Two guys not named Tiger Woods finally stole the headlines from 2013 Masters but it took until the 72nd hole to do it. Australia’s Adam Scott bested Argentina’s Angel Cabrera in a two-hole sudden death playoff after they each birdied the 18th hole, but until then this was the Masters That Begged to be Forgotten – pouring rain, ugly rules violations, inconsistently administered penalties, it all made for a Masters that had a metaphorical cloud as well as too many real ones.
For most of this soggy Sunday, Adam Scott was shooting a 63 from tee to green, but couldn’t make a putt all day with that telephone pole he calls a putter. Had he putted well, he would have run away with this Masters. But every time the camera cut to caddie Stevie “Best Win of My Life” Williams after Scott missed yet another makeable putt, Stevie looked like he swallowed a box of thumbtacks. Scott looked to be giving away the Green Jacket, even with birdies on 13 and 15.
Meanwhile Angel Cabrera may not have had a stranglehold on the tournament, but with a two shot lead at the turn, (three over Scott), he had every opportunity to put the clamps on for good with a solid back nine.
After all, that’s the reason why we love the Masters. It’s the greatest 72-hole golf tournament in the world because it’s also the greatest 9-hole tournament in the world.
Cabrera already stole two majors, so you can’t sleep on the guy. He creeps up the leaderboard slowly and hangs around, bombing drives all over the park, making zany recovery shots, and holing putts from distant zip codes. He has only two PGA Tour wins – but both of them are majors. He snatched the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont from Tiger Woods with a closing 69, buy only hit five fairways all day. That’s the stat of a guy who shoots 79 and fades, not 1-under to win. Then at the 2009 Masters, he picked up the Green Jacket that Kenny Perry dropped on the ground while waiving to the crowd.
But Cabrera also won those two majors despite playing some shockingly bad golf shots: grounders, goofy slices, pull-hooks, trees, ditches – Cabrera hits some of the loosest shots of any major champion you’ve ever seen, Phil Mickelson included. Sure enough, there he was this year letting the lead slip away with ugly bogeys at 10 and 13, and a mere par at the 15th. It looked like Scott would get more of a challenge from fellow Aussie Jason Day, but Day – normally rock solid, inexplicably bogeyed 16 and 17 to leave the stage empty for Scott.
But suddenly Cabrera put his evil twin back in the trunk of the car and started playing real golf again…just in the nick of time. Cabrera birdied 16 and we were tied.
That’s when the mundane turned magnificent. We didn’t get much of a Masters all week, but we got a great finish in the clutch. Scott, playing 18 directly in front of Cabrera rolled in a 25-foot putt seemingly to seal the deal.
“It was an 8-iron from 161 yards, and it gave me the putt you ant to have – uphill with a little right to left break,” Scott explained. “It’s the putt a lot of champions have had to win the Masters, and I said it’s my time to step up, let’s see if I can join them.”
When that bomb went in, Scott let loose a pelvic thrust that would have made Mick Jaggar blush and made the heart of every girl from Tallahassee to Tacoma skip a beat.
“I thought for a split second I had it won, but only for a split second,” Scott admitted candidly.
Smart move, Adam, because Cabrera was unflappable. You don’t win two majors by being passive. Unfazed, Cabrera shouted back with his golf clubs, and the clubs screamed, “Forget all this play-it-to-the-right-and-filter-to-the-pin nonsense, we’re going right at it.”
Cabrera threw a dart at the pin, 7-iron from 170, and put it to two feet.
Lightning just struck twice in the same place.
Scott won the playoff with a birdie at 10 in the gloaming – he made a medium length putt after Cabrera missed one a shade longer, and we got a proper champion: a young Turk in full ascension, one who’ll stay competitive for many years to come and who will proudly carry all the hopes and rich golf history of Australia on his back. It’s redemption for his horrific crash and burn at last year’s British Open.
