A Masters of Fate and Fortune

By Rich LernerApril 14, 2011, 12:02 am
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The tinkling piano strains had barely faded from the traditional CBS open when Tiger Woods turned the final round of the 75th Masters into a full-blown rock opera; the Phantom no more.

And while Tiger got going, the kid got stage fright.

Gary Player wisely cautioned in an appearance on “Live From” more than two hours before the last pairing teed off that it’s what’s inside a player that wins majors. He said we wouldn’t know about Rory McIlroy until late in the afternoon, when there’s nowhere to hide, not even between the cabins far from view at No. 10.

Through 54 holes it had all looked so good. The endless and desperate search for a new love to replace Tiger appeared to be at an end. Rory was a perfect match. He’s nice and not threatening. He signs autographs and amiably handles interviews. And he’d arrive just as Tiger did, at 21 clad triumphantly in a green jacket.

Sadly, even pathetically, there will not be another Tiger. Rory, gifted as he is, turns out to be another in a long line of young hopefuls who must suffer and learn.

Adam Scott knows. He was Rory once. Now he’s the Masters champion. Alright, he’s not the Masters winner, but in just about any other year, 12 under with birdies at 14 and 16 and a clutch par putt at 17 is good enough to win.

Birdies at 17 and 18 to finish 12 under are usually good enough to win. Jason Day didn’t.

Five birdies in a row from 12 through 16 to get to 10 under are usually good enough to win. Geoff Ogilvy didn’t.

An all time chip-in three at the 72nd hole to get to 10 under is usually good enough to win. Luke Donald didn’t.

That’s because Charl Schwarztel uncorked a closing stretch as remarkable as any in history. If Woods or Phil Mickelson had done the same, there’d be no debate. The 2011 Masters would’ve instantly been labeled the best Masters ever. Yes, better than 1986, which is still my favorite because it was the greatest Sunday by the greatest player and no one saw it coming. But this one isn’t far behind.

Guys invariably spit the bit, choke, come unglued at majors and more are lost than won. But Sunday from the opening bell was an epic display of clutch and scintillating golf by a half-dozen players on a golf course perfectly set up for a battle royal.

TIGER WOODS: Tiger has delivered two moments since his world unraveled in November 2009 where you thought, “that’s it, that’s old Tiger, he’s back.”

The first was the three-wood he sent out over the Pacific Ocean and carved back to Pebble’s 18th green on Saturday of the U.S. Open last year.

The second was the eagle at No. 8 Sunday at the Masters. And in that instant, you remember that this is what Tiger was put on this planet to do. Not to be the nicest guy in the room or the one who signs the most autographs, but the guy who ignites a fury you feel in football, letting loose that maniacal scream and the vicious right-hand fist chop that could’ve dropped George Foreman in his prime.

And then he buried the par putt on the ninth. He’d eviscerated the 7-shot deficit. Just like Old Tiger.

But as colleague Brandel Chamblee pointed out, New Tiger has demons like every other golfer, those demons that were once scared witless of Old Tiger and didn’t dare knock on his door. Old Tiger doesn’t three-putt the 12th. He might pull the 7-iron at 13, but Old Tiger finds a way to get it up and down for birdie.

Old Tiger never, ever misses the putt for eagle at 15.

So in 18 holes we witnessed this battle between Old and New Tiger. Yes, he can still will the ball into the hole. He still possesses the insane talent needed to hit the second shot to eight, to shoot 31 going out with a bogey. But on the second nine he struggled to make crucial putts. He didn’t have the signature supreme confidence to finish it off.

As for the post-round interview in which Tiger short-answered the CBS reporter, some people wondered why he has to be so coldhearted. It’s because he’s never learned to switch off the competitive burn, especially when he’s running as hot as he was having blown the Masters. And some of the best ever were also the toughest, most hard-boiled customers – Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Ray Floyd, Tom Watson, Curtis Strange, Hale Irwin and Jack Nicklaus. Yes Jack. Barbara softened Jack.

There aren’t a whole lot of sweethearts at the top of the heap in sports. Michael Jordan could be nasty. Arrogance can be appealing when it’s backed up.

Could Tiger use a week in charm school? Maybe. But he’d probably skip it to work on his putting.

In any event, the galleries at Augusta didn’t appear to be as hung up on getting warmth from Tiger. They wanted heat, the kind of scorched earth heat that he generates when he’s playing explosive golf. Who doesn’t want to watch a great athlete at his best?

He’s not there yet, but he’s getting closer.

RORY MCILROY: Rory’s collapse was the most crushing since Greg Norman blew a 6-shot lead in 1996. And like Greg, Rory handled the embarrassment with admirable grace. He didn’t pout or duck the press.

As a result, Rory is a sympathetic figure. Crowds will pull for him as fervently as they pulled for Phil through all his travails.

True, Sergio once had the public’s affection at 21, but eventually became a brooding sort. Could the same happen to Rory? You never know, but at present Rory gives off a vibe of being humble and likeable.

Will Rory win majors? Sergio is now 30 and hasn’t, and we were sure at 21 he would. We do now know Rory’s not the next Tiger because Tiger would never have shot 80 at 21. Tiger ran away and hid at 21.

True, Rory is supremely talented. But Rory is now scarred and flawed. Of course, so too was Tom Watson. He blew the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot with a final-round 79 and went on to win eight majors. Hogan almost quit the game before winning nine.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Not unlike other major winners over the last few years, Charl Schwarztel wasn’t the popular guy that everyone wanted. He wasn’t in the original script just as many of the recent major winners weren’t. Stewart Cink instead of Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open, Lucas Glover instead of Phil Mickelson or David Duval at the 2009 U.S. Open and Martin Kaymer instead of Dustin Johnson at last year’s PGA Championship all immediately come to mind.

And invariably when someone does win a major, we’re quick to suppose that the floodgates will open and he’ll win multiple majors. But Davis Love III, David Duval, David Toms, Jim Furyk, Michael Campbell, Glover and Cink are all stuck on one major.

Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Kaymer and now Schwartzel are the latest meteors who may or may not stick. It’s getting harder because the pool of potential major winners is so deep and they’re coming from just about every corner of the globe. When China’s investment in golf begins to bear fruit in another decade or so, it will be even tougher.

Golf is, as you’ve heard repeatedly, unquestionably wide open.

Wide open was never more wildly entertaining than it was at the 2011 Masters.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)