We sing its song, write poems about it, embrace it with a swelling heart, revel in its Edenic gardens. Golf, the beautiful game.
But truth be told, it can be one wicked devil. It won’t hesitate to pull your pants down and cackle about it. Keep your ball rolling until it finds a lie that you need backhoe to get out of. Kick your putt aside like a dyspeptic goaltender.
Thursday was a lovely day at the Masters and Henrik Stenson was loving it, especially when he eagled the two par fives on Augusta National’s front nine to make the turn in 31 and then birdied the tenth to get to 6 under par, lapping the field.
And then, he butchered the 18th so brutally, he just had to beat the ground with one of his treasonous clubs, eventually signing for a quadruple bogey eight and a total of 71.
Stenson’s not an 8 shooter. He could get up and down from the deck of a sinking cruise ship in fewer strokes than that. He had played that hole 18 times before in the Masters in a total of even par. But golf got him Thursday.
“Finishing with 8,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”
He said he thought about breaking his clubs but remembered he’d need them again.
“This course, it can really grab you,” he said, “and I got my bit of it on 18.”
Charlotte’s Johnson Wagner could sympathize. He was looking golden at one under par after 10 holes but golf decided he was having too much fun.
He bogeyed the next four holes and capped that run off with a double bogey on the 15th. It all added up to 79.
A guy standing under the big tree on the clubhouse lawn, looking like he could star in a Crocodile Dundee sequel, could tell them about disappointment. Boy, could he tell them.
Name’s Greg Norman. So you had a bad day. He had a bad career where finishing was concerned. You know the story – people were always holing out from somewhere to beat him and then there was the Masters he lost to Nick Faldo after leading by six going into the final round.
Norman finished in the top three in six Masters—and never won it.
Because the prize is so great, the Masters breaks a lot of hearts. Scott Hoch missed a putt not much longer than his shoe, keeping Nick Faldo alive in a playoff. Faldo went on to win. Len Mattiace tied for first but double bogeyed the first playoff hole. Raymond Floyd dumped his approach into the pond at the 11th in a playoff.
And just last year, on his way to winning the green jacket, Rory McIlroy drove into the cabins on the 10th hole and stumbled around the back in 40 strokes while Charl Schwartzel sprinted home first.