“I had to make that one – it was getting to dark to play any more,” quipped the affable Scott.
The sparkling finish brought to an end an otherwise flaccid and scandal-scarred Masters. Nonsense, weirdness, and controversy overshadowed the first three days.
First there were the “apparel scripts.” Sadly, golf tournaments are now fashion show competitions as well, with players required to wear what the clothing manufacturers tell them.
“It’s bad enough everyone acts the same, now they have to all dress the same? They can’t even dress themselves?” jibed one irreverent Twitterer.
“Look what team Taylor Made is wearing! How bold and daring,” joked another.
If a golf tournament is now also a fashion show, everyone gets failing marks for either being too milquetoast or too self indulgent. For goodness sake, Ricky Fowler looked fluorescent even in purple, and in that chartreuse thing he looked like a Key Lime pie with hair. Ask yourself, do you really want to wear that crap on the golf course? Hey everybody, let’s all shoot 99 and look stupid!
Then there was the NASCAR-like jostling on the leaderboard. From Friday through most of the back nine on Sunday, no one went on a run. Players either treaded water – giving back the birdies they made with mental mistakes – or slowly percolated downward. The usual puzzling stranger – Marc Leishman this year – managed to stay in the mix all four days, more because no one ran away and hid. And for Pete’s sake, Bernhard Langer was even within haling distance of the lead on Sunday
Bernhard Langer? Are you kidding me? Wasn’t he fossilized in amber eons ago? He was, actually, but they defrosted him so he could throw it back to the Triassic period. I’m surprised he didn’t play in a saber-tooth tiger skin and wooden club like in the B.C. comic strip. Cue Johnny Hart and his buddy Mort Walker.
But even with Scott and Cabrera’s late heroics, the defining shot of this year’s Masters was Tiger’s approach on 15 which caromed off the flagstick and into the water, and effectively resulted in Woods possibly losing a shot at being in the playoff with Cabrera and Scott.
It was defining for another reason – it once again defined Tiger Woods as selfish, self-indulgent, opportunistic, tone deaf to criticism, and flat out greedy – greedy for money, sponsors, applause, attention, and most of all Nicklaus’s major championship record, by hook or by crook, because he considers it his birthright. And if he would have won this tournament it would have been stolen by a crooked twisting of the Rules into yoga-like contortions that were never intended.
The primary purpose of the rules is to protect the field. With discretionary application of disqualification rules, the field is now striated into a star system. We all feared that to be the case on the PGA Tour, but now we have proof positive, and all golf looks bad. Let’s review:
Woods intentionally – indeed, willfully – took a drop two yards back from the proper position to give himself an advantage on the next stroke. He said those words on TV for all the World to hear.
Golf has a number of obscure or confusing rules, but the Drop Rule, 26-1, is NOT one of them. Tiger has been playing golf daily for 35 and a half years. He knows damn well you don’t drop two yards back to get a more favorable distance.
This wasn’t an innocent mistake. He said so himself in that damning interview.
He broke the rules in a manner intended to gain an advantage.
He did not assess himself the required penalty.
He signed his scorecard for fewer strokes than he truly earned.
And the tournament committee fell on its own sword because they didn’t catch him, someone else did.
Designed to combat the unfairness inherent in some microscopic infraction of the Rules no one might have seen or anticipated, Rule 33-7 let’s you keep a guy in a tournament in these circumstances:
“A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee such action warranted. If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule.” Rule 33-7.
What are exceptional individual cases? Gee! ESPN, Augusta, and CBS neglected to tell us that! Here’s what the Rules Decisions go on to explain:
“A Committee would not be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d if the competitor’s failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card.”
As one Internet commentator pointed out, “All three of the examples used to exempt a player from disqualification have to do with HD video, slow motion video, or a camera with a high-powered zoom lens. None of those would be needed to see Tiger’s rule infraction. A simple understanding of the rules would allow you to know Tiger was taking an illegal drop…”
Moreover, taking an illegal drop is a “serious breach of etiquette” as defined under the Rules. It was an affirmative act illegally done to gain an unfair advantage. He should have been gone – out the door, Dairy Queen, do you want sprinkles on that?
