Opening my mailbox on Wednesday, I was graced with the cover of Sports Illustrated that showed one of my least favorite parts of my professional area – overlooking the 14-ounce steak for the side salad.
Sure, Tiger Woods failing to close out a major is a huge story, but isn’t the whole point of the tournament to find a winner? I mean, aren’t individual sports like golf and tennis manifested on the “which person is going to pull it out” idea? I couldn’t help but stare at the cover of El Tigre snapping his 4-iron in one of the all-time “what the hell is he doing, OH MY GOD HE’S GOING TO DO THIS IS HE CRAZY WHY ISN’T STEVE WILLIAMS TACKLING HIM, oh, he pulled it off” shots in the history of the new age. I mean, that is something I don’t even think Phil Mickelson would have done. Nevertheless, what is the point in celebrating individual’s failures instead of boasting a kid from Iowa that played his ass off for four days in some of the worst conditions the Masters has ever seen? I just don’t understand it.
My take on the Masters, after having a few days to let the food settle, was that the big guns (Stuart Appleby, Woods, Mickelson) couldn’t play around the course like Zach Johnson did. I mean, 11-under on the par 5’s and never going at a single one in two? That means that you have the utmost confidence in your wedge play, your eight to ten foot putting abilities and most importantly, your brain. Seriously, who can stand on a par-5 213 yards from the green and think, “Well, should I lay up with an 7-iron or 8-iron?”
I also think that Johnson’s tee shot on 16 needs to be held just as high at Tiger’s second on 13. They both were solid, both played to the precise position on the green to catch the slope and both were converted exactly at the right time. Amen Corner receives most of the acclaim at Augusta National (SI even had a Patron ad with the question, 11, 12, or 13?), but 16 have been THE HOLE over the past few years. Thinking back, the best shots over the past four years at the Masters are, in no particular order, these: Tiger’s “In your life, have you ever seen anything like this” chip-in to beat Chris Dimarco on 16, Mickelson’s near-hole out on 14 in 2004 from the fairway, Tiger’s fist pump birdie in the playoff in ’05, Mickelson’s birdie on 16 in ’04, Johnson’s shot and birdie putt on 16, the hole in one’s on 16 in ’04 by Kirk Triplett and Padraig Harrington within half an hour or each other, and Mickelson’s putt to clinch his first Masters during the same year. Looking at those shots, a ton have come on the water-guarded par-3. With 12 being one of the most famous par-3’s in all the world, 16 can become its nicer, hotter sister. You know, the one that walks in a la “The Holiday” and surprises just about everybody.
Anyway, I was glad to be watching ESPN News today and seeing Johnson’s name under the Notables during the Verizon Heritage. Make no mistake about it – Johnson will not be the Shaun Micheel or Ben Curtis of 2007. The over/under on PGA Tour victories for him in the next five years has to be 4. I’m taking the over.
On an unrelated note, I would like to say that my prediction of the mini-tour industry having an extremely profitable 2007 is already coming true. Just this week I have had two of my PP’s (past professionals) recommit to the long road to the PGA Tour. I can promise you that in the next month you’ll have someone in your life that decides to try pro golf again. Count on it.