Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The 2012 Masters Final Round Timeline

"Oh my God the 2000 Tiger is back!!!
Let's pick him ...let's pick him!!!"
Due to various fantasy leagues, Calcuttas and side bets,* I came into the Masters with a financial stake in 29 of the 95 players in the field highlighted by Tiger, Rory, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Jason Day.  In my one and done league, I'd had Phil locked-in alongside McIlroy since January. Then Tiger won at Bay Hill and I kept my cool like a 12 year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert and immediately put him in Phil's spot.  Suffice it to say that every putt Phil drained down the stretch on Saturday felt like a sand wedge to the shin.

During one of his many interviews aimed at proving he's a regular guy now, Tiger explained his mess of a swing this way: "I think short-game work might have crept into my takeaway of my full swing . . ."  To put that excuse into perspective, imagine you're sitting at the bar with about 20 guys who played that day and someone says, "I think short-game work might have crept into my takeaway of my full swing."  I don't care if that guy is a 2 handicap or a 20, if he uttered that excuse there would be a momentary pause followed by universal laughter and then at least ten minutes of his ass being mercilessly worn out to the point where it would start to get awkward. Then, for the rest of his life, it would be open season on him anytime he was seen practicing his short game . . . "don't hit too many chips Bobby, we don't want that snap hook to rear its ugly head again."

My other pick of the week, Mr. McIlroy exposed himself as well and reminded me why I went out of my way to avoid having to root for him all season. Look, if you want to suck-up to the crowd and hug Sergio when you're having a bad day that finds you 10 shots back with four holes to play on Sunday, be my guest. But to do it when you're 8 shots back with 24 holes to play is weak. At that point he was +2 and now we know he would have needed to shoot 12 under the rest of the way to make the playoff. That's 4 under on holes 13-18 on Saturday and a 64 on Sunday (which is what Bo Van Pelt shot so we know there was a 64 out there). It would have been tough and he would have had to grind his ass off but he's one of about five players in the world with the talent to pull it off. Instead he took the easy way out, started clowning around on Saturday, shot 76 on Sunday and faded to 40th where he ironically tied with Tiger. Good riddance.**

Apparently they're still using the
chairs from the "little" house.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, here are the players I still had in the mix - Peter Hanson (the classic Masters 3rd round leader with no chance in hell of winning), Kuchar (you do not want your money on a guy who smiles that much and says "oh dear" like he did when he thought he hit his shot in the water on Saturday), Padraig Harrington (we'll get to his putting . . . if you can call it that . . . later) and Hunter Mahan (too fat and happy from his two wins, cheerleader wife and the 19,000 square foot embassy he is building in Dallas to be taken seriously). Considering the talent laden leaderboard that almost assured us of a dramatic finish, I decided to do a final round timeline complete with real life Easter related interruptions. We are switching to present tense to remove any doubt that I wrote all of this in the moment.        

2:24 - I'm off to a late start because this is turning into one of those Easter Sunday's that will not end. I like three things in my holidays and Easter has none of them: (1) I want it to land on a weekday so I feel like I'm getting that day off, (2) I want a defining moment a la presents on Christmas morning, fireworks on the 4th of July and my 2nd Irish Car Bomb while watching the NFL conference championship games the day before MLK Day, and most importantly (3) I want a proverbial five o'clock whistle so I know when it's over like when the last present is opened, the grand finale of the fireworks display and my 5th Irish Car Bomb.***    

2:25 - HOLY CRAP Louis Oostuizen just made an albatross. That almost woke my dad up off the couch. I just hope we didn't witness the turning point of the tournament with 4+ hours left to go.

2:42 - And Louis makes a ridiculous par save on 3 to calm the nerves. Apparently people call him Shrek because of the gap in his teeth and his big ears. That description gets him halfway to the punchline of a joke you probably won't be able to tell at Augusta this time next year. (I'm not going to print that joke here but I gave you enough clues to find it).

"Oh no you di'int!!!"
2:57 - Peter Hanson taps in for his second shaky bogey on 3. He's headed for zero airtime on the back nine until he putts out on 18 to the tune of some sympathetic words from Jim Nantz. Also, I'm no Richard Blackwell, but I don't think he dresses right for his body type.

2:58 - Pardon me. I have to go set-up an Easter egg hunt.

3:34 - I'm back and, to buy some time, I hid those suckers so well they'll need a bloodhound and a machete to find them.

3:35 - Phil decides to try a high cut from 220 yards with a hard right to left wind. Maybe he forgot he was left-handed because that's a suicide mission. If he did, he got a brutal reminder when he discovered his ball buried in bamboo and pine straw that he had to shovel out twice right-handed just to get a clean look at the green. At least by not picking Phil this week, I am able to enjoy this particular moment. (There is something morally wrong with that).

3:42 - Crap . . . now I need to go video the Easter egg hunt I rigged for failure.

