This Week in Golf: The Masters in Perspective
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
What’s your biggest takeaway from the 2016 Masters?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): That, unlike any other golf tournament, or possibly any other sporting event, the back nine of Augusta consistently produces the most riveting, surprising, spine-chilling, tear-inducing, uplifting, and ultimately, most memorable drama of the year. Until Danny made that birdie on the 16th hole, just as Spieth was reeling from his self-soiling on the 12th, NO ONE except Mrs. Willett was guessing that Danny was going to win. Indeed, over the last 27 holes, there could have been a dozen players you’d guess might pull it off if somehow, improbably, Spieth collapsed… but out of that crowd emerges the least likely of all. If Willett goes on to become a great player, this will be the tournament they’ll write columns, books and movies about.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, I was lucky enough to attend the Masters this year for the first time, so my takeaway was less to do with the play, and more to do with the experience of attending one of the best sporting events in the world. Everyone always says you’ll be shocked by the elevation when you first see it, but I was expecting that, so it didn’t blow me away, although the 10th hole is great to look back on from the green, what a view! I was lucky enough to attend the Wednesday practice round and the par 3 contest, which are tons of fun to watch. My big takeaway was how well the event is run. They manage the masses so well, there might be line-ups of 100 people for the bathroom or merchandise tent, but you almost walk right in the line-ups move so fast. And of course then there’s the $1.50 Pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches. Just an amazing experience that all golf fans should get the chance to see.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The wrong guy won. I don’t mind an underdog winning a regular Tour event – in fact it’s fun to see occasionally. But in the biggest events of the year, with the best fields in golf, I want to see a showdown between the big guns with one of them padding his major resume. Maybe Danny Willett will become a multiple major winner and we’ll talk about how he earned his first title but right now the biggest story is how Jordan Spieth lost the 2016 Masters.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): MY GOD, Jordan had a seizure. I didn’t expect a meltdown on one hole, I could see a chip away at the lead (like at 10 and 11). But going from a one shot lead to trailing by 3, no, I didn’t see that coming, not from him sadly.
Matthew MacKay, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTours): My biggest takeaway is that the powers-that-be at Augusta National should save their time and money and leave the golf course alone. It is PLENTY difficult, maybe too much so when it gets windy. This Masters felt more like a US Open and I missed the back-9 roars of Masters Sunday.
Frank Mastroianni, Canadian Golf Magazine (@frank_mastro): My biggest takeaway from the 2016 Masters is that the tournament coverage needs a major refresher, which should include the announcers; that Jordan Spieth is indeed his own worst enemy; and confirmation that Danny Willett possesses one of the absolute best swings in the world.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: About an hour before Spieth teed off Sunday, out in the front street the neighbour — avid golfer (well, he has to be on this street) and not incidentally an engineer — said: “I don’t think Spieth is as good as the media thinks he is. I don’t think he’s got it right now.” He is a Hogan disciple, has every book and DVD, studies Hogan’s swing from the perspective of fulcrums and levers and angles and some other things I don’t understand. He said Spieth was an arm swinger on his misses — lazy right like the tee shots on 10 and 11, and of course the 9 iron at 12 — because he wasn’t driving with his hips, no lag. I called him after the birdies at 6, 7, 8, and 9. “Hmmm,” he said. After the 12th he called, saying: “Maybe I was right.” What to take from all that? His swing coach flew back to Augusta from Texas after Saturday’s round and couldn’t fix it in time. But, incredibly, he had 10 bogeys, 3 doubles, a four putt, plus a quad and … still finished second. That is astounding. I take away that Spieth was the high and low light of this Masters.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer, (@davykap): I have more respect now for Spieth than I ever did before. You measure character by how you act when you are beaten and down and Spieth showed some true grit on Sunday. Not only did he make a serious charge down the stretch, he handled the Green Jacket ceremony and press conferences like a gentleman. If I were in his shoes, they would have had to drag me kicking and screaming into that cabin to participate in that ceremony.
Jordan Spieth stumbled at the worst possible time on Sunday in his quest to win back-to-back Masters titles. Does he recover from this quickly or will it have longer-lasting effects on his game?
Mumford: Elite golfers have the ability to put bad shots and bad results behind them quickly. Look how Spieth gathered himself on the 13th hole and made birdie. Rory McIlroy had a meltdown on the back nine on Sunday in the 2011 Masters and shot 80. Then he won the U.S. Open in June. I think Spieth is made of the same stuff. This loss won’t break him, it will make him stronger. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in contention at Oakmont in a couple of months.
Mastroianni: As I said in my most recent column (HERE), I believe it has lasting effects. Not just because of what happened on Sunday but because of his character.
MacKay: He’ll recover quickly. It was one bad swing compounded by a curious decision to take a drop leaving him a delicate pitch, rather than hit from the tee again. And then he promptly birdied the next hole. Spieth is mature beyond his years and putts so well that I expect him to be right back in contention at all of this year’s majors.
Quinn: Listening to a podcast of a media scrum just an hour after his collapse, I was so impressed with this 22-year-old’s composure, candour (hello Eldrick!), and grit. He owned it. I don’t think Norman recovered from his melt down, but I think Spieth will. Norman’s came later in his career and he had a long hard slog to get to the top with a chance for immortality. Spieth arrived just the other day, already has a jacket, and at least $25 M from last season and another $20 M from Coke (an ill-advised endorsement, but so sweet that I suspect his advisors couldn’t refuse). That massive financial cushion for his family, his sister, his great-grandchildren will go a long way to breaking down any scar tissue.
