The 70th Masters

By Peter Aviles
Updated: April 10, 2006

NEW JERSEY—The 70th Masters golf tournament concluded and neither Tiger nor Vijay were able to slip their arms into the sleeves of the green jacket. Both tried, but could not mount a sustainable charge that could result in victory. More importantly however, is the legacy of this tournament. I cannot recall a more gregarious outpouring of affection to a golfer from a fellow competitor in my memory bank of recent major tournament play. What a love fest it turned out to be for Phil, not only from the fans, which we have become accustomed to seeing, but from playing partner Fred Couples. At one point they seemed so chummy that I wondered if this was the Masters or an afternoon stroll at the local country club.

What I find most interesting however, is the coronation of the winner, Phil Mickelson as the next great, well you fill in the blanks. Please understand. This is not to tarnish nor diminish his accomplishment. Phil won the tournament, but in the back of my mind, I wonder if Phil would be so loosey-goosey if he was playing with Vijay or Tiger. Fred and Phil were the ideal pairing. Fred Couples is affable, and talented, but I can’t imagine Phil getting hugs from Tiger or Vijay. What he would get is the icy stare from these intense competitors who makes no bones about their intentions, which is to win. In Tiger’s case, he wants to crush you, to wallop you as he did to Steve Ames recently in the Accenture match play championships beating Ames nine and eight. Yet, we see Phil and Fred strolling along without a care, as though they were competing in a five-dollar nassau. It’s one thing to have camaraderie and to be a gentleman. That is what this sport is about, but some of the images were perturbing.

The enormity of the event wrecked havoc with the field as shot after shot, and putt after putt failed came up shot time and time again. Opportunity after opportunity presented itself, but he was not able to capitalize. Worst of all though was Rocco Mediate, who went into the water three times for a ten on the par three twelfth hole.

Tiger and Vijay struggled with aspects of their game, namely putting. As well as Tiger drove the ball is how poorly he putted. Some may speculate that the weight of the illness his father has contributed to lapses in concentration. Others may hypothesize that his preparation might be affected given the concerns with the health of Earl Woods. Whatever the case, he made a run, but it was not enough. Most telling was Tiger’s birdie on 18. He simply waved in disgust as his putt rolled into the cup. A light moment as Tiger went to retrieve the ball, his caddie Steve took the putter and playfully pretended to snap it. This was a poignant moment that captured the frustration of the round, especially after positioning himself to make the run that never came. He hit it well as he admits tee to green but was a “spadz” on the green, otherwise, as he noted he could have given Phil a run.

Reality says what is and Phil is the 2006 Masters champion. With Phil winning two consecutive majors, some consider him the best in the world though the world golf ranking still has Tiger and Vijay ranked number one and two respectively.

I still wonder what if…