Monday, April 12, 2010

A Tradition Unlike Any Other....

As I was driving my Ice Cream truck yesterday, unable to see the Masters up until the 13th-14th hole, I was pondering about writing a column recapping the Masters. At the time I figured Tiger was going to make some improbable run, and Phil was going to be there in the end giving Tiger all he could handle. I also thought KJ Choi would be the dark horse to sneak in and give Tiger and Phil trouble. And I also thought Lee Westwood would fall so far off that he might not even make the top 3.

Let's just say, I was 1 for 4.

This years Masters had to be the most anticipated Masters in eons. And by eons I mean a really really long time. Everything that Tiger Woods had gone through up to this point was about to be put on the line. Phil Mickelson was dealing with his wife's struggle with breast cancer and dealing with all of the stress that comes with it. Lee Westwood had finished second, third, second in the passed three majors, so would this be the time he broke through? Fred Couples was trying to be the oldest man to win the Masters at 50 years old. Storyline after storyline presented themselves, so we all knew we were in for a doozy.

But the main story is and always will be, Tiger Woods. How would he play? Would he make the cut? Would he win it? Would he be heckled by fans and media members? Will he be a changed Tiger, and not throw his clubs and shout profanity at himself? And most of all, can Golf finally be relevant again with Tiger back.

Well nearly all of those questions were answered. His opening round 68 was so impressive to the degree it had me calling all of my known golf followers (which is about 2 or 3) asking if they had seen the round that Tiger just shot. Golf isn't like basketball, or football, or even baseball. If you take 3 weeks off it's almost impossible to come back and play well the first few times out. If you take 144 days off, like Tiger, it's completely impossible to play well. So what does Tiger do? He shoots an opening round 68, his lowest ever at the Masters for an opening round.

Of course there were other story lines as the weekend went on. We saw Tom Watson and Fred Couples rope in the "over 50" crowd, and had all the old timers rooting for them. Phil and Lee were in the hunt the entire way, along with KJ Choi and Anthony Kim. This Masters was just chalk full of great moments.

Saturday was just crazy. Phil Mickelson gave us all, maybe one of the best three hole stretches in the history of golf. Let's just remember that they're playing in Augusta, the course with the most unforgiving greens in the country. So Phil hits an Eagle at 13 on a solid 8 foot putt. What does he do as an encore? Oh, he hits a 149 yard Eagle in the air with a backspin, dead stick. He wasn't done. Phil takes the next Eagle shot on 15 and bounces it about 6 feet short of the pin, and it starts rolling and rolling and rolling and JUST misses the pin by 3 inches. Phil was on fire. It's like being at a Roulette table in AC, and you're just playing Black and the Middle Column back and forth. And you just hit every single bet, and before you know it you're +300. That's kind of what like Phil was doing on Saturday.

So we get to Sunday and we're set up for a Tiger, Phil, Westwood, Choi run at this thing. Everyone knows Tiger is 0-for-55 when not having a lead going into Sunday. But this felt different. Would he come back and make a run at it?

Well let's just say Tiger had a YO-YO type of day. His first 5 holes, 3 bogies. The next 4 holes he shoots -4.

Are you kidding Tiger??

And then on the back 9, he 3-PUTS inside 4 feet. So un-Tiger-like. You could just see he was losing his composure, and losing his edge. But what does Tiger do? He makes sure that we don't forget him. On the 15th, after a 3-putt Bogey, Tiger sinks an Eagle on a PAR 4!!! Should this really surprise us? This is what he does, he makes us engaged and interested.

But this was going to be Phil's weekend all the way, after his shot on the 13th. I've never seen a player go for a shot like this in my life, AND actually execute it. Stuck behind TWO trees, with 220 yards to the pin. Phil decides, "Instead of laying up, I'm just going to have the biggest pair of melons anyone has ever seen, and I'm going to stick this 4 feet form the cup." CASH!

Right then and there I knew it was Phil's tournament. I was watching live at my boss's house, and we both nearly fell off the couch. We spent the next 15 minutes watching the replay, wondering how in the hell he hit that shot.

So as we all know, Phil gets the green jacket, and a well deserved/earned win for Phil. Now he cements his place in history as one of the better golfers of all-time.

As for Tiger, I think Jim Nantz summed it up best. Bill Simmons tweeted this quote from Nantz, "Through all of this, Tiger manages a 69."

HaHaHa. Comon, you know you laughed a little bit reading that. But all jokes aside (it's really hard to put jokes aside by the way), everything Tiger had gone through, to go out and shoot a 68, 70, 70, 69, is freaking impressive. And this is why we continue to watch Golf and Tiger. It's because you never know what is going to happen. And once Tiger is back in full force, watch out world. He just shot a -11 at one of the toughest courses to play at in the world, after a 144 day lay-off, after being virtually crucified, he rose from all of it and played like the champion he is. All I know is I can't wait for the Summer. Watch out world.