4:51 - OK I'm back, hopped-up on jelly beans and settled in for the back nine on Sunday. We've got about eight players circling each other in the ring - Oostuizen, Mickelson, Hanson, Bubba, Kuch, Westwood, Harrington and Poulter.  Let's just hope none of them pulls a Schwartzel and starts connecting with haymakers to take all of the drama out of this.

4:55 - Padraig just missed another putt from about ten feet on 12. You could almost see the thought cloud over his head . . . "I tink I moit need to troy the belly putter."

5:28 - Lee Westwood hit a brilliant second shot into the 15th green. My prediction, he misses the eagle putt, makes one more bogey down the stretch and loses by 2.

"Then why'd you tell me to
hit 8-iron in the first place
you stupid f--ing robot?!?"
5:29 - Oh my God what was that shot Hanson just hit on 12?  An 8-iron that went about 125 yards out and 30 yards right. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his brain started yelling "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!" at the top of his backswing because he had way too much club so he intentionally fouled it down the first base line to minimize the damage.

5:32 - Westwood just missed his umpteenth critical putt on the last nine of a major. Can we get another belly putter over here?

5:37 - Hanson just putted out for his bogey on 12 and dismissively flipped his ball into the water. This guy is really growing on me even if his man boobs are somewhat distracting.

5:41 - Paddy just pulled another putt on 14, tapped his putter on the ground and muttered, "fook."

5:43 - Good lord Shrek almost chipped-in for eagle on 13. This guy is really starting to piss me off.

5:48 - Hanson from 196 for his second shot on 13 and at some point on his downswing he just thought "don't shank it" and dumped it into the creek . . . and it just ricocheted backwards. That's the kind of break that should help you win the tournament.

5:49 - Phil just hit it to 20 feet on 13 and is poised to make another eagle on the hole he absolutely owns. I still feel like it's his tournament to lose.

5:51 - Paddy finally made a birdie putt on 15 . . . of course it was only after he left himself 6 feet following his horrendous first putt.

5:56 - Hanson "capitalizes" on his great bounce out of the creek with a half-hearted birdie attempt on 13 that's not even close. My horse is fading fast on the backstretch.

5:57 - KUCH JUST STUCK IT FROM 252 YARDS ON 15 . . . and Shrek just curled in another ridiculous par putt to suck the life right out of the moment for me. Grrrrrrrrr.

5:59 - Westwood with another missed opportunity on 17. This is what happens when you only work on your putting during drunken practice green contests with Darren Clarke and Ian Woosnam.

"No no no . . .  I said I need
help to STOP choking." 
6:00 - Right on cue, Paddy misses another birdie putt on 16. I like Paddy but his three major wins are more suspect than the two NBA titles the Houston Rockets won during Michael Jordan's "retirement."

6:02 - Bubba just put a little extra ass into his tee shot on 15 and Shrek followed him right down the middle. Assuming Kuch makes his eagle putt, it looks like it's down to those three and Phil.

6:05 - KUCH!!! (He made the eagle putt and is smiling like he just got his first . . . it is Easter, let's move on).

6:08 - I think half the spectators on the grounds are sitting around the 16th green. Kuch must be thinking the same thing because he just hit the worst Sunday tee shot I've seen on that hole since Greg Norman plunged one in the lake amidst his epic 1996 collapse. The guy just hit a laser from 252 yards on 15 and blew a short iron 30 yards right on 16. This game is brutal . . . on me.

6:12 - Bubba just hit one one if his flailing putts and left it short on 15. If Bubba could putt, he'd win five green jackets in the next ten years.

6:13 - Shrek drains another 10 footer . . . this one for birdie on 15. Don't think I can call him Shrek anymore. He's putting with some serious cojones.

6:14 - Westwood drains a clutch putt on 18 to get to 8 under and clinches what I'm sure will be his usual tie for third.

6:15 - My neck is killing me from swiveling my head from the TV to the computer. I need to do some Pilates before I try writing another one of these. Either that, or write it from one of those massage parlors out by the airport.
"Nice call Bones.  Where
were you back on No. 4?"

6:18 - Phil's tournament rests on this club choice from 222 yards on 15.

6:19 - Good choice.

6:24 - Bubba just made the putt of his life on 16 and appears to be very focused or in Bubba's case, borderline psychotic. He's actually staying down on his putts like he doesn't see fire ants charging at him from the hole.

6:25  - You know Phil doesn't have his good stuff today when he leaves the eagle putt short on 15 . . . and Bubba just jacked it left on 17. Not sure I like his chances against Oostuizein at this point.

6:27 - Apparently the pressure is a little greater when you're tied at Augusta with two holes to play as opposed to being up by 7 at the British Open because Louis just followed Bubba into the trees.

