The First Shall be Adam
The Best Aussie Never to Have Won a Major got the monkey off his back in commanding fashion Sunday, with clutch shotmaking and the kind of determination that defines Masters champions. Scott hung around the first page of the leaderboard all week, and when his chance came, he took it, rolling in clutch birdie putts at 18 and on the second playoff hole. Scott honored Greg Norman in his post-round interviews and it was too bad that CBS couldn’t get Norman on the horn personally to get his response to Scott’s win. After so many close calls at Augusta, Australia finally got its green jacket — and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer Down Under-er. Will Scott’s win ramp up discussions about banning the long putter? It hardly seems relevant. Plenty of broomstick users were nowhere to be found Sunday afternoon, while all the other players in contention wielded conventional wands. Whatever putter he’s using in the future, you’ve got to believe that this Masters win will be the first of many majors for Adam Scott.
What a Stupid He Was…
You gotta feel for Angel Cabrera. On a day custom-made for ducks, El Pato made a clutch birdie at 18 to get into the playoff with Adam Scott, that after just narrowly missing his birdie putt at 17. His chip on the first playoff hole and putt on the second playoff hole both came within a whisker of going in. And the way he plays the game — quickly and jovially — is 100% laudable. As was the thumbs-up he gave Adam Scott after Scott had hit his stellar approach shot on the second playoff hole. Cabrera is a good guy, and his two majors testify to the fact that he’s a great player and a true champion. But what was with his decision at 13 to go for the green in two from the pine straw? He was leading the tournament at that point and inexplicably went for it, only to hit into the creek and make bogey. You never know what might have happened had he parred or birdied there, but it was the one mental misstep he made and it may have cost him his second green jacket. The fact that Sunday was Roberto de Vicenzo’s 90th birthday only made the echoes of that Argentine’s 1968 Masters gaffe all the louder.
They say the Masters tournament doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday, and if that’s the case, it was practically an all-Aussie event. Along with Scott, Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman both were in contention as the drama of the last nine holes unfolded in the rain at Augusta. The Aussies so dominated the leaderboard that TV coverage became a bit of a Down Under love-fest, with the CBS announcers repeatedly reminding everyone that golf fans in Melbourne were just popping open their first beers of the morning as Scott was fighting for the win. Ian Baker-Finch practically had tears in his voice, and if viewers had been subjected to one more iteration of how important a first Masters win would be for Australia, they just might have started switching over to NHL hockey.
Not His Day
Let’s face it. When you play the first two holes at Augusta National birdie-eagle to vault into the lead, you can be forgiven for thinking that it might just be your day. But sadly it wasn’t for the eponymously named Jason. In mid-round, Day stumbled. Even after bravely battling back with three straight birdies on 13, 14 and 15, he just couldn’t keep two late-round killer bogeys off his card. To his credit, Day admitted that part of the problem was nerves. He’d been in contention at Augusta before, but leading a major and winning it are two different things. Good on him for being the first to plant a bear hug on Scott after the 72nd hole. One of the most likeable players on Tour, Day’s day will surely come and no one will be surprised to see him don his own green jacket sometime soon.
DropGate Exposes Tiger’s Achilles Heel
The game of golf isn’t fair, but sometimes its rulings are. Tiger got hosed at 15 on Friday when he struck an approach shot so perfectly that it rattled the pin — and caromed into the water. When he took a drop and saved bogey, that could have been the end of it. But Woods just couldn’t resist telling the world how good he is, and when the Competition Committee members heard him talk about dropping his ball a couple yards behind the point from which he’d played his third shot — so that he’d in effect have a better yardage to the flag — the wheels were set in motion for the two-stroke penalty that dropped him, and ultimately kept him, out of contention. This was classic Woods. The World Number-One just had to tell everyone how precise his game is. By dropping his ball a couple yards farther back, he implied, he could put the exact same swing on the approach shot and knock it close WITHOUT hitting the flagstick again. Which, because he IS such a great player, is exactly what he did. Unfortunately, the comment caused the Committee to reexamine its earlier decision not to penalize Woods. Committee Chairman Fred Ridley even referred to Tiger’s prowess during the press conference in which he explained the Committee’s decision, saying that Tiger had admitted that “he was trying to create a situation where he would effectively have a shot that was not going to go quite as far as his first shot did. That tells you a little bit about how good he is.” To his credit, Woods apparently answered the Committee’s questions in an honest and forthright manner. But the damage was done. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Tiger, though. After all, he hit nothing but perfect or near-perfect shots on the hole and ended up carding an 8. Would missing the flagstick and making a birdie 4 there instead eventually have led to another Masters win for Woods? We’ll never know. But chances are, Tiger will be a bit more circumspect in the future when he talks to the press about on-course rules situations.
All Hail Thunder-Bear!
With apologies to 14 year-old Tianlang Guan, who amazed the world by making the cut at Augusta this week, the most remarkable young player in the 2013 Masters was Thorbjorn Olesen, the 23 year-old Dane who finished 4-under-par in his first Masters after shooting a fat 78 in his opening round. Olesen, whose first name is really Jacob, goes by his middle name, which translates to “Thunder-Bear,” and he more than lived up to it this week. You expect anyone playing in his first Masters to show nerves on Day One. What you don’t expect is that a college-age rookie will follow up a jittery 78 with rounds of 70, 68 and 68 and finished in a tie for sixth. Imagine — if Olesen had just shot even par during round one, something this kid is clearly capable of, he would have finished 10-under and the Scott-Cabrera playoff never would have happened. It’s too bad CBS didn’t show more of Olesen playing. He’s in the World Top-50 at the age of 23 and was close to being in contention in his first Masters. Some day, you can bet that the roars of Masters “patrons” that thunder through the hills and dales of Augusta National will have his name on them. Where the Golden Bear and Tiger stalked their prey, it will soon be Thunder-Bear’s turn.