Once again, a Masters to remember

  Augusta – This makes up for the last two years.

  This makes up for a celebrated golf course’s bizarre late-life growth spurt. It makes up for the bad weather and the dry finishes and for Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, not that there’s anything wrong with Zach Johnson or Trevor Immelman, so long as we’re talking about the Shell Houston Open.

  This was the Masters again.

  We felt the drama on Sunday. We watched a scoreboard covered with red numbers, but impressive and proper red numbers, not the kind that made us believe we were in Wally World. We saw Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson paired together for a seeming ratings grab, only to collectively produce a thrilling fourth-round charge that seemed so implausible after three rounds of relative mediocrity.

 

Kenny Perry reacts after his birdie chip just misses the cup on the first playoff hole -- one of several memorable moments in Sunday's Masters. (BRANT SANDERLIN/ bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Kenny Perry reacts after his birdie chip just misses the cup on the first playoff hole -- one of several memorable moments in Sunday. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@AJC.com)

   In the end, we even got a playoff.

  “What a great week,” Billy Payne said.

  Great for all, and for Angel Cabrera even better. He won his first Masters and the first for anybody from South America, despite being two shots behind with two holes to play. He survived a three-man, two-hole sudden death playoff, despite sending his first playoff tee shot into the woods and another off a tree. He defeated Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry, both of whom were looking for their first major win and held leads after the second and third rounds.

  “This is painful,” Perry said later. “But I felt like I was a part of something special. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

  We all will. If Payne and Augusta National could have scripted the perfect bounce-back tournament, this was it. Earlier in the week, he was asked about criticism the tournament had received from players – even Woods – who believed it had lost its wow factor the last two years, in large part because of course changes.

  Payne blamed the weather. He joked a lot. But he admitted: “It’s like when you go to a piano recital of one of your granddaughters and you hear somebody say, ‘Boy, that’s the worst kid I’ve ever seen.’ It hurts your feelings.”

  He hoped for sunshine. He promised improvement.

  We didn’t a granddaughter’s recital — we got Beethoven.

  The Woods-Mickelson pairing figured to produce little more than a sideshow. Both began the day seven shots behind Cabrera and Perry. Both had nine competitors to overcome and were tied with seven others. But Mickelson birdied six of his first eight holes and Woods eagled No. 8.

  Suddenly, television executives and old men in green jackets were exchanging high fives.

  Even Perry, the 48-year-old near Tour-washout from Kentucky, who entertained us all week with stories of his upbringing and certainly his golf, couldn’t help but get caught up in watching Woods and Mickelson on the scoreboard.

  “That’s why they are who they are and we’re down here,” he said.

  He held or shared the lead for most of three days. He only surrendered it Sunday to Cabrera on the 74th hole. His scorecard was stuck on 11-under for 11 holes. His first Masters seemed assured after birdies on 12, 15 and 16 dropped him to 14-under par, two shots ahead of Cabrera and Campbell. But Perry finished the round with two bogeys and his collapse continued in the playoff, when he missed the green on the second extra hole.

  Mickelson and Woods finished earlier. They gave us thrills, and then their own forgettable moments: Mickelson’s tee shot at 12 rolled into Rae’s Creek and resulted in a double-bogey and he missed a five-foot putt for eagle at 15 and another for birdie on 17. Woods followed consecutive birdies on 15 and 16 with a hook off the tee (again!) on 17 that landed in the gallery. He bogeyed the last two holes.

  Both faded, but not before each were within a shot of the lead.

  Mickelson later: “I don’t think either one of us were paying much attention to what we were doing. We had other guys we were trying to catch.”

  Cabrera survived. Later, at the awards ceremony, some Argentine fans began to sing. Cabrera smiled.

  “When they put the green jacket on, I had goose bumps,” he said. “I was shaking. I can’t even explain what was going through my body.”

  We know. We saw.