Instead, the tournament committee read “Exceptional Individual cases” rather literally: that we’ll waive the rule for exceptional individuals! Tiger Woods is exceptional, someone else is not. Tiger brings in casual eyeballs, someone else does not. Tiger is chasing Jack’s record, someone else is not. Money talks, chumps walk.
The Rules must bind everyone, high and low, or they aren’t rules at all.
This sends the worst message possible, and CBS and ESPN are just as complicit as the Masters tournament in the sweep-up of the mess under the rug. No one else in the media got the chance to ask hard questions and, instead, they just lobbed softballs to help the tournament committee put a brave face on the mess. Even poor Nick Faldo had to do an about face or perhaps risk never covering another Masters again. One minute he’s shouting that Tiger should be disqualified, the next, “of course he shouldn’t be.”
But those who aren’t beholden to help maintain a code of silence and don’t put their employers’ TV contracts with Augusta National at risk are more outspoken. Take FoxSports Broadcaster Steve Czaban, who wrote, “Tiger Woods is the black hole of his sport. Everything gets bent in his orbit. Announcers and their sense of professionalism. Sponsors and their sense of dignity. Commissioners and their concept of equality. And now the rules. Again. Like the half ton boulder in Arizona that was rolled aside for Tiger by a half dozen volunteers looking to get on SportsCenter.”
Meanwhile the perpetually impenitent Woods just went on with his “What? Me worry?” act just like he did before the sex scandal showed everyone what a cretin he truly is. This incident now confirms that he needs to be watched for being a Cheetah on the golf course as well as off the course. He hasn’t changed one bit and all professional golf is repeating their mistake by doubling down on his lowest common denominator act. Woods is still the same vacuous, morally vacant phony he ever was.
“I think he shud (withdraw),” 2001 British Open winner David Duval said Saturday via Twitter. “He took a drop to gain an advantage.”
“I’ve been asked if Hogan would have WD’d in Tiger’s situation. I thought about that last night. I think so. Jones and Nicklaus, for sure,” agreed Hall of Fame golf writer Dan Jenkins.
“The landing of the drop must first be ANAP to last shot played. Just about anybody can drop a ball within a foot of that, 2yd = 2 far away,” said fellow pro Stu Appleby.
“If Tiger were to have won, this would forever have been known as the Masterisk,” concluded Sports Illustrated writer Gary Van Sickle.
But in the end, we didn’t need Woods, as we usually don’t. We got a riveting finish, a proper champion, a clean, non-controversial result, and all Australia is ringing with the cheering.
“I reckon it’s time for a beer,” fellow Aussie Geoff Ogilvy said, and he’s right. It’ll wash away some of the bad taste left after this weird Masters. Make it a Foster’s…and, Adam, good on ya, mate. See you at Merion.
NEWS, NOTES, AND QUOTES
Cabrera never birdied 18 in any final round on Sunday until yesterday.
This was the second playoff in a row at the Masters and three in last five years. It was the sixteenth playoff in Masters history and the tenth in sudden death format. None have lasted longer than two holes.
Cabrera eats steaks, he smokes cigars, drinks a lot of wine, has swarthy good looks, yet a frumpy physique, how can you not love him? He’s the Latin world’s proper rejoinder to Darren Clarke. On 10 in the playoff, he outdrove Scott with a 292-yard iron!
Rising star Michael Whitehead – “How ridiculous do celebrations look with a long putter?”
Anchored putters have now won all four majors.
Nick Faldo, (the only man to win two Masters in playoffs) – “Augusta National is the most nerve-wracking golf course in the world.”
“I’m psyched the cute boy won,” said every hot chick everywhere.