Deeks: Jordan Spieth is a player for the ages. He’s too good, and too mature, to let this kill him, cripple him, or even hobble him. I’ve got $50 that says he contends, if not wins, at least one other major this year… and maybe 6 more before he’s done. Yesterday? A minor speed bump, forgotten by June.
Rule: I think he still has a bit of growing up to do, and this might help him get some perspective. He has been known to be a bit whiny even when things are going well, which is a bit annoying in my mind. Just like Rory a few years ago, I think this will help him gain experience that you wouldn’t expect a past champion to need, but I think he needs it. I think he’ll bounce back pretty quickly from this and expect him be right there in at least one other major this year.
Kaplan: He is a fiery competitor. It might take a few weeks, but he will shake this one off and never look back.
Loughry: It will be hard for Jordan to get over, but he’ll do it in time. His game is way too strong to let this completely derail him and he did show some serious resolve by making a mini comeback after recording 7 at 12.
When modern golf telecasts can deliver instantaneous stats, shot tracers and cutting edge technology, the CBS Masters version now appears quite stodgy. They defend it as traditional but it seems old and tired. What would you do to improve the product?
Deeks: Oh jeez, don’t get me started! Number one, hire some announcers who were born AFTER 1960. Number two, burn the Butler Cabin to the ground. Number three, recognize and adopt the technology referred to above (or otherwise, revert to the fine tradition of Cary Middlecoff, a diagram, and a pointed stick.) Numbers 4 through 611… BLOW UP that effing piano!! Number 612, euthanize Jim Nantz. Number 613, recognize that Gen. Eisenhower AND his tree are both dead, and welcome in the 21st Century. Enough for now.
Loughry: Well, I don’t mind the online advance of the broadcast, even more if we lived in the US (note to self: get a US IP address for sports viewing). Don’t we really watch this event for the golf drama though? Wasn’t that entertaining enough? I thought it was. Everybody is talking about it post mortem and will be for quite some time, which had nothing to do with how it was broadcast but all due to the diabolical Masters and their PERFECTLY staged back nine. All that other stuff is nice but I personally don’t need it to sell me on the game/Masters, etc. Without the other “stuff”, maybe there are eyeballs lost. It sure isn’t kid friendly. My 5 year old watched all but 10 minutes over the weekend. I’m pretty certain that had little impact on the TV ratings, which I’ll be researching when they come out. They are looking for between 14 and 17 million viewers to match last year.
Mastroianni: There’s no reason we shouldn’t see pro tracers, overhead shots, shading of green undulations, AimPoint, etc. But even more so, they need to stop putting muzzles on announcers or find some people who are actually entertaining. I never though I’d miss Feherty so much.
Quinn: I was shocked Sunday when they finally showed the massive undulations of the 2nd green FROM BEHIND THE GREEN! Holy Chirkinian! The best Perspective! Where has that been all our lives? After decades of telling viewers that the massive undulations and elevation changes don’t come off on TV, they finally showed a bit of HD reality. Still, not nearly enough. And despite being so grateful to the Club’s obscene wealth ($25 M cleared each tourney) that mercifully limits TV commercial breaks (even if the CRTC sanctioned overrides severely dilute the quality of the ads) that any fan should just tug the forelock and retreat quietly, that course cries out for the ProTracer. It’s the back nine on Sunday and we’re guessing where the freakin’ ball is going? Ridiculous in a 4K world. Maybe the jackets would go for an Augusta green trace. And we acknowledge that the Panama Paper-ed boys don’t want any oversight, but blimp shots tracking tee shots — 13th would be heaven — could almost, almost, cancel out the grammatical howlers of Kostis and Baker-Finch and Dottie and …..oh well, friends, spring has officially arrived.
MacKay: Everyone that goes to The Masters is astonished by the undulation of the property and the greens. I would love to see some sort of 3-D grid that would convey this to the television viewer and give us a better idea of exactly what the players have to contend with.
Kaplan: I would like to see some putt tracers for those greens. Show us exactly how much break there are on some of those putts and where the ideal line is. Good luck with that though. Augusta National doesn’t allow running … I doubt they would be down with innovation.
Rule: I understand tradition, but they have to make some changes. One of my buddies that I was watching with commented that it would be nice to know the yardage and club they are using, which they show sometimes, but not often. ProTracer has become so common now that it’s something they need to incorporate. Apparently the BBC coverage had it!
Mumford: I was shocked to see some new camera angles this year that showed how raised some of the greens are and how much slope they have. That’s a good start. Let’s see lots more of that. Shots from the blimp and ProTracer would help too. In fact, why is the Masters the only tournament without the blimp? The eye-in-the-sky perspective adds a lot to a telecast. The hushed reverential tones have to go. This is a golf tournament, not church. Kill the tinkling piano too. I’ve been saying for years that the CBS crew talks too much. The late, great Henry Longhurst used to say, “If your words can’t improve the picture, don’t say anything at all.” The CBS crew would be wise to follow that advice.