The Aussie Curse

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2011, 3:53 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Red Sox nation and that former curse of the Bambino have nothing on Oz.

Any athletic endeavor worth winning and every other major championship has been brought home to Australia save a green jacket. But this is more than just a missing trophy from the national mantel. This is personal. This is painful.

The iconic yellow Masters flag has been a dagger in the Australian heart for generations.

Back home they call it the “Aussie duck,” a cricket term for zero, zip, nada, bupkis, as in Australia is 0-for-74 on the grounds of the former nursery. That’s the score for Australia at the Masters. That’s the 600-pound gorilla that drives young boys to miss school on Monday to watch the season’s first major.

“No one here is thinking there’s a voodoo on us from Australia,” Adam Scott said. He does believe it. Everyone from Down Under does. Call it a collective case of selective memory.

This is about more than just a drought at a golf tournament. This is a dark hole in a national resume that is pot-marked with debilitating losses.

Some think it started with Greg Norman and his love-hate history at Augusta National, but the pain reaches back much further. All the way back to “Big Jim” Ferrier, who took a 2-up advantage into the final turn at the 1950 Masters, limped around in 75 strokes and watched Australia’s green jacket go to Jimmy Demaret.

Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters
Greg Norman has three runner-up finishes at Augusta National. (Getty Images)
Norman’s unrequited love of the hallowed grounds only solidified the national malaise. Larry Mize chipped in on the Shark in 1987 and cut a hole straight through the heart of the Outback. Nine years later, Nick Faldo simply outplayed Norman, who imploded to a closing 78 that felt like a national pile up.

Consider Mize and Faldo public enemy Nos. 1 and 2 back in Oz.

From there Australia virtually fell off the Masters map. Stuart Appleby has made the only meaningful run for heart and home, taking a lead into the final round in 2007 only to sign for a 75 and watch Zach Johnson don green.

Johnson, you’re dead to them, too.

But on a sweltering Saturday the Australian fortunes seemed to turn.

First came Scott – who showed so much promise in his first Masters, a tie for ninth in 2002, but didn’t post a top-10 in his next eight attempts – who rode his new long putter to a front-nine 33. Although he bogeyed the last, Scott finished with 67 and is tied for sixth place and five strokes behind front-runner Rory McIlroy.

Geoff Ogilvy was next, limping out in 39 strokes but rallying on the second nine to salvage a 73 and a tie for ninth place.

Jason Day, however, may be Australia’s best hope on Sunday. Following birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 5 the 23-year-old edged into a Grand Slam lead for the first time in his young career.

On Thursday, Day noted he wanted the Masters masses to yell his name like that of playing companion McIlroy. For much of his front nine they wouldn’t stop.

“We’re walking up (No. 6) and he looks at the leaderboard and says, ‘Holy crap, I’m leading.’” Day’s caddie Col Swatton said.

Holy crap, indeed.

Day didn’t hold onto the top spot, undone by bogeys at Nos. 6, 7, 13 and 16, but he finished with 72 and at 8 under represents the closest thing Oz has had to a legitimate shot at Augusta National since . . . well, Norman.

Not that Day or any of the Australian hopefuls had much interest in revisiting the Shark’s career at Augusta National.

“I think there was almost tears at home that day,” Scott said of the 1996 Masters. “I can’t tell you how big of an inspiration he’s been and a hero he’s been to all of the golfers at home my age.”

For Scott & Co. the Shark’s shadow hangs over Augusta National like a reoccurring storm, or nightmare.

Day may be too young to remember the pain first hand but it’s bred into Australia’s collective DNA. Norman was more than just a golfer or sportsman, he was a national hero humbled to the extreme on a golf course Ogilvy calls “Royal Melbourne with greener grass.”

“This is the one every Australian wants to win, without question,” said Dale Lynch, Ogilvy’s swing coach. “A lot of these guys were kids when Norman was at his prime, so there’s some pain there.”

And now there’s a reason to be optimistic thanks to a leaderboard that features three dark blue flags amassed in the top 10. If a nation’s optimism is misplaced it is at least partially justified by the odds.

When Norman was making Masters misery he stood alone against the world. Day has company, Ogilvy with his U.S. Open pedigree, Scott with a belly putter that has rejuvenated the one-time prodigy.

Scott was 8 years old in ’87 when Mize gutted Norman and his mother let him stay home from school on Monday to watch the final round. “I’m not promoting skipping school,” he laughed.

If an Aussie finally cracks Augusta National’s grass ceiling, 8-year-olds across Oz won’t have to make the choice – the day will be declared a national holiday, or a mental health day.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
Getty Images

Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.