I’m going to take this opportunity to force some humble pie down my throat after the events of yesterday. Aside from my pre Masters picks (which I’ll get to later), I, like many others, were waiting for the cataclysmic chain of events that would send Sergio Garcia spiraling out of orbit. To an extent, they did feature-the drive on thirteen, the shanked putt on sixteen and again on eighteen. Deja vous. We’ve seen it all before-Harrington, in the Sky commentary booth, must have harked back to their encounters and thought “have you learned anything?”
The narrative of Sergios career, from when I followed him as the fiery nineteen year old playing Ballybunion, to now, the veteran of seventy-three Major competitions, multiple Ryder Cups and victim of serious self-doubt, read that he just would never finish the job. Even by his own admission, he felt a stage when he realistically could not ever see himself winning. That the best he could play for was second place. What changed? Looking over his stats from the week, it’s not hard to tell why. Augusta is the ultimate second shot course. As we mentioned, you more often than not play for certain areas on greens, not to attack pins, which is folly in itself, but you try to avoid the propensity of a three putt. Sergio hit 80% of the greens this week. When he did find trouble, he was able to scramble to save par five out of six times. The most important stat of his week was putting though. Ironically, he had one of the hotter weeks with the flat stick. He was in the top thirthy for average putting, which is fantastic in itself, but the best two stats that he possessed, apart from the most important one going-number of strokes, was that he never had double bogey or worse for the week, and that he three-putted once and once only. It was a surprise to see Justin Rose falter in the manner that he did.
He did explain after that a pinecone interfered with his ability to advance the ball further on the play off hole, but there was a great chance on the back nine for him to separate from Sergio and hold a bigger advantage on the latter holes. Nothing was noted of his grimacing coming off the fourteenth tee, which was surprising. He didn’t mention it post round to my knowledge, to his credit. He’ll be back, don’t you worry folks. It wasn’t a great day for many other favourites, but a lot of the damage had been done earlier in the week. Rory had a decent final round, shooting three under. But for him, his chances faltered on Saturday. He performed poorly with the big stick by his own mercurial standards, averaging 52% of the fairways which simply isn’t good enough to win. It leads to a knock-on effect of lower green percentages and increased putting.
As was the case with Speith and Fowler respectively, with the pair failing to live up to the hype of being a feature group. The European contingent performed with great distinction, with Thomas Pieters one of the stand out names of the week. The Belgian is one of the hottest prospects of the game, and along with Rahm will be around for some time it feels. Pieters is also one of the few players under thirty (McIlroy,Chappell) that feature high on the leader board too, showing immense maturity. On to my picks. For 2017 I am zero from five it seems. I really felt that Phil and Rahm would be the chief moneymakers for me, but they tailed off on the weekend. Cabrera-Bello and Haas never even got going. I had hoped they would place to cover the other bets, but it wasn’t to be. The main money was on Rory, and for a stretch Saturday evening, things were looking promising. He got off to a great start, hitting two picture perfect three woods on the Par Five second. He ground to a halt for the rest of the round and this was exacerbated by the approach on eighteen. Sergio hit the pin on fifteen and though it hampered, it remained on the green.
Rory did not have this fortune though, and the bogey on the last put him onto the back foot for Sunday. I’m not one of the people that cheered on Sergio on Sunday, but by the same token I didn’t wish vitriol either. With a degree of apathy, I merely waited to see it unfold with his as I have so many other times. Many chimed in with the tale of him deserving it, like it was his God given right. Rarely does it work like that. Even if it was anointed on what would have been Seve’s sixtieth birthday, he still had to go out and earn it. Now that he stumbled across the line, nobody, not even yours truly can take it away from him. I don’t feel I can write a form of revisionism on the subject, as I applaud him for finally coming up with the goods.
Like Butch Harmon said, and it’s now one of my favourite quotes, “You don’t have to be great all the time, but you do have to be great at the RIGHT time.” I think that’s a fitting way to end what turned out to be one of the best Masters tournaments we will ever see. Now it’s time to whet the appetite for the next major, the US Open, at what looks to be an absolutely stunning Erin Hills. Now, where’s the whipped cream for that pie…..