Well, we’re already through another year. Not really. That’s just what it always feels like to me because my calendar begins and ends with Masters week. I’d like to give you the cliche “this year had a little of everything,” but I don’t think it did. I think overall this year’s Masters was a letdown. I know that statement alone is probably going to flood my inbox with comments of what an idiot I am, but keep reading. By the end of this piece I’ll have given you plenty more reasons to hate me online. Here it is y’all, the ER Masters Recap …
I’ll talk briefly about everything leading up to Thursday because it was boring. The weather was awful and canceled basically all the pre-tournament activities, including the par 3 contest. Dustin Johnson injured himself allegedly falling down some stairs and whether he would play or not became the story of the week. We knew 99% of everything leading up to the first shot on Thursday would be about Arnie. Thankfully, the networks kept it tasteful and paid tribute but didn’t come across as trying to cash in on a dead man.
Unfortunately, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne didn’t get that memo. As has been custom for over a decade, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial tee shots to begin the tournament. Arnold’s widow Kathleen, (“Kit” as she’s called,) stood next to them. Everything looked great, until ole Billy decided to crash the party. Right before anyone hit, Mr. Payne pulls this little stunt.
I think the act itself is brilliant. They brought a chair out, draped Palmer’s green jacket over it, and asked for a moment of silence. Where Augusta failed, where specifically Billy Payne failed, is that he did it. Billy escorted Mrs. Palmer to the 1st tee. Billy put the chair on the tee box. Billy put the jacket over the chair. Why? Anyone could have done it. Go get any random no name employee and have them do it. That way when it’s happening on TV, the announcers are talking about what’s going on instead of captioning each sequence with, “and here we have Augusta Chairman Billy Payne doing…” Billy took a beautiful tribute and placed himself at the center of it. Way to go.
Thursday and Friday
The first two days at Augusta are the pre-game. You watch online coverage because you’re stuck at work all day which gives you a good well-balanced breakfast of golf exposure. Check out the featured groups, switch on over to Masters on the Range around 11:00 when the Top 10 guys start to tee off, a little Amen Corner when that alert hits that the players you’re tracking are approaching the tee. It’s a good break from the traditional binge of the other majors.
That’s not what happened this Thursday and Friday. The storms created awful tournament conditions so everyone’s scores were well above two-day norms. Masters on the Range turned into DJ watch. Instead of seeing some cool warm-up routines we normally never see we got to look at Dustin cringing over long irons while talking to his swing coach. I get that it’s a big story when the World Number 1 might miss the biggest tournament of the year because of a sketchy injury, but Thursday is the biggest field we’re going to see all week, MOVE THE DAMN CAMERA. Eventually, Dustin made his way to the tee and promptly withdrew. Thanks for nothing. Who knows what this will do for him in a few months at the US Open.
Dustin’s withdrawal pretty much set the tone for the two days. The rest of the World Top 10 collectively shit the bed. Poor conditions opened the door for names not usually seen atop the leader board to remake an appearance. The featured groups were terrible, which in their defense is due more to the conditions. Featured groups at Augusta are never the best. They’re too smart to put the best guys for free online, but you at least usually get to see some guys make the cut.
Saturday proved to be a grind. Couples and Mickelson both stayed relevant, teasing us with thoughts of seeing a middle-aged champion. Sergio played well, giving every announcer the biggest Cinderella Story hardon I’ve ever seen. Nantz, Chamblee, every last one of them repeated the same monologue over and over and over. What if Sergio wins? What if he gets his first major? Someone, I don’t know who, but I wish I did because I want to kick their ass, realized Sunday would have been Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday, and all the broadcasters shit their pants. Sergio, a golfing Spaniard, might win The Masters on a dead golfing Spaniard’s 60th birthday. That’s the main idea of all their pomp and circumstance. That’s what it all boiled down to. And we had to hear it eight thousand times. Just on Saturday.
Sunday at The Masters. Doesn’t get any bigger for golf than that does it? Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose in the final pairing. Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth behind them. Couples, Mickelson, McIlroy, all of them began their round in contention. Sunday started great. Unfortunately, that’s where it peaked. The golf was bad. Rickie and Jordan shit the bed so bad they were out of contention by the back 9. Mickelson’s round was a roller coaster. Bogey, birdie, double bogey, par. He finished even. McIlroy ground out a top 10 finish in what was easily the most underwhelming Masters he’s ever played. Besides Sergio no one in the World Golf Top 10 improved their position in the tournament on Sunday.
The Final Pairing
Here’s where I’m going to get my ass kicked online. I didn’t like the final pairing. Rose and Garcia are boring to watch. They both have longer than normal pre-shot routines, and surprise, those only got longer as the round neared completion. Both golfers saved their best golf for prior to the 18th hole. Justin Rose peaked at Amen Corner. His game declined as the round finished. His tee shot dispersion got wider, approach shots got farther from the pin, and putting became nothing short of safe. You could see on Rose’s face he didn’t want the tournament. Once the sunglasses came off he looked lost.
Everyone will say Garcia’s best play was his recovery on 13 or the Eagle on 15, but IMHO it was everything short of the 8th hole. He looked in control of himself before then. His game was his own, the course was his to play as he wished, and how big his lead remained was totally up to him. Once he made the turn? It was all up to fate. He needed lucky breaks to damper misses, and needed Rose’s less than average competitive ability to keep him in contention.
By the 18th hole both golfers looked ready to hand the victory to the other. Neither could close out a birdie, despite ample opportunities of 20ft or less, and the debacle on 18 was the cherry on top that defined the level of play we saw from Rose and Garcia.
There’s Always Next Year
Some will argue Garcia’s composure and competitiveness and ability to maintain. Others will talk about how fun it was to watch two golfers go back and forth. That’s not what we saw. Sunday’s final pairing put two middle of the road golfers with below average winning ability center stage and let them try to self-destruct for 18 holes. Hopefully 2018’s Masters finally gives us a tournament where we get to watch someone win rather than lose for a change.