Right out of the gates on Thursday, you knew we were in for something special when 60 year old Tom Watson went out and shot a bogey-free 67 and was only trumped by the six under 66 shot by 50 year old Fred Couples.
Friday saw the emergence of Englishmen Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, both of whom have been playing inspired golf over the past 12 months. Lurking in the weeds was one Eldrick Woods and with him so close to the lead, it looked almost certain that he would be the one to beat come the weekend.
Saturday provided some of the biggest thrills in Masters history. There was about a 40 minute stretch of some of the most mind-boggling golf ever seen, with Phil Mickelson making an eagle three at 13, holing a shot from 130+ yards on the 14th for another eagle then barely missing the lip from 87 yards for a third consecutive eagle on the 15th.
Then we saw Tiger make three birdies in a row to keep pace and that old codger Couples got the crowd on its feet again with an eagle chip-in at the 15th.
Truly inspired? Truly NUTS? You be the judge! Whatever it was, it was captivating television.
Sunday saw more of the same, with roars and thrills galore. Tiger was all over the place off the tee but we saw some of the magic reappear when he holed his fairway approach on the 7th hole for an eagle of his own. He’d shockingly three putt from about six feet on the 14th to take himself out of the tournament but even after that, he’d eagle the next hole and birdie the last to still finish 4th.
The unheralded K.J. Choi performed admirably all week, especially in light of the fact he got paired (saddled?) with Tiger all four rounds. He made birdie after birdie but finally cracked with a bogey on the tremendous par five 13th hole.
Lee Westwood had to battle a bit on Sunday but despite his troubles and the pressure of trying to close out his first major win, he still managed a one under 71 in the final round to finish second yet again in one of the big four. One of the things I’ll remember most about this Masters is the class Westwood showed in defeat while giving his post-round interview – if only Tiger could be this gracious in defeat. I’m willing to bet Westwood won a lot of new fans this week.
At the end, this was Mickelson’s show. He played unremarkably during the front side, with a slew of pars on his card and stayed right in the thick of things until he started putting on a show at Amen Corner. The birdie putt at 12 was huge but the shot everyone will remember was the sick 6-iron he hit from the pine straw on 13 that barely cleared the creek and finished only five feet away.
He’d shockingly miss that eagle putt and would have to compose himself for a bit before finally making the slick comebacker for birdie but the tournament was in his hands from that point on. He’d make a couple more birdies coming in, punctuating the win with a final birdie on the last hole to win his third Masters title and get everyone all teary-eyed when he got to embrace his lovely wife Amy, who has been battling breast cancer for over a year now.
What a show! And much credit must go out to Masters chairman Billy Payne and also to Fred Ridley, the chairman of the rules and competition committee for setting up the golf course so well. The roars and excitement came back in full force this year, with eagles and bogeys galore! It was spellbinding television.
It was also another lovely spring weekend for golf here in the Niagara Region. Saturday was quite cold and windy and the course was pretty wet from some late-week rains we had.
We played the back tees and basically got bludgeoned by the course – I shot a 84 (+12) and had the second best score among the nine guys playing. Cal was one better at 83 while Harry shot a super-duper 93.
The weather was much warmer on Sunday and the scores improved as well – I shot a decent 77 on the day and more importantly, I closed well for the first time all year, going one under par on my last six holes. Cal would again be the best in the group (we had 15 guys out on Sunday), shooting a very solid 73 (+1) and his eagle three on the 10th hole was one of three skins on the day, with each worth a whopping $50.00. Cal was playing some demo irons and I have a strong suspicion that he will be owning those clubs soon enough. Harry was also much better on Sunday, shooting a 79 I believe.
Next week marks the official opening of the handicap season in Ontario so scores will start to count. We’re also pretty close to the start of the competitive season, as the Niagara Men’s Tour is set to begin on Sunday May 2nd and the next day, Harry and I will be teaming up for the fourth year in a row in a bid to qualify for the Ontario Better Ball Championship, with our qualifier taking place at the esteemed A.W. Tillinghast design, Scarboro G&CC.