24 comments Add your comment

Ted Striker

April 12th, 2009
11:06 pm

Best tournament I’ve seen in years. Guys were in contention that were supposed to be in contention — in ways you didn’t expect them to contend. Then there was drama from the guys you thought might fade during the first 9 of of the final round…but didn’t. Better still were the late heroics from a guy who seemingly was faltering while everyone else was holding steady or surging…

Excellent Masters!

p.s. Gators still suck. Go Dogs and go hot chicks!

JGL

April 13th, 2009
12:12 am

What a fantastic tournament. Very unfortunate that Phil came apart on back 9. There was an air on the grounds that he was going to complete the greatest Masters comeback of all time and take over the #1 ranking. In the end, loose swings and a balky putter cost him again.

It wasn’t on tv but an inebriated 20 year old ran on the course and did snowangels in a bunker on 17 when Tiger and Phil approached the green. This behavior has no place at the Masters. Membership can only blame themselves for allowing more patrons in year after year. Interesting that ticket sales stopped 5 years ago but every year gets noticably more crowded.

In the end, it was an exciting tournament but the end a bit hollow. Cabrera played the best yet his personality lost in the translation.

Mikey

April 13th, 2009
8:46 am

Phil, what was up with the Euro soccer shirt?
It was two sizes too small. Tiger can pull that off but you cannot.

[...] Jeff Schultz of the AJC writes that it was a Masters to remember. [...]

[...] Jeff Schultz of the AJC writes that it was a Masters to remember. [...]

Michael Scharff

April 13th, 2009
9:47 am

I am not a Tiger fan, though I do give props to his skills as one of the most athletically gifted golfers ever. That being said, the save he made on number 1 was incredible. I’m not sure there are any other golfers (except, maybe, his Sunday playing partner) who could hit his drive into the NINTH FAIRWAY and still recover and make par for the hole. Also, the inebriated fan was very lucky that Tiger and Stevie were on the opposite side of the hole at 17 from the trap. Bones looked at the intruder and couldn’t quite decide whether to intercede or not. Had Stevie and Tiger been on the same side as Phil and Bones, Stevie probably would have clocked the guy!

MK

April 13th, 2009
10:04 am

“It makes up for…Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, not that there’s anything wrong with Zach Johnson or Trevor Immelman, as long as we’re talking about the Shell Houston Open.”

ANYONE who wins the Masters deserves respect. I watched every televised moment of the last two years, and witnessed Johnson and Immelman earning their wins by outplaying the rest of the field (including all the notables who Mr. Schultz deems to be more proficient and/or deserving). This snide and petty observation disrespects not only the accomplishments of Johnson and Immelman, but the grand tradition of the tournament itself. This insulting comment was a “cheap shot” far worse than any golf stroke taken by Johnson or Immelman at Augusta National.

LEU

April 13th, 2009
10:58 am

Shultz is just trtying to emulate ESPN with their constant fawning over Tiger Woods. He just wanted some name player to win rather than Johnson or Immelman.

Gordon

April 13th, 2009
11:16 am

This tournament vindicates Hootie Johnson’s decision to lengthen the course. Like many others, I thought they had made it too much like a U.S. Open, where you get a lead and just try to par in to win. I missed those back nine charges. But this week showed that the course will still yield low scores if the weather is decent, any many of the holes are again playing as they were originally intended.

English speaker

April 13th, 2009
11:51 am

Too bad that Cabrera won’t take the time to learn how to speak English. With all of the money that he has won in this country, he can afford a tutor.

PoliticalMan

April 13th, 2009
12:34 pm

Agree with what’s with Cabrera not taking a stab at English. With two US majors, now is maybe the time.

Re: Woods. The #1 golfer in the world for the last ten with a few month exception can’t put the ball in the fairway with the lead in sight at the Masters? It makes one wonder how much he is in charge of his skills. He seems to substitute random, ad hoc brilliance for consistency, which works randomly – not surprisingly. That’s why he is not in Nicklaus’ category. Perhaps Nicklaus did not have Tiger’s flair, but he was not near as prone to shoot himself in the foot.

Mikey

April 13th, 2009
2:32 pm

I am a huge Tiger fan, but i get embarrassed by the networks love affair with everything Tiger.

