Monday, April 9, 2018

The Masters Recap

My contract with the Fantasy Golf Report requires that I write a recap of all majors and the people who run this operation are bigger dicks than the guys over at Sinclair Broadcasting so it's either start typing or risk having my wages garnished just when I need them to start paying-off golf bets. Also, there is a 1,000 word minimum so my first draft which simply read "IT SUCKED!" was praised for its accuracy but rejected for its brevity. To fulfill my obligation, let's take a spin through the five days starting with the Par 3 Contest.


In hindsight this should have been a flashing sign that we were headed for a decidedly unsentimental finish on Sunday because all of the goodwill would be spent on Wednesday. As if Tom Watson winning the contest wasn't enough, Jack Nicklaus' grandson made an ace on the group's final hole. Even a scroogy curmudgeon like myself got caught-up in that one. And if THAT wasn't enough, we had Tony Finau go full Willis Reed after going full Bill Gramatica by dislocating his ankle while celebrating his own hole in one. . . and then popping it back in himself . . . and then playing the tournament proving yet again that there are no better motivators in life than shame and embarrassment.  


Apparently the golf gods were
not done fucking with Sergio.
On Thursday we got our first clear warning sign of impending disaster. Regardless of how you feel about Sergio Garcia, no one wins when the defending Masters champion has a mid-first round meltdown removing himself from any chance at contention. Sure it's entertaining in the moment, especially for those of us who happened to be sitting at work and tuned into the on-line coverage of the 15th hole as it was happening. But the tournament would have been better off with Sergio in it through Sunday. You do have to give him credit for his composure. The remnants of my wedge would have been swimming in that creek long before the fifth ball was.


By the time Patrick Reed made the turn on Friday, I think most of us new trouble was brewing. Up to that point, with the exception of Jordan Spieth's opening round 66, most of the top players were kind of moping around like their grandfather made them play golf that day when they wanted to play tennis (I distinctly heard Justin Rose yell "TURDS!!! DOUBLE TURDS!!!"). It was like they were all laboring under the knowledge of how hard it was going to be to beat each other in light of how well everyone was playing leading-up to the tournament.

Meanwhile, Reed was just like "fuck you guys . . . I'm going to make nine birdies and shoot 66." By the time it was over, he had a two shot lead over Marc Leishman and, more importantly, a five to seven shot lead over Rory, Jordan, D.J., J.T., Rickie, Bubba and Rose a/k/a "The Hybrids" . . . the least intimidating street gang from The Warriors. That night while drowning my misery in Pinot Grigio, I wrote that "the doomsday scenario is that Reed shoots 69 [on Saturday], no one else makes a significant move and he rolls into Sunday with the luxury of playing cruise control golf." I was precariously close. 


"We got a heavy rep. You mess
with us, you find that out."
On Saturday Reed shot 67 with four birdies and two freakin' eagles. Rory, Rickie and Jon Rahm all stayed within shouting distance by shooting 65's but no one else in the conversation could muster the kind of round needed to stay in the hunt. Even if Reed were to shoot 72 on Sunday (and there was no sign that he would do worse than that), the only players who could catch him with a 65 were the same guys who shot that on Saturday or Henrik Stenson who had never previously finished top ten at Augusta. It was going to be a tall order to avoid having a champion who would only be cheered by (a) the extremely polite and (b) those dickheads who root for the guys who everyone hates just to be dickheads.


We all know what happened on Sunday. Spieth torched the front nine with a 31 but even that only got him to within three shots of Reed. Then Spieth birdied 12, 13, 15 and 16 to tie for the lead at -14 but Reed still had the par fives to play and he had just done what is apparently one of the hardest things to do in major championship golf. He birdied the 12th hole at Augusta while trying to protect a lead (when was the last time someone did that?). Sure he got lucky when his ball held-up on 13 but shit like that happens when you've played out of your mind for the last sixty-six holes.  

We still had one final hope in Rickie Fowler who pulled the classic Luke Donald move to storm from too far back to just barely get into contention before not quite hitting the one shot he needed to actually maybe win a major. That shot was on 16 when he knew he needed two more birdies to have a chance. Anything to the right of the pin would feed down to the hole but Rickie pulled it into the sand and then made everybody ooh and aah with his crafty little Tiger style bunker shot up the hill that came back for a meaningless tap-in par. Here's the thing. Tiger would have made that shot if he needed to as evidenced by the fact that he essentially did back in 2005.

"Congratulation Rickie. See
you at Shinnecock where you
can go for the matching forks."
I don't want to pick-on Rickie who seems like a nice kid but I'm going to as a way to end this by taking the high road and complimenting Reed. When Rickie was interviewed immediately after the round, he commented how his birdie on 18 meant he finished solo second one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth. It was complete loser talk but I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was still in the heat of the moment after what was a grueling final round. But then he said the exact same thing again later when being interviewed in the locker room making it clear that he was quite proud of clipping his three time major winning friend for the second place set of steak knives.

Tiger would never have claimed a cheap moral victory in defeat like that and, for that matter, neither would Phil, Spieth, Rory or any of the other modern greats. And we don't even need to address it in terms of Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, etc. because those guys would step on your neck to pick-up their tee. And another thing. Congratulating your opponent on the green if you were playing together or later at the bar is cool but, when you lose, don't hang around waiting for him so you can make a show of it. Get off the stage. Can you imagine a young Tom Watson hanging around the scorer's table at the end of the 1974 U.S. Open to congratulate Hale Irwin on beating him to his first major? Fuck no. He wouldn't give him the satisfaction. And you know who else would never gloat about finishing second or make a big show about what a great sportsman he is? Patrick Reed. If anyone has an issue with it, they can take it up with him at Augusta. He'll be there every April for about the next fifty years (ugh).


* If you want some insight into Patrick Reed through the lens of the story regarding his estrangement from his parents and his sister, read this piece by Alan Shipnuck. Some people may find Reed a more sympathetic character in light of his familial circumstances. I am not one of those people. And no I do not profess to know the man so don't misinterpret this as me passing judgment on his character. Under that prickly exterior, he might be a super great dude who just happens to not really have any friends on Tour. As a sports fan, however, I get to root for and against whomever I please. And I choose to root against him. 

** If you really want to talk about luck, I would refer you to his putt on 17 which was doing about 70 m.p.h. when it hit the hole leaving him about a five footer coming back instead of the fifteen footer he should have had. Of course Ian Baker-Finch called it a "great putt" as he continues on his merry way to becoming the Australian Phil Simms of golf. 

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