The Cut : The Cut - Winter 2017
44 THE CUT the full range of emotions on championship Sundays and looked unfazed by the task ahead. McIlroy was out early and needed to shoot a round in the mid-60s to put any kind of pressure on the leaders. Alas, a 69 was not good enough. Adam Scott threatened briefly but no abracadabra with his long game could make the birdies drop. After the leaders traded birdies and bogeys on the opening holes, the only thing clear to me at the turn was that the unease Spieth had displayed on the practice ground had carried over to his game on the course. Fowler was also showing signs of discomfort in his swing and their poor play was rubbing off on each other. By the time they reached Amen Corner, both had played themselves out of contention. History has shown us that the Masters doesn’t really start until the players reach the back nine on Sunday. This is not a cliché, it’s a fact. With Spieth and Fowler exiting the stage, the path was clear for Rose and Garcia to duke it out over the closing stretch. After consecutive fives to start the back nine and a wayward drive on the 13th that came to rest in the hazard, it seemed for all money like Sergio was pulling a Sergio and would falter on the home stretch as he’s done so many times before. But after 73 previous major championships, this week would be different. Garcia managed to save par at the 13th and a costly three-putt by Rose maintained his two-shot lead with five holes to play. Garcia’s fiancé, Angela Aikins – whom he will marry in July – had left inspirational messages for him throughout the week with quotes from people like Mahatma Gandhi and Audrey Hepburn. On Sunday she kept her message short and sweet: “Remember to be amazing today.” This time, Garcia saved his amazing for when it mattered most. After a much-needed birdie at the 14th, Garcia uncorked a 340-yard tee shot on the 15th that left him just a 7-iron approach into the par-5 . He would nearly dunk it in the hole, bouncing it off the flagstick to set up an eagle putt from 14 feet. If he could make it he would take the lead. In his previous 452 holes at the Masters, Garcia had never made an eagle – an astonishing statistic. Here’s another one: Olazábal was the last player to eagle the 15th en route to victory in 1999. Coincidence? I think not. I was standing just to the left of the 16th tee as Sergio lined up the putt. With less than half a roll to spare, the ball disappeared over the front edge of the cup and the entire crowd around me erupted, half of them in shock, the other half in jubilation. Sergio was now leading the Masters with three holes to play. Vamos! Rose calmly two-putted from the back left edge to make birdie and tie things up once again. Special stuff indeed. For me, the most memorable moment of this Masters was what happened next. Garcia continued his comeback at the par-3 16th by stuffing his tee shot to within 8 feet. Rose answered with a superb 8-iron of his own that covered that flagstick the entire way and rolled to 12 feet from the pin. As they walked off the tee box Garcia offered Rose a low five in recognition of the shot but also out of respect for the epic battle they were both engaged in. To have the presence of mind, the class and the sportsmanship to acknowledge your opponent at such a crucial stage of the tournament was a credit to both Garcia and Rose. Rose would make his putt at 16 and Garcia would miss. The reverse would happen at 17 and after matching approaches at the final hole and a couple of missed birdie attempts, this Masters duel was destined for extra holes. The rest is history. Garcia’s make from 10 feet to finally win his first Major will be the crowning putt that everyone will remember. However, the entire week overflowed with magical moments that made it one of the most unforgettable Masters in recent history. Paella on the dinner menu at Augusta next April? TOP: Sergio’s drive on the 15th left him with this 7-iron shot into the green. It hit the pin and set up an eagle putt. ABOVE: In the hole! Sergio celebrates his eagle putt on the 15th and (above right) the crowd erupts.
The Cut - Autumn 2017
The Cut - Spring 2017