Early April is my favorite time of year. The first major of the year happens and Spring is in the air. My most favorite memories of the Masters is what makes this time of year so great. It was 1986 when I made my first visit to Augusta National and two weeks after that Masters I had the honor of playing golf with Masters Champion, Jack Nicklaus. I loved the Masters before that, but even more now.
Fast forward to this year and what a great major championship this was. By Sunday afternoon, it measured up with some to be one of the best finishes in the history of the Masters. No Tiger, no Phil, but it did not matter. You had veteran Bubba Watson and youngster Jordan Speith dualing in the final round.
The first blow was landed by Speith, when he would make birdie at the second hole to take the lead because all Bubba could do was make par on the hole. A bogey at three and Bubba was faltering. At this point, you remember hearing that “majors are lost, not won”. Then the hole out on the 4th hole by Jordan was where things should have turned the tide. Bubba would not be denied and topped Speith’s birdie to remain one shot ahead. Still two shots back for Watson.
Then with a two shot lead going into the eighth hole, the wheels came off for Jordan Speith or did they? Speith makes bogey and Watson birdies and the two players are tied again. Would they dual to the end? Nope. Speith would bogey nine while Bubba makes birdie to take a two shot lead and never look back. In the words of Jim Morrison and the Doors song, “Could this be the end?” Could Bubba hold on now? Would Bubba falter on the back nine? Would somone come out of the pack because everyone was focused on the front runners? Yes, no, no, would be the answers to those questions.
It has also, always been said that the tournament begins on the back nine on Sunday. Well it was pretty much over by then. Bubba held his lead and as good as Jordan hit the ball on the back, it was not enough. Bubba never looked like he would crack. There was never a time where you coud say, he is going to blow this Masters; other than the amazing shot that he hit through the trees on fifteen. Fearlessly, Bubba stood up and bombed his driver over everything. Frankly, I was amazed he did not shoot a lower score on the back nine.
Was there too much pressure on Speith? Did he try too hard? Are the media setting Speith up on a pedestal at the age of twenty? All I know is that a final round score of even par at the Masters is nothing to be disappointed in for a twenty year old “first timer.” I say, let the kid be a kid before we annoit him the next great one. We have not seen the next Bobby Jones or Byron Nelson or Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods yet, and probably won’t for another twenty years.
A couple of final observations of this great 2014 Masters:
What about the play of the senior set; Fred Couples was in contention but had his weekend woes and fell off. Miguel Angel Jimenez and the ever lurking Berhard Langer could not be ruled out. They would fight to the end but come up short. Just think how much more exciting this finish could have been if one of the 50’s+ players could have kept it going. This would have been true history.
My final thought is this, get used to Tiger and Phil not being in contention. It is inevitable; just like the end came for Jack, Arnie, Gary and Raymond. The TOUR will survive and the Masters will always be the great Spring Classic that we all look forward to.
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