Some winners and losers from a week at the Masters that included a hugely popular win, a pair of old guys making a run, Jim Nantz stepping up the creepy and the introduction of The New Tiger Woods, who, it turns out, is exactly like the Tiger Woods we watched five months ago. I was so disgusted with his behavior on the course over the weekend that I actually went out to my car with a 7-iron and went Elin on the windows.
With that, here are the winners and losers ...
Winner: Phil Mickelson
First, the second shot on 13 (from 207 yards out, off the pine straw, through a pair of trees, over the creek to about five feet) was an all-timer. I think only Tiger and Phil could pull off that shot, and I think only Phil would have actually attempted to hit that shot at that point of the tournament.
The idea of Mickelson as a lovable loser still doesn't seem that long ago, does it? But now he has four majors, including three at the event that most would choose if they could only win one. He's never going to catch You Know Who in career majors or total wins or money or Player of Year Awards. He's not as good a golfer, at his best, as Tiger Woods is at his best. We know that.
But I suspect that he wouldn't trade his life for Tiger's if you told him that he would finish with 60 major championships. And if you watched the Mickelson family off the 18th green on Sunday and didn't pull a Dick Vermeil, well, it might be time to buy the sweatpants and a pair of cats and call it a day. Just a great moment that golf really needed.
Loser: Tiger Woods
(From that interview with Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman from back in March)
Tilghman: I noticed you’re wearing a bracelet, can we see it?
Tilghman: What does it mean?
Woods: It’s Buddhist, it’s for protection and strength and I certainly need that.
OK. Here's what the bracelet apparently doesn't protect Tiger from:
-- Screaming "Tiger Woods ... you suck!" after a lousy tee shot.
-- Calling out both The Father and The Son after hitting terrible shots over the weekend.
-- Throwing his clubs after (any guesses?) poor tee shots and approach shots.
-- Using his dead father as a prop in a Nike ad that is supposed to make us believe ... what? That Tiger is sorry? That he's wounded? Hurt? Angry? Alone?
-- The reality that if he doesn't figure out how to put the ball in the fairway he is going to be looking up at Phil Mickelson in the world rankings, and soon.
What a five months, huh? Could it be any worse right now for Tiger? His image is totally shattered, for all we know his family is crumbling, and his chief rival on the course has picked up another major and moved way past him on the old approval scale. I think we are at the part of the movie where Anakin has had enough and decides to give the mask and cape a shot.
I don't care if Tiger pouts and throws clubs and swears like he's trying out for the part of Mr. Pink in a "Reservoir Dogs" remake, as long as he doesn't try to sell me -- for weeks before -- that he's now going to be a new man on the course. Just stop with the act, Tiger. The best career move for you right now would be silence. No more talking to the press and please, no more promises of change. The more I watch Tiger go deeper and deeper into this hole the more I am reminded of a line from Deep Throat (ironic, huh?), in "All the President's Men," talking about the Watergate burglars.
"The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand."
I'm starting to think that quote applies pretty well to Tiger and his PR crew. How many more missteps can be made?
Winner: The Course Set-Up
Over the past six or seven years the Powers that Be at Augusta National decided to try and make the Masters into the U.S. Open or PGA Championship. For some reason it became, it seemed, important to these guys to prove that they could set the course up to have a winning score around even par. Never mind that every year the Masters had the best leaderboard and more often than not a Grade A spank such as Steve Jones or Shaun Micheel would win the U.S. Open or PGA. The Masters needed to prove that the course had some teeth. So they toughened the course up and made Augusta another grind-fest. And guess what happened? You had Mike Weir beating Len Mattice in a playoff in 2003 in a tournament so dull the official video for the event was titled "The one thing even John Feinstien wouldn't write a book about." And who can forget Zach Johnson winning at +1 in 2007, or the immortal Trevor Immelman a year later?
But the Powers that Be must've figured out that the Trevor Immelmans of the world aren't supposed to win the Masters. So they got back to what the course so great -- risk vs. reward. Moved the tees up a little on some holes, put a few pins the kid of spot where, if you hit the perfect shot, you can make a birdie. And guess what happened, Part 2? You wound up with a leaderboard on Sunday that included Phil Mickelson (now a four-time major winner), Lee Westwood (top-five player in the world currently at his career peak), Anthony Kim (considered by many to be the best American player under the age of 30), K.J. Choi (seven-time PGA Tour winner) and Fred Couples (former world No. 1.) So sure, -16 is a score you'll never see at a U.S. Open. But who cares? I (and everyone else watching on TV) would rather watch Tiger and Phil slugging it out as THAT Augusta than Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis in the all-time plodder duel to the viewer death.
Loser: Peter Kostis
Worst toupee ever. How do you go on TV with that baby dancing on your head? Do you realize that right now CBS has both Charlie Casserly and Kostis on the payroll? At this point I can't count out Rip Taylor as an NCAA analyst next season.
