More Musings On The Masters
It always seems like this one event will give us more drama and excitement than any other professional tournament. As the old saying goes, “the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday”, is not far from truth most every year, and this one was no exception. Charl Schwartzel put on a magnificent performance to birdie the last four holes to win by two. No one has ever done that before, and his precision down the stretch was impressive, as was his ability to keep cool under that kind of fire.

I also like the fact that his father is and has been his only coach, and he doesn’t travel with Charl while he’s on tour. In other words, he’s learned the game and now he plays it, continuing his learning on his own. As you probably figured from my April Fool’s Day column, I’m tired of hearing how these players travel with their entourage of swing gurus, mental coaches, agents, managers, handlers, dog trainers, masseuses, nannies . . . . . Charl seems to be more of a self-made golfer than the vast majority, so he’s a new star on my list of golfers to watch.

Tiger’s Tale

I figured when Tiger eagled the eighth hole, that he was going on a tear and would win it all, but that was just not to be. I’ll admit that I had my fingers crossed he wouldn’t do it, because I’m just not a fan of his. His talent and skill with a golf club is unquestionable, but his behavior and treatment of fans, the press and his fellow competitors leaves a lot to be desired. I no longer watch the NBA or other major professional sports because the “stars” repulse me for the most part. They make millions off of us, but too many give little in return in the way of appreciation. And then they find a way to whine about not getting their fair share. I’m hoping that we don’t have an NFL season this fall, actually.

But the most tiresome thing about professional sports is the seemingly endless stream of stories about thuggish or boorish behavior of its star players. These guys act like the rules for everyone else, just don’t apply to them, and for the most part they don’t. Wouldn’t it be nice if pro athletes had a “moral turpitude” clause in their contracts like most executives do? Get arrested/convicted, find a new job. Act like a sleaze, get a new job. Treat fans poorly, get a new job.

Fortunately, professional golf has escaped that syndrome for the most part, but Tiger is still stuck in his old pattern. And I’d like to see the PGA Tour just suspend him for a while until he grows up and learns that this is a privilege to play in front of all of us, and it carries a responsibility. It’s not his right to fly in, play for millions, throw clubs, curse, spit and basically be a boor, give a curt 2-3 minute interview and then take off. If his class and grace matched his talent and skill, he’d be the best ever. But in my book, he could take lots of lessons from the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson and many others before him.

The Changing Of Augusta

As I have watched the Masters for the last decade, since they began to “Tiger proof” it, as it’s said, I see the same course I’ve watched for years, but a very different tournament. And I have to admit to feeling nostalgic about “the good old days”. Back when 13 and 15 were real par five holes, where a good drive could give you a chance to go for the green in on your second shot . . . . with a fairway wood or long iron!!!! Back when a well placed drive on 18 could give you as little as a five-iron into the green, maybe even a six, but not a wedge!!!!

What I see now is a par 34 back nine. If most players can reach 13 and 15 with a middle iron, are they really par fives? I’ll admit, it’s a tough par 34, but in my book, a par 34 nonetheless. When Ray Floyd won the Masters in 1976, he put a 5-wood in his bag, just for the par five holes on the back nine, and it paid off for him. That club is in the Augusta trophy case. Oh, and his winning score was 271, 17 under par!!!

Imagine if the courses were long enough to make today’s tour players hit long irons and fairway woods to short par fives, and longer ones were unreachable. Imagine if today’s players had to face a finishing hole that was driver, one-iron as Hogan did in the U.S. Open at Merion long ago. Imagine if they all had to play the game learned on their own and what their fellow players shared with them, as did all the early stars. Imagine if they had to tour around the courses with the comparatively crude equipment and balls played in the history of the game.

Imagine . . .
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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