VIENNA, Va., April 9, 2012 — Now that the 76th Masters is in the books, the winner crowned (or jacketed), and the losers try to remember their problems along the way, it’s a good time to sit back and think of the back stories of the last few days.
Bubba Watson was a delightful character to watch and knowing his story only added to it. He lost his father (a Green Beret in the Vietnam conflict) back in 2010 and had so wanted to win a Masters before his father’s throat cancer took him home. That was not to be but that loss was partially countered by his new baby boy, the reason that wife Angie was not there to welcome him at the end.
Over, Under and Around Everything
Bubba has an uncanny knack for hitting the ball right towards the green, even when it’s out of sight. Augusta is an impossible course (each hole has at least three bunkers) and frequently they are surrounded by a soft, lush, grassy barrier, and in the middle of that barrier runs a stream. The hole is somewhere beyond it all. Yet the man who never had a golf lesson, who does not have a swing or putting coach, can find it. A sixth sense?
Then there’s that hot pink driver — an Easter egg on a pink stick — which has become Bubba’s favorite accessory color as he champions the cause of cancer research. Even his white shirt and slacks had minute trim of pink on them.
Remember the old game of telephone, where each kid has a tin can, connected to another by a string? That’s the sort of “communication” Bubba seems to have with the ball. It’s almost an instinctual thing, around corners, up over hills, past lofty pine trees. He knows where he’s aiming.
Add to that the fact that Bubba is reported to be ADD or ADHD, usually on medication except when playing, since it could take his edge off, which he needs. Various commentators referred to his being “twitchy,” and there was a reason. Plus he’s a UGA bulldog, having been smart enough to return to college for his degree.
Farmer’s Son from South Africa, A Perfect Hitter
Louis Oosthuizen seems to be everything that Bubba is not, except for holding the Master’s title. He turned pro at the age of 19, has a swing coach, Pete Cowan, and the degree of reserve that many South Africans seem to have inherited. He reminds me of my South African son, and I’m betting Louis speaks Afrikaans also. His dad is a farmer, and Louis is said to be as comfortable on a tractor as a golf course.
His swing is a thing of beauty to behold: it’s just plain fluid, seeming to float through the air. That swing has served him well through the ten years of his career and will continue to do so.
Sweden’s Little Known Entry
Peter Hanson, the little known Swedish golfer, was the surprise of the tournament, though he is widely known on the European circuit. He was low man on Saturday and went to bed as the leader of the Master’s. It is unfortunate that we rarely know or hear much about golfers outside the U.S., but now many have gotten to “know” Hanson quickly.
Hanson plays with a unique sort of handicap, since it is said that he is unable to visualize curves or turns. They just don’t exist in his mind’s eye, and he relies on his caddy to literally plot the course for him before he hits. He did not make the cut for the Masters in 2011, but acquitted himself remarkably well this year. We should hear more of him in the future.
Perennial favorite who works hard
Phil Mickelson is a crowd favorite. He tried. He tried harder. He worked so hard, it was difficult to see him fall short. The good part was that he already had won three Masters, in 2004, 2006 and 2010. How many green jackets can one guy wear? And yet it was the love of the game, and the prestige of the Masters that drives him onward.
He hit some good balls and he hit some stereotypically horrendous ones. He was in the woods, in the sand trap, in the tall stand of bamboo. He was everywhere he shouldn’t be. And then he’d tee off again for a good hole and a good score. His triple bogey on the fourth hole put him hopelessly behind, but he never faltered. And for him, there will be a next time.
Brief Star Shine and Then Out
Matt Kuchar was another young man who almost made it. After being one of the less visible players all day Saturday, Kuchar came storming into contention Sunday, and for a while he seemed to be going somewhere. However, inconsistent putting was his nemesis; after scoring an eagle on the fifteenth hole with all the finesse in the world, sixteen produced a bogey and his light went out.
That Other Guy….
Tiger Woods was barely mentioned or seen on Sunday. This year ended up with the dubious title of it being the first Masters he has played in where he never broke par in any round. After getting rid of his old coach, and signing Canadian swing coach Sean Foley, Tiger spent his time discussing how he couldn’t get his swing going. His gallery seemed minimal compared to others, and it was as though he didn’t really matter.
Until Tiger learns again to play golf, to put his heart and soul into it, and convince himself that he may still be able to pull it off, he might as well stay home. One Bay Hill does not a Masters make. His toddler tantrums and hand-wringing excuses don’t excuse the obvious, and really it seems no one cares. Score: 1 – fire hydrant, 0 – Tiger.
Other Stuff from Dogs to Gamblers
Thinking of going to the Master’s next year? Get busy. Tickets are already on sale as of yesterday. Many Augusta folks have latched on to a practice followed in Louisville, Ky. for the Kentucky Derby, and at other venues connected to a sporting event. Home rentals appear to be up this year in Augusta, and tournament sponsors like AT&T lined up a bunch of them in advance. And they are not cheap.
A nice five-bedroom house will run you about $25,000, and, of course, it comes staffed with housekeepers, caterer and a chef. All you have to do is watch the golf game and come back for an evening libation and sleep. And through a specific IRS tax loophole, you can rent your primary residence home for up to 14 days a year without an added tax burden.
Funny story of the year is about the young man from Seattle who, with three friends and apparently his dog, Sierra, came to the Masters after a stop off in Myrtle Beach for a day of golf there. To his chagrin, Sierra had eaten the tickets. After giving her a dose of an emetic, she “produced” the stringy, wet mass of tickets. Fortunately the owner had taken a picture of his beloved tickets and took that plus the remains in a plastic baggie to the Master’s officials. After some examination and conversation, they replaced the tickets.
The only negative aspect of this year’s Masters was the obvious booing heard on many of the holes. It was impossible to figure out who was being booed given the proximity of the front and back courses. But it was NOT acceptable.
One last note. We often think that the professional gamblers spend enough time, consult enough stats, advise each other what’s going on, and “set the line” on sporting events that surely they have a handle on a golf tournament.
Not so this time. The gamblers lost, since Tiger’s odds were 4/1; McIlroy and Mickelson were 11/2; Luke Donald and Lee Weston were 16/1 and so on. Bubba Watson’s odds were 40/1, while Dufner and Couples were 125/1. So much for the fabled knowledge of gamblers.
And the next Masters is only a year away.
For further columns on the 2012 Masters, see:
Bubba Watson wins 2012 Masters in tie-breaker with Louis Oosthuizen;
Peter Hanson’s second Masters has him leading on Day 3;
Masters 2012: Tiger blows Day 2, but Fred Couples and Jason Dufner lead; and
The Masters 2012: IBM’s Virginia Rometty overshadows Tiger Woods
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