Sunday at the Masters: Part Two
Twenty word tease: Phil Mickelson apparently decided to wait for Tiger’s return to make a statement – the best way to stoke a rivalry.
There have only been eleven holes in one at sixteen in Masters competition. The second shot on Sunday went in the hole. Much of a hole in one is about luck as well as ability, but there is also an element of strategy involved as well, provided there is design intent. At sixteen, there is that intent. A green completely designed from the ground up by Robert Trent Jones in 1947, the putting surface is a large semi-bowl, the edge of which begins on the right side and funnels to a pond on the left. The Sunday pin placement is on the back left and a tee shot hit to the upper right side will funnel back to the pin. Luck comes into play by landing on a hard spot to gain enough bounce to kick the ball forward onto the proper line and possibly into the hole. Obviously, luck is the main component to writing down a one on the scorecard or there would be more than eleven holes in one at sixteen.
That second shot of the day was hit by the young Australian, Nathan Green, who placed his shot smack in the right spot which got that kick forward needed for a one. That shot led right into another Masters tradition: The Masters Roar. Most Masters roars are based upon a particular score but also in context as well. For example, when Tiger eagled fifteen later in the day, the “Tiger Eagle Roar” was there as he went from eight to ten under. At that point he was four behind Mickelson so the roar wasn’t as loud. The roar would have doubled in decibels if it got Tiger to within one or two of Phil. Another element which makes the Masters roar different at Augusta is the lay of the land. Just like sixteen green, the entire site is a bowl which hits its low at thirteen green and sixteen tee. When the crowds roar from above, it carries straight down to the bottom and always perks one’s ears up.
A hole in one roar always has the same intensity regardless of context or player and it was no different when Green hit his iron into the cup. Referencing the record book, we all knew we witnessed something special in history. We all figured it wouldn’t happen again. Nine groups later, it happened again – by Ryan Moore. And I missed it. Fighting a craving for a two dollar Dove bar became a losing battle. Standing in the wrong line, that hole in one roar told me all I need to know – that ice cream better be good. Of course, my life spiraled out of control at the point when I reached into all the freezers only to find empty cardboard boxes.
Camping out at one particular hole is a good measuring stick to see how all the competitors compare. Over a period of five or six hours, you can also see how the patrons react to the competitors as well. Traditionally, the Masters patrons are considered some of the most knowledgeable in the world. This comes partially from their knowledge of the game and its players, but also from their familiarity with the golf course. History rules their reactions and level of interaction. On this particular Sunday, other than the two holes in one, there was very little action at fifteen and sixteen. The outcome of the tournament was not decided at either of these holes with the exception of Phil’s two putt birdie to give himself a four shot cushion over Lee Westwood at the time. He, of course, garnered a standing ovation for his standing on top of the leaderboard, but also because of Phil being Phil.
The only other standing ovations were reserved for the two legends of the game making their way through the pines this particular Sunday, Tom Watson and Fred Couples. Watson was one under going through and his activity at these holes was very pedestrian. Nonetheless, he was awarded with ovations coming to sixteen tee and exiting as well. Freddy got his ovation upon arrival at the tee. After a less than stellar tee shot and knowing he was frustrated after a poor decision behind fifteen green (he chose to putt from about thirty feet off the putting surface. The result was a par when a simple chip and putt should have garnered birdie), the patrons respectfully let him go away without the responsibility of acknowledging an ovation.
Tiger’s arrival was quite low-key and it had nothing to do with his activities over the prior few months. He simply was too far behind Phil to be a part of the story. Despite a great ten foot eagle, it was too little too late. Nonetheless, there was nothing but respectful applause based upon his golfing accomplishments both in the past and for the day, as it should be.
Our day ended once Phil putted out on sixteen. We had no hope of seeing any of the action on the remaining holes as every single patron remaining lined both fairways, in some spots twenty-five deep. We did entertain bolting to ten green in case a playoff broke out, but with Phil commanding a very comfortable lead as he approached seventeen tee, it seemed like an irrelevant walk. As we left the property, Phil birdied eighteen and put a seal on his third green jacket. Conspicuously absent the past four months, he apparently decided to wait for Tiger’s return to make a statement – the best way to stoke a rivalry.