Random Notes from ‘The Mahsters’
Another riveting Masters, eh? It’s Monday morning, and I feel like I did about half an hour after walking out of the Beatles concert at the Gardens back in September, 1964: physically and emotionally drained, and trying to make sense of what I was just in the middle of… minus the shrill echo of screaming, which stayed in my ears for two days (and the memory of it for 52 years).
I suspect the visual of that Texas-sized divot created by Jordan Spieth’s wedge on the northern border of the 12th hole will stay in my brain for at least two days, or more likely 51 weeks. Some enterprising sod should’ve run over and purloined that pelt for the USGA Museum, or maybe the Smithsonian. That divot, and it alone, was the reason for the most stunning collapse in modern golf, equaling and perhaps surpassing Greg Norman’s magnificent 18-hole foldover to Faldo in 1996. Billy Payne should at least put a plaque on that spot.
Like the rest of the world, I feel very badly for Jordan Spieth. I’m sure the twittersphere will be rancid with people crying “CHOKE” today, but let him or her who hath never chunked a wedge cast the first stone.
I also feel very happy for young Danny Willett. Somehow the phrase “young Danny Willett” seems more appropriate than just “Danny Willett”. I know he’s 28, and I’m a lot older, but to me he looks about 16, much younger than 22-year-old Jordan Spieth. Danny should be highly commended for going out and quietly shooting 67, right under everyone’s noses, so to speak. While nowhere near the course record at Augusta, that score should go down in Augusta lore as one of the finest final rounds ever played, under the circumstances: 13 pars, 5 birdies, a steady motoring through the pines and magnolias, with a final foot on the pedal to victory, once the news of the car wreck behind had become clear.
Although I was no great fan of Nick Faldo’s at the time, I wrote him a nice note in 1996, after his final round 67 had annihilated Norman. Faldo was scheduled to come back and play in the Canadian Skins Game, with which I was involved, so there was some professional PR involved in my effort. When he arrived in Montreal for our event, in July, the very first thing he said to me was “I’m really sorry I didn’t have time to respond to your letter. I did get it, and I really appreciated what you said. Nobody seemed to have noticed my round in all the pandemonium, and I thought it WAS rather good.” Thank you, Sir Nick… nice to be acknowledged.
CBS did something unexpected on Sunday. They almost completely avoided using the tinkling piano every time they cut to commercial, or put up the leaderboard. It had been used ad nauseam, as usual, for the first three days, and I was ready, once again, to pick up my La-Z-Boy and hurl it at the screen if they kept it up on Sunday. But they didn’t. They replaced it with music that had a pulse. What a breakthrough for what must easily be the least changed broadcast in broadcast history. David Loggins must be a billionaire by now for composing those asthmatic 16 bars that linger from year to year, lulling viewers into a deep sleep.
Which brings me to my next point: I’ve raised this in previous years in this little corner of journalism, but surely the Butler Cabin ceremony should be put to rest. This has to be the most awkward five minutes on television, and they do it year after year after year. I’m honestly surprised they don’t have the cadaver of Bobby Jones sitting in a chair in the background.
This year’s Butler Cabin charade had to be the most excruciating. Spieth looked absolutely out of mind, comatose, in another world, and who can blame him? He didn’t utter a sound, not even “good job, Danny” as he slipped the jacket on the guy who just ran off with his girlfriend. To force him to take part in this silly pantomime just seems cruel, bordering on demonic. Why don’t CBS and Billy and Joe come up with a better formula… like, just televise the REAL closing ceremony that goes on outside, in front of a couple hundred loitering patrons, and let one of the embalmed former champions like Palmer, Nicklaus, Player or Floyd do the jacket honours, instead of forcing last year’s winner – who may well be the bloodied, gored, drawn, quartered and vanquished foe, as was Herr Spieth, fresh from the men’s room where he retched up lunch?
My Sunday was somewhat diminished by the failure of Herr Langer to turn back the clock 30 years, fire his own 67, and win the title. I checked my archives and found a piece I’d written about Langer two years ago, when he finished tied for 8th in the Masters. I pointed out that he may be one of the greatest golfers of all time, but he’s so odourless, colourless and tasteless that no one knows he’s there. I was thinking this would be one of the top two sports stories ever if he could defy the Gods of Time and pull out a miracle, at age 58. Alas, Bernhard turned out to be like the rest of us as we age… out of gas, but full of methane.
Fifty-one weeks till the next one. Golly that seems like a long time.