The “moment” usually follows long periods of relative excitement drought….mixed in with some downright agony. Players are schlepping their weary butts around the fabled course, working as hard as they can to score an occasional birdie, grind out pars, salvage bogeys, or prevent doubles from turning into triples…or worse.
The sounds emanating from the galleys mostly feature a variety of occasional, enthusiastic cheers, a smattering of roars and a plethora of disappointed moans and groans….comically punctuated with the “Eldrick Loop;” a 3-hole cycle containing very little sound, then climaxing with “goddamn it Tiger!!”
And then, “it” finally happens.
It’s almost as if the ghost of Bobby Jones were watching from his comfortable vantage point, high atop the crow’s nest at Butler’s Cabin, enjoying a large glass of sipping whiskey. Convinced that the field has done the appropriate amount of suffering and paid proper homage to the amazing challenge that is Augusta National, he then claps his hands together, cracks a big smile on his face and says, “Okay…now let’s have some fun!!!”
And just like that, he flips a giant switch and a litany of pars and bogey and double-bogeys magically transform into a mind-numbing streak of birdies and eagles and holes-in-one….and maybe, just maybe, even a rare albatross.
Jones is sitting at his celestial control board, like Howard Ungerleider working the lights at a Rush concert…orchestrating the action, finessing the breaks and massaging the Masters ambience; a knowledgeable, enthusiastic par clap here, a jubilant birdie cheer there…raise the baton for an explosive eagle roar to the left….then to the right…then from ahead…now from behind.
And when that magical moment finally does arrive, it seems like there’s never a second to catch your breath. You’re watching one amazing shot after another…and listening to the sounds of three others exploding at the same time at other points on the course.
It’s like the 1812 Overture, played exclusively with hands and throats…and it sends shivers up my spine every time.
The favourites going into Augusta; the game’s biggest stars…they came…they saw…and they were conquered.
The 2012 Masters was the most anticipated in years…and it will go down in the history books as the year that the heaviest of favourites, the cream of the crop were infected by explosive bowel syndrome. Something viral was going on, leading to a widespread crapping of those expensive silk golf pants.
It’s like Typhoid Mary got hold of the Fantasy Golf favourites list…and took them all out for a pre-tourney lunch. A nice big feast of botulism surprise.
By Sunday morning, trying to find a pre-tournament favourite on the leaderboard was almost akin to trying to find an honest-to-god, legitimate celebrity on one of those formulaic, why-would-anyone-possibly-care TV shows, like “Dancing With The Stars” or “The Celebrity Apprentice.” If being the daughter of Sarah Palin or Sonny & Cher makes you a star, it’s time to pack up the survival kit and head for the hills. And, if celebrity is defined as someone who was once on TV 20 or 30 years ago and whose most recent appearances in front of a camera were for some D-rate “reality show” (or mug shots)…well. ‘nuff said. Celebrity? Star? Not so much.
Mahan: 8 strokes behind. Bradley: 13 behind. Donald and Watney: 14 strokes back. McIlroy and Woods: 16 out of the lead. Kaymer: 17. Schwartzel: 19. Thanks for coming out boys…here’s a box of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat.
Phil Mickelson was the only “most-picked” player who actually made a weekend of it…and it took him a full 2 ½ rounds to finally get his engine warmed up.
And that left us with a pack of extremely talented players, who came into Augusta without a crippling amount of puffed-up media expectations, fanfare, or microscopic attention.
The most successful campaigns on Fortress Augusta this year were stealth attacks, orchestrated by the guys who managed to mostly fly under the radar before entering battle. Draped in their energy-absorbing plaid pants and anechoic neon golf shirts, Watson, Oosthuizen, Westwood, Kuchar, Hanson, Poulter, Harrington and Couples(!!!) dropped their laser-guided payloads with deadly accuracy between the azaleas and the ponds!
And what a show it was!
Way to go Bubba…that was one incredible win.
Results – The Masters
|Derek’s Picks||D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)|
|$ 32,000||Sang-Moon Bae||
|$ 384,000||Miguel Angel Jimenez||
|$ 45,280||Nick Watney||
|$ 32,000||Justin Rose||
|This Week’s Total||$ 493,280||This Week’s Total||$ 333,440|
|Season Total||$ 11,064,132||Season Total||$ 2,590,268|
Most weeks, in the tournament immediately following a Major, the field is relatively star-free. The big guns played (or puked) their guts out…and are now on a few weeks of scheduled R&R to recharge their batteries, celebrate their success or lick their wounds.
The fields in these circumstances are usually packed with rookies, a bunch of lightly seasoned up-and-comers trying to make their mark, many B and C-listers, the journeymen jocks and a fair helping of guys who are best described as “I didn’t know he was still playing golf!?!?!?” It’s an interesting blend…the golf equivalent of “American Idol” meets “Celebrity Rehab.”
But not so this week at Hilton Head. PGA players love the Harbour Town course and have so much respect for the event that they keep coming back…even if they are running on an almost empty tank after driving through the gates on Magnolia Lane for the last time.