6:32 - Hanson sticks it close on 16.  He'll miss it because he's not ready to seize this kind of moment yet (that's a blatant attempt at a reverse jinx).

6:35 - Bubba almost takes charge with a birdie on 17. You could also say that Bubba almost gave away the tournament by blowing it 15 feet past on 17 but the hole got in the way.

6:36 - Hanson barely scares the hole on 16 with his birdie putt. I'm done. Might as well start rooting for Bubba.

Man I hope that guy at
least drew the charge call.
6:40 - Bubba just posterized the 18th hole Blake Griffin style including the stare down with a 320+ yard drive down the middle . . . and Louis answers.

6:44 - One of these guys is going to birdie 18. When was the last time we had two guys standing in the middle of the 18th fairway tied for the lead in a major? This drama almost makes up for the fact that I don't have either of these guys. I think the excitement may be causing me to overuse the word "guys."

6:47 - Not sure I've ever heard an Augusta crowd this raucous for a walk-up 18. It's got a little bit of a Phoenix Open feel at this point. The Bubba factor.

6:50 - Louis runs his birdie effort five feet by setting his putting stroke up for another gut check.

6:51 - So the Masters comes down to Bubba's putter . . . and a respectable effort but there was no way he was going to jam it in there and leave himself any kind of putt coming back.

"SEND IT IN LOUIS!!!"
6:52 - Bill Raftery just jumped off his couch and yelled "ONIONS!!!" as Louis drained that par putt.

6:59 - Phil misses going 4 for 4 on 18th hole birdies and loses by two with no bogeys and one triple on the card. Add another chapter to his legacy.

7:01 - Hanson finally makes a putt . . . to tie for 3rd. Frankly, he exceeded my expectations but man if anyone left the tournament out there, you could say it was him (or Westwood, Harrington, Kuchar and Mickelson).

7:04 - Rolling through the leaderboard before the playoff.  Must have been some big numbers because Stenson, O'Hair and Watney appear to have spontaneously combusted.

7:07 - Bubba just piped it again on 18 and made his "in your face" face. Louis?

7:08 - Louis answers with authority. For those who haven't been watching the Masters for the past 20 years, you need to know that players used to drive it into those bunkers on the left all of the time . . . with wooden drivers. Bubba can barely reach them. That's how long they've made the hole.

7:11 - Phil just told Bill Mcatee that he hit it where he wanted to on 4, just caught a bad break and hit the railing on the bleachers. Did they erect the bleachers while his ball was in the air?

7:12 - Solid B+ effort from Louis on his second shot but Bubba throws an A- at him. Louis is currently ranked 27th in the world and Bubba is 16th and they're duking it out like Nicklaus and Watson in their primes. The depth of talent in the game of golf right now is unreal.

7:16 - HOW DID LOUIS' PUTT NOT GO IN???

7:18 - I love Bubba's game but he's not going to win this with his putter.

7:21 - Both players just made a mess of the tee shots on 10 but to their credit, they missed them to the right and didn't pull what Johnny Miller calls the double choke which is trying to take left out of play and hitting it left anyway.

7:23 - Did Jim Nantz really just ask if Bubba can get the ball on the green from there? Has he seen Bubba hit a golf ball before? He probably has five shots in his repertoire that will get him on the green from there.

7:24 - Whichever one of the five shot he chose was the right one because . . . um . . . wow.

7:29 - Oostuizen's indifferent chip tells me that Bubba's shot took some of the life out of him and who can blame him?

7:31 - How fitting that Bubba is going to win on a shot from jail.

"I'm just so darned proud of the
way we practiced this morning."
7:34 - Uh oh, here come the waterworks. Bubba makes Dick Vermeil look like Chuck Knoll.

The way I see it, that was the 10th Masters out of the last 12 that delivered the goods.****  Aside from the fact that there was a playoff and an Albatross that directly affected the outcome, we had eight of the best players in the world in contention at the turn and, by the time it was over, 15 of the top 16 finishers were ranked in the top 25 in the World Golf Rankings and/or had won a major. In the process we also buried the notion of Tiger and Rory vs. the field. At least I hope we did for my sake because if I have to watch those two go down to the wire in one of the three remaining majors after I wasted them at Augusta, we could have another Billy Cundiff situation on our hands. (And no, I'm still not over it).

Endnotes

* That will be the opening line of my introduction at my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

** If you want to dismiss that as the bitter rantings of a frustrated gambler, go ahead because that is exactly what they are. They're also true.

*** I paid the true penance for that night by taking the kids to see a Veggie Tales movie the next day. There is nothing like watching a movie about Christian values presented by a bunch of off-key singing cartoon vegetables to rev-up the guilt spiral. Oh yeah, I was forced to drop a deuce at the theater so I had that going for me.

**** Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman's wins don't make the cut as evidenced by the fact that they're forced to sit by themselves at the kids' table during the champions' dinner.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.