Sportsmanship, regrets and sentimental favourites

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.

The 81st Masters had more stories after it was done than it had going in but the head-to-head match between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose over the final nine holes will be long remembered as a classic Masters finish. What was your take-away from the Sunday final between those two?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): What impressed me more than anything was the good sportsmanship between the two. I’m a sucker for that.  I saw a low-five between them at one point, and a thumb’s up to Sergio from Justin in the heat of the battle… what a great example that is.  Like most people I was never a big Sergio fan, but like most people, I’d say he finally grew up and began to accept both fate and his own shortcomings.  A grown man won the Masters, not a remarkably talented boy.  My only hope now is that Justin Rose wins many more majors… he’s a great player and an even better sportsman.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The sportsmanship stood out most for me. They played splendidly coming in, a classic match as they separated themselves from the field. Although friends, they both wanted to win, but the thumbs up, low 5’s, high 5’s was terrific. Our game has taken a few lumps the last 12 months or so, and this truly epitomizes what our game is about. You can compete but still be respectful; it was simply great to see.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Man was that ever a great finish! I liked the camaraderie between the two veterans coming down the stretch.  Obviously both players wanted their first green jackets but it was really endearing to see Rose and Garcia actively cheering one another on after good shots. I don’t think that you would see something like that in any other major sport these days.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Could not get past the image of Sergio wiping that putt on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie in ’07. At Augusta on Sunday he made the same stroke at 16 and 18 in regulation, falling again into a playoff, and I thought it definitely is well and truly over, he was right in saying publicly that he didn’t have what it takes to win a Major. Turns out, what he needed was Rose messing up the 73rd hole and his own self nailing back-to-back brilliant drives and inspired seconds on 18. He may have broken out of the psycho prison walls he’s been banging his head against since he was 19, or he may just be easing into the role of ceremonial starter at Augusta National. As always with Sergio, we don’t know, but we’ll be watching.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The good sportsmanship between the two competitors was obvious and gratifying but the most remarkable thing to me was the way Sergio was able to compose himself after several potentially critical self-inflicted wounds: the first and second shots on 10; the drive on 11. His tee shot on 13 was unlucky to hit a tree and drop where it did. The old Sergio would have had a tantrum, blamed the golf gods and everybody on the planet and that would have been the end of him. The new Sergio rallied to make a good par. Normally he could have made the first putts on 16 and 18 in his sleep but made poor strokes on both. Yet he held his composure. Normally, Sergio tries to make things happen but he won this green jacket by letting things happen and being patient with the outcome.

A lot of other big name players were in the mix for the final but couldn’t mount a charge when it mattered. Who has the most to regret after not getting it done on Sunday?

Deeks: I was surprised that none of Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler, or Day were in the thick of it on the back nine on Sunday, considering how close they were for the first 63 holes. Well, perhaps Day faded a bit earlier than that, but a timely birdie or two could’ve brought him back.  In any event, to answer the question, I think Spieth might have the most to regret for not finding third gear and turning in a 75.  But in the scheme of things, and by the end of all their careers, I don’t think these guys will ever look back and say “that was the turning point, and my career went downhill from there.”

Loughry: Rose has to be the most disappointed. He was right there to the end and had several chances to put Sergio away, but just didn’t do it; birdie putt on 13, par putt on 17, birdie putt on 18 – he had his chances.

Kaplan: I was shocked by how much Spieth struggled on Sunday considering just how well he played on Moving Day.  I thought the tournament was setting up perfectly for the Texan’s redemption narrative and that Spieth was going to take control of the tournament on the front nine, but he struggled right out of the gate with three bogeys in his first six holes. By the time he got to the 12th tee, all hopes of a victory for the 23-year-old had already been scrapped.

Quinn: Setting the PVR has never been easier. In the last 26 Masters, 22 winners have teed off in the last twosome. The longest modern-era charges have come from 4th place ( Zach in ’07 and Bubba in ’12), and everyone’s favourite super hero Art Wall (from 13th place in 1959) is the only guy to ever win it from outside of the top 10 after 54 holes. So what’s to regret, other than Rose playing the 18th in the playoff like he’d never seen the hole before, and miss-reading the same putt twice in a half hour? No one else can have any legitimate regrets. They weren’t in it Sunday.

Mumford: While Rose may have some regrets about a bad swing in the playoff, he was there at the end and had a chance. I think Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler probably have more regrets because they had a chance to be there and never showed up. Spieth obviously knows how to play Augusta and two strokes was nothing to overcome if he was on his game. But he never was. Fowler, on the other hand, has something to prove. He may be the most popular player on Tour and certainly has been one of the most visible for five or six years, yet he only has four wins and no majors. This was his best opportunity and he flat out blew it. Both players should be kicking themselves hard.

Now that Sergio has the monkey off his back when it comes to majors, who’s next in line when it comes to sentimental favourites to win a major?

Deeks: If you mean, “who’s NOW the best player never to have won a major and who has a realistic shot at one” (thereby ruling out a guy like Lee Westwood), I’d love to see Rickie Fowler win something big, although he does have that TPC on his belt.  I’m also jumping on the John Rahm wagon, but we don’t know yet if he’s just a kid on a hot streak.  Hideki Matsuyama is still largely an unknown quantity, but he’s shown he belongs in the conversation. Patrick Reed would never be MY sentimental favourite, but he’s a good enough player.  For sentimental value, though, in my view, no one’s more deserving than Matt Kuchar.  But time’s a wastin’…

Loughry: Isn’t the sentimental favourite now to win Lee Westwood? How isn’t it? It sure isn’t Colin Montgomery, the full Monty, who is more than past his prime, no matter how much we’d like to think he could do the unthinkable like both Watson and Norman almost did. Maybe a close second is Rickie Fowler.

Kaplan: It’s got to be one of Phil Mickelson or Rocco Mediate winning the US Open. Hopefully, that’s the final group at Erin Hills this year.

Quinn: With this gang of multi-millionaires, it’s hard to conjure sentimentality. I think it stops at Lee Westwood. But rather than have a ‘best ever to not win’ take one, I’d prefer that another young guy gets on the board and starts cranking up the rivalries.

Mumford: Phil Mickelson will be the sentimental favourite to win the U.S. Open until he does or dies trying. Maybe Lee Westwood notches some votes as the player with the most tries without a win but like Monty, I suspect he’s destined to be denied. For the record I also thought Sergio would never win a major either but he was a different Sergio this year at Augusta. Rory will be the sentimental favourite to complete his personal Grand Slam next year at Augusta but overall, I think most people will be pulling for Rickie Fowler to win a major. He has that Arnold Palmer likeability, plenty of game and it’s hard to root against him. He may not always be the betting favourite but he’ll be almost everybody’s sentimental favourite.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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