The Heritage – Derek’s Picks
Donald couldn’t do it last week for a green jacket? Well then, he must be able to pull it off this week for a cheesy tartan sports coat, right?
It’s a Kenora Dinner Jacket in lighter fabric! (Whoever thought that thing was a cool idea should have his head read…and then amputated).
After having the weight of the world on his shoulders last week, Donald should be coming into this event with an entirely different mindset…and one, I think, that is much more conducive to winning.
“What pressure” you ask? Good question…after all he wasn’t one of the big 3 fantasy favourites on everyone’s list was he?
And that’s exactly where I believe the pressure came from…World #1 being casually cast aside by virtually everyone in favour of the also-rans! If I were Luke, I would have been chewing nails and spitting out howitzer shells just at the thought of the way I’d been slighted.
Motivation and mindset aside, Donald also has one other huge check mark in his column for Harbour Town this week; how he’s done here in the past. In his last three performances at Hilton Head, his worst finish was T3!!! T2 in 2009, T3 in 2010 and lost in a 2-man playoff last year…watching his laser-guided chip in sudden death pop out of the cup.
With stats like that, it’s easy to be stubborn and go with Luke again this week…really easy.
That almost makes it sound like I have a lengthy list of golfers for whom I have a great deal of disdain, but actually there are only two; Woods and Furyk…and, to be honest, I find myself really softening fast on the whole Furyk thing.
Since being struck down by the $10 million FedEx Champion’s curse two years ago, Furyk has amassed a collection of results best described as “sweet bugger all.” 2011 was absolutely brutal. 2012 has seen its craptacular moments too, but there have been some genuine glimmers of hope as well…some real signs that a first win (post FedEx) is just around the corner.
So far, eleven seems to be the magic number for Furyk; T11 at the Northern Trust, T11 at Arnie’s Invitational, 11th last week at Augusta. He was one stroke away from taking one of the ones off the eleven and finally racking up a 1 at The Transitions a few weeks ago, but Luke Donald put Jim and a couple other characters away on the first playoff hole, to reclaim World #1.
Furyk has three Top 4 finishes here in the past 6 years. Add that to his recent return to form and I think he’s a good pick to reclaim a #1 of his own this week.
And if he doesn’t, I blame it on him being coked up on those little energy drinks he’s been hawking on TV. Jim; it’s not NASCAR, for god’s sake!
Matt Kuchar – One of the guys who orchestrated one of the best stealth attacks last week at Augusta was undeniably Matt Kuchar. With that easy-going lope down the fairways, the country-spun, unassuming charm and good-ole boy grin, I guess he’s easy not to notice…as he’s racking up birdie, after birdie, after birdie. He certainly wasn’t on anyone’s “must take” list going into the Masters.
And then suddenly, there he is, tied for the lead! And if it weren’t for a nasty double on 9 and a slight miscue on 16, Matt would have found himself in a three-way playoff with Bubba and Louis as the sun was going down over Georgia.
Kuchar is on a bit of a heater right now. In his last 4 tournaments, his worst finish was T10th…and that was at the least pressure-packed event of the bunch; the Transitions. His other big finishes were at the “premium” events; T5 at the WGC Match Play, T8 at the WGC Cadillac and T4 at The Masters.
So can he handle the pressure of playing Harbour Town? What pressure?
Maybe that’s the only thing that might hold him back this week…the trophy isn’t storied enough and there isn’t enough on the line. But if he still has something in the tank after his charge last week, I like his chances.
Bo Van Pelt – As you mosey back in the records for this event, you’ll see there’s been a heapin’ helpin’ of good ole boys near the top of the leader boards…and apart from Tommy Gainey, who finished one stroke out of the playoff last year, the two names that keep on popping up are Boo and Bo…Boo and Bo…Boo and Bo.
Boo (Weekley) didn’t have a finish worse than 13th in the 4-year stretch between 2006 and 2009…and won the thing twice in a row to start that streak. However, he’s literally fallen off the face of the earth in the past two years, and despite his performances here, he really can’t be a serious pick this week.
Bo, on the other hand, doesn’t have any wins…but he does have some good results at Hilton Head; three top 15s, including a T3 two years ago.
But all of that is much less a factor for me than his recent mojo. Van Pelt shot the round of the week at Augusta on Sunday…an amazing 64, which included an ace on 16. Unfortunately, he started the day at +7…and was on no one’s radar (or apparently within camera range) for most of that remarkable performance. Pity.
His -1 finish at the Masters was one stroke shy of getting an automatic top-16 invitation to play again next year, but a win in Harbour Town would quickly correct that. And, if he can keep his hot hand going and all the stars line up this week for him, Mojo equals Mo’ Bo.
And now that I’ve had my say, here’s what daughter managed to do on the dartboard this week:
D&D’s Picks (Daughter and Dartboard):
- Lucas Glover
- Padraig Harrington
- Charlie Wi
- Mark Wilson
And that’s it for this week folks. As always, thanks very much for reading and playing along with the silliness…and enjoy the tournament.