Winner: Tom Watson
Tom Watson was born in 1949. That's the same year John Riggins and The Magnificent Muraco were born. Point is, someone that age shouldn't be able to play 72 holes at Augusta and finish under par. And yes, I know golf isn't a "real" sport and that Watson faded a little over the weekend, but what he has done over the last nine months or so is remarkable. There is only one American player who finished in the top 20 at the 2009 British Open and the 2010 Masters. Not Mickelson, not Woods, not Kim, not Nick Watney or Lucas Glover or Sean O'Hair or Stewart Cink or even Couples. Nope, try 60-year-old Tom Watson. Hope he gets an exemption to the US Open at Pebble Beach. He's playing too well and has too much history at the course for it not to happen.
Loser: Ian Poulter
Look, I don't know if was a nod to Martha Burk or not, but Poulter should know better. If you wear golf shoes with pink on them over the weekend at Augusta get ready to shoot 74-73 and fall from first to tenth place. The Men of the Masters will have none of that. Remember, inside the gates it is always 1954. If there was an Augusta National High School there would be no dancing allowed. And if Kevin Bacon tried his song and dance act The Men of the Masters would have had him buried behind the 12th green faster than you can say "Kenny Loggins."
Winner: Lee Westwood
Absolutely played well enough to win. He had a share of the 36-hole lead and I'm sure would have signed on Friday night for a weekend of 68-71, but Mickelson was just a buzzsaw with a pair of 67s. You could make a case that Westwood has been the best player in the world over the last nine months, finishing in the top three in each of the last three majors. Bonus points for seemingly genuinely happy for Mickelson in his post-round interview. An easy guy to root for.
Loser: Lee Westwood
But still an easy guy to root for that hasn't won a major. The dreaded "Best Player Without a Major" title is around his waist.
(And, yes, they should have a belt for that, if only to see Sergio Garica get stripped of the title for his "Wait, I don't have to care about getting better at my job but I can still make tons of money and date models?" realization in 2009.)
Winner: Moments Like This
Peter Kostis to Tiger in the post-round interview:
"So you're not going to use a different measuring stick to measure your performance this week. You are going to use your normal measuring stick."
There might be a day when it's not that funny to hear someone say that to Tiger Woods, but that day has yet to arrive. Throw in a Jim Nantz "Faux pas for the ages!" right after Tiger finished his round on Sunday (I can't comment on that one, but a simple Google search should do the trick for you) and there were more laughs in the last half-hour of coverage than in all 157 episodes of "Two and a Half Men" combined.
(And why do Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo have to shake hands at the beginning of each broadcast? Clearly they have been in the same room for a couple of hours, it's not like when you run into somebody at the store. Odd. And I'm not a professional Nantz hater like some, but he does pour on the creepy at Augusta.)
Loser: Anyone That Can't Get the Masters Theme Out Of Their Head
"Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da."
Hey, here's one for the "We don't live long enough to care" file:
Did you know that Dave Loggins (no relation to Kenny) wrote the Masters theme with lyrics in 1980? It's true.
"Well, it's springtime in the valley on Magnolia Lane;
It's the Augusta National and the masters of the game.
Who'll wear that green coat on Sunday afternoon?
Who'll walk that 18th fairway singing this tune?
"Augusta, your dogwoods and pines, they play on my mind like a song.
Augusta, it's you that I love, it's you that I miss when I'm gone
"Well, it's Watson, Byron Nelson, and Demaret, and Player and Snead,
And it's Amen Corner, and it's Hogan's perfect swing;
It's Sarazen's double eagle at the 15th in '35,
And the spirit of Clifford Roberts that keeps it alive.
"Augusta, your dogwoods and pines, they play on my mind like a song.
Augusta, it's you that I love, it's you that I miss when I'm gone.
"It's the legions of Arnie's Army and the Golden Bear's throng, Wooden-shafted legend, Bobby Jones."
A) Can this be updated, and B) what rhymes with "sexting"?
Winner: Jack Nicklaus
Hey, another missed major for Tiger. We all think that he'll beat Jack's record, but for the first time in years there is a little doubt creeping in. Forgetting all the scandal stuff, you are talking about a guy with multiple knee surgeries entering his mid-30s. If he somehow doesn't win at least one of the next two majors (at Pebble and St. Andrews, two courses he owns) than it would be fair to start the "Is this going to happen?" debate.
Loser: Hank Haney
He seems like a swell guy on TV and must be in the spot he's in for some reason, but I'm putting his over/under date on getting shown the door by Tiger at July 18. When you are a swing coach and turn Tiger Woods into Chuck Knoblauch off the tee it might be time to consider that job at the diner that your brother-in-law could still get you.