the magic.  Watching someone chip in to win from nowhere is the magic.  I love it.  (I’m sorry about Kenny – he’s a Kentucky boy like me.)

I am happy Jack is going to do the ceremonial thing with Arnie.  He was never going to do that, but now he is…good. 

I have Ernie doing well, high on my list to win.  Tiger is an outside chance –but haven’t we heard all of the possible scenarios about him twelve times over already?  Anthony Kim is coming off a win – is there a young gun out there who will challenge the established players?  The dark horse for me is Retief Goosen.  Something tells me they’ll be eating South African fare next year one way or another.

Is it Ernie’s Time?

Ernie Els is 40 and has never won the Masters.  He has come close – finishing second twice and has 6 Top Ten finishes.  However, he has missed the cut 4 times, 3 of those coming in the last 3 years.  We know he can win in tough conditions on the big stage.  He has 2 U.S. Open wins and a British Open win on his resume.  But his last major win, The Open played at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland, was 8 years ago.

He has momentum coming into the Masters this year.  He ended a 2-year win drought with his WGC-CA Championship win at Doral and followed that up last week with the win at Arnie’s Invitational at Bay Hill.  Attribute this sudden improvement to some hard work on the range following mediocre placing at the Honda Classic the week prior to
Doral.  Believe it or not, he has merely adjusted his ball position, moving it slightly back in his stance.  That and a few thousand balls later and he is apparently in a groove. 

His win at Doral was convincing.  His win at Bay Hill less so.  He seemed to have been ‘saved by the rain’ on Sunday as he was beginning to take a ride on the bogey train when the rains came.  He had doubled 13 and bogeyed 14 when play was suspended.  He scrambled his way to the win on Monday.  He had to really work for it after squandering a 5-shot lead going into 13 on Sunday.  While less convincing than Doral, it is a win none-the-less, and probably served to reinforce confidence in finding a way when it counts, albeit with some divine intervention on Sunday.

Ernie has 62 professional wins, and 8 of these on the PGA tour.  His experience on the stage and the momentum he has achieved these past few weeks puts his name back on the list of favorites for the Masters.  If he continues in his groove and his putting remains steady, he has a great chance for a green jacket.  Putting will be the key for Ernie at Augusta.

If what I think will happen happens with Tiger’s re-emergence, we will see some terrific drama unfold with the two of them on the weekend.  I hope so anyway…