Did anyone else notice how poor the camerawork was at times- we could not see where the shots went until they landed.
Also, what happened to the computer enhanced shot tracker?
Did the Green Jacket mafia ban it?

Ted Striker

April 13th, 2009
2:40 pm

Ever noticed how most people complaining someone can’t speak english are unable to speak anything other than english?

dostadawg2

April 13th, 2009
2:52 pm

I don’t think Bobby Jones and Allister McKenzie would be very happy with the way the Masters is run these days. Why not build bleachers down each fairway (like 16 at Phoenix) and sell another 100,000 tickets.
Put another WalMart style souvenier shopping mall over about number 5, where us ol’ patrons used to enter when we could get tickets reasonable.
How does these Ticketmasters, Stub Hubbs and other ticket vendors get all these badges they sell for thousands of dollars to any one that can afford them? Makes you wonder.
Too bad it’s all about the greed and money.
I now feel the Open is now the greatest major.

NRBQ

April 13th, 2009
9:36 pm

Political Dunce:

“Random, ad hoc brilliance.”

Really?

Record 9 Player of the Year awards.
Record 8 Tour Money Leader awards.
Record 7 Vardon Trophies for low stroke avg. ( 0 for Jack).
Record 8 Byron Nelson Awards.
Youngest to win all 4 majors.
Quickest to win 50 PGA events.
All time record for consecutive cuts.
Scoring record versus par in all 4 majors.
Only player with 8 wins in three different seasons.

And, real golf fans know he plays a limited schedule.

I could go on and on, but you’d know these things
if you bothered to look before you posted.

Random?

“There isn’t a flaw in his game or his make-up. He will win more majors than
Arnold Palmer and me combined. Somebody’s got to dust my records. It may
as well be Tiger, because he’s a good kid.” — Jack Nicklaus

Political Man

April 13th, 2009
10:35 pm

Every one is aware of Tiger’s record – even the dunces of the world. It is brilliant. Yet his game gets out of control – way out. This last Masters demonstrated a lot of scrambing and grit more than control of his game. Maybe the stat man can come up with fairways hit, GIR, and Putts per round. Not good at all. He gets the award for making oneself miserable or such. If the course had been set up like the Open, he would have been at least +8, not -8.

Thanks for the lecture, dude. Looks like you didn’t affect me too much.

NRBQ

April 13th, 2009
11:55 pm

My apologies. You’re right.
I shoulda learned a long time ago the futility of
arguing with the stupid.

None of the leaders in fairways hit, GIR, or PPR won, and seldom do on the Tour.

And I guess the guys saying Cabrera should speak English
were on the internet for years blasting Lance Armstrong for not studying
French.

Christine Blackley

April 13th, 2009
11:59 pm

Congrats to Cabrera but I’m very disappointed that an American did not win. With Pres. Obama trashing America overseas and praising Islam at every chance he gets….it would be wonderful to have an American bring out our patriotism and U. S. nationalism by winning the greatest golf tournament in the world.

Ted Striker

April 14th, 2009
12:38 am

Christine, thanks for venting. Now go back in the kitchen and cook up some gravy and biscuits.

oldmike

April 14th, 2009
11:18 am

Great Masters. Too much emphasis on Phil and Tiger but they didn’t disappoint until the wheels came off. I think Tiger needs to get more aggressive on Thursday and Friday if he wants to win there again. He seems to be less instinctive than ever. But he is still the best. Think he would have missed the 5 footer on 15 that Phil missed? Or dumped his tee shot in the drink on 12? Hats off to Perry and Cabrera although I would have preferred Perry not choke away the tournament after all his stellar play for 70 holes.

Ted Striker

April 15th, 2009
12:41 am

I hope Jeff hasn’t been sacrificed in the AJC volcano, but I ain’t so sure……

Jeff Schultz

April 15th, 2009
10:44 am

Ted … No, I haven’t been sacrificed, still here. No Countdown this week but should resume next week. Thanks. JS

Ted Striker

April 15th, 2009
10:55 pm

This is good news. I’d started a hunger strike just in case. (Of course it fell apart 3 hours later when someone offered me a snickers bar….)