Master’s week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Typically, I watch the entire TV coverage of the Master’s and I have been doing this for many years. One of my personal goals has been to, at least once in my life, attend the Masters. I know a number of people who have had the good fortune of attending the tournament. When you watch the Master’s on television, you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the course. The emerald green grass, the trees, the flowers, and Rae’s Creek meandering through the property. After a little research I learned that Rae’s Creek was named after John Rae a former owner of the property who died in 1789.
After watching the tournament on TV for all of these years we all know the holes almost as well as we know the holes on our own golf courses. We know where the problems are. We know where the pro’s absolutely cannot miss a shot. We know that the pin position of the par three 16th hole on Friday is short and right and if you are three feet left of the hole, the ball rolls some thirty feet down the hill. We know that on Sunday the pin on 16 is on the left side of the green and if you miss a little right the ball will trickle to the hole.
We know you can’t miss short on the par three 12th hole or the ball will roll into Rae’s Creek (except for Freddy Couples in 1992).
We know the chances for eagle on 13 and 15. In short, even for those like me who have never been there, we know this course. We love this course.
This year’s Thursday round was one of the most exciting Thursday rounds I can remember. Tom Watson and Freddy Couples on top of the leader board, it was like a time warp. Friday and Saturday rounds were equally exciting. Mickelson holing out on a par 4 for an eagle followed by another eagle and almost followed by a third eagle. However, I found Sunday’s round to be more than exciting, it was a thrilling roller coaster ride. Birdies, eagles, bogey’s double bogies. When Freddie put his tee ball in Rae’s Creek on number 12, I almost cried.
I was so glad that Mickelson won (after Freddie was out of it) but Phil made me crazy all day. On the par 5 second hole, the pine stamen fell out of the sky in the middle of his putt, the ball hit the stamen and went offline. What is the chance of that happening? A million to one? I thought that was an omen that meant Phil would not win. He hit several drives into the middle of forests but yet salvaged par or birdie each time. In some of the forest spots Phil was in I was reminded of the book Baggar Vance. If you recall, hero Rannulph Junuh hits a drive into the medieval forest and has a vision of prehistoric things and sounds and that results in an awakening of his true "authentic swing". He achieves enlightenment.
I am pretty certain Phil achieved enlightenment on number 13 yesterday. The TV camera angle was perfect. It was behind Phil in the trees, looking through the opening to a green 200 yards away surrounded by a creek. It was almost mystical, Phil was in the shadows looking out to a sunlit fairway and beyond that the green which was also in the shadows. His ball was at rest on a pile of pine needles. As he prepared to swing and go for the green, I was yelling at him “Don’t do it Phil, layup, don’t do it!” But he did it and he hit the perfect shot. It looked mystical, and it felt mystical to me. I was watching by myself in Salt Lake and I actually jumped out of my chair when he pulled this shot off. When he was interviewed later, I was surprised he was so matter of fact about this shot. He said it was no big deal; he had a 3 or 4 foot opening. No big deal? A pile of pine needles, trees ahead of him and all around him, a creek and then an elevated green 200 yards away. I know the PGA Tour advertisement that says “These guys are good” but for heaven’s sake this was spectacular.
When Phil was on the 18th hole 3 shots clear of Lee Westwood, I still thought he would screw it up. When he hit his second shot to 10 feet I finally relaxed. It was over and Phil won his third green jacket.
When Phil hugged and kissed his wife (who as most of you know has been battling breast cancer for a year), I started crying with them. It “was” mystical and it was magical and its why those of us who love golf do indeed love golf. It’s a battle that can never be won. We might play up to our ability occasionally and above our ability on rare occasion, but we ultimately hit it in the trees, feed it to the fishes or miss that 18 inch putt. If the best in the world sometimes cannot hit the fairway when it counts, what chance do we have? None
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