Tiger, Phil and the Masters
This was a great weekend of golf. The Masters at Augusta. The weather was perfect. Sure, on Thursday there were some sprinkles and there was some wind on Friday, but for the most part the temperatures were mild and the greens were fast. Everyone, including myself, wanted to know about Tiger Woods. Well, Tiger played great for somebody who has had all of the distractions that he’s had. I describe his final round as up and down. I’m not sure how you play a round of golf, end up with a score of 69 and have people say that it’s disappointing. Those are the kind of expectations that Tiger Woods has set up. Back to Tiger in a minute… Phil Mickelson.
Fewer than 10 years ago, those television pundits were talking about how Phil Mickelson might go down as the greatest golfer never to win a major. He actually has 37 PGA Tour wins and three major titles. Now, he has a fourth major title. His third Masters. They’re even pundits, probably those same pundits, who are saying that it’s highly likely that Phil Mickelson will surpass Jack Nicklaus’ six green jackets. All I know is Phil Mickelson played consistently good golf for four days in a row. He played a bogey-free final round. I thought his back-to-back eagles on Saturday gave him the confidence to know that he could win. You know there’s a time when you’re playing a contest when you simply know you’re going to win and it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says. You know that you’re going to play well enough to win. I think on Saturday, Phil Mickelson hit that spot. Now, the shop that everyone is talking about was on 13. He was in the pine straw. He hit a six iron over 200 yards to land on the green. From my standpoint, the amazing part of the shot was that he was able to get the ball up and over the sand trap.
There are three other short stories that I’d like to tell you about the Masters. The first is about Fred Couples. He is 50 years old and still one of the best ball strikers on the tour. His opening round was a 66. He was playing great on Friday until the last three holes. He reportedly had back spasms. You really can’t play golf with back spasms. (I’m not sure what sport you can play with back spasms.) Hell, he’s 50 years old. He’s allowed to have back spasms. He shot a 75. That’s kind of sad because he shot a 68 on Saturday and a 70 on Sunday. He played well enough to win… except for that three hole stretch on Friday. Isn’t it amazing that you can play 72 holes of gold and have three holes blew it for you? These guys are that close in talent. He came in sixth place at nine under par.
Anthony Kim is a 24-year-old American who is playing some absolutely fabulous golf. He reminds me a little of Tiger Woods when he was younger. There’s no shot that Anthony Kim seems to be afraid to try. He had an amazing stretch on Sunday where he had two birdies, followed by an eagle and then another birdie. That really skyrocketed him into the top of the leaderboard. He had the lowest round of the tournament — 65. This is a guy to watch.
Lee Westwood led going into Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, he played his worst golf on Sunday. Normally, you would like to play your best golf on Sunday. He got into trouble early with a bogey on the first hole. He remedied that bogey with a birdie on the next hole. He got in trouble again on four and again on nine. He shot bogeys on both of them. On the back nine he really settled down. He eliminated the bogeys and added two birdies. He really showed grace under pressure. I would like to see him win a major.
Finally, there’s all the psychoanalysis about Phil Mickelson and his wife, who had cancer. There’s the same $.25 analysis of Tiger Woods. Basically, these guys have proven that they can put adversity aside and play some amazing golf. I suspect the next 5-10 years we’ll see more great golf and both of these golfers. In the meantime, stop with the overanalyzing and I need to take more golf lessons.