Sunday, April 8, 2018

Masters plan

I love this day in golf – the final round of The Masters.

While some people fail to see the drama that can arise from hitting a little white ball with a crooked stick into a gopher hole, the day almost always brings me to the edge of my seat.

Part of the reason, I think, is because of the golf course itself. Augusta National, as golf courses go, is nothing less than a glorious work of art, carved out of the Fruitland azalea nursery in the 1930s by none other than Bobby Jones his own self.

I've had the great privilege to attend two Masters practice rounds in my life, thus twice fulfilling an item on my bucket list when once would have been amazing enough (Other bucket list check marks: I've played at Pinehurst No. 2 twice; I've flown in a World War II era B-24; I've hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and I sang "Rocky Mountain High" while actually crossing the Rockies. I once swam with barracuda in the Florida Keys, but that was more of an accident of crossing paths with fish with sharp teeth while I was snorkeling than a bucket list quest of mine. It'll do, though).

Anyway, Augusta National without golfers on it would be thrilling enough. Now throw in world class professionals and you enter the realm of legend: rallies, comebacks, epic collapses, epic shots – it's all there.

Another reason I love this day is because I usually pick somebody I want to win, and so it becomes a little more personal. I usually get serious about this after the cut, when it' a little clearer who's leading the field or has a reasonable chance for victory.

For example, I've never been a big Sergio Garcia fan, but I pulled for him to win The Masters last year and was happy enough when he finally put on his green jacket.

The usual suspects also tend to come into play here: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson. I can pull for any of those guys if they're in contention. But if they're up against the dreaded best player never to have won a major, I generally pull for the guy seeking his first title.

Compelling story lines don't hurt, either. Rory Mcllroy can complete his career Grand Slam (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship) if he wins today. It'll mean Patrick Reed, another solid golfer I like, will have to choke on his three-stroke lead, a development which could become something of Masters legend a la Greg Norman, if that happens.

I also like Jordan Spieth because his mom went to Moravian College and his dad went to Lehigh University, which are landmarks within my old stomping grounds when I was a kid growing up in Bethlehem, PA. So there's that. It's part of my six degrees of separation from Jordan Spieth.

This year's leaderboard looks pretty interesting going into the final round. I'm ready to settle in, immerse myself in sandy white bunkers and smell the azaleas.

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