Lingering Thoughts on the 2014 Masters

Apr 16, 2014 2 Comments
Photo By: Bermuda Department of Tourism

Photo By: Bermuda Department of Tourism

We love Bubba Ball, but does the PGA???…
A year removed from the pressure and anxiety of having to defend his 2012 Masters victory, Bubba Watson demonstrated this past week the unique ability to understand and conquer the challenges of Augusta National for a second time.  This combined with the fact that the course naturally fits Bubba’s eye has prognosticators drooling at the prospect of just how many Green Jackets Bubba will add to wardrobe.   But having not won a major outside of Augusta the question remains is whether or not Watson is a one trick pony or can he actually achieve PGA stardom by winning at least one major outside of Georgia? Moreover, can he provide an alternative figurehead to the game in the absence of success from Tiger Woods?

The truth is Bubba’s exactly what the PGA does and doesn’t want.   He’s a great talent who is slowly proving to be a legitimate force on tour, but detrimentally to promotional value he’s anti-establishment.  What I mean by this is Bubba isn’t just a loosen canon who has a tendency to rub people the wrong way, enjoys making ridiculous golf videos and someone who places his religious beliefs above all else (something I do not object to). Watson is an untrained golfer who has never taken single lesson in his life and his game “Bubba Ball” doesn’t fit into the normal constraints of golf.  Meaning if Bubba was to ever become a legitimate figurehead of the game that not only fans but the populace at large could gravitate towards, he would undermine one of the most basic principles in the business of golf…common people have to seek the advice of PGA “professionals” for coaching to improve their game.   ven the draw of Tiger Woods’ success was supported by the trusted coaching/advice of Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, and now Sean Foley.

So unless Bubba Ball forces the PGA’s hand with continued to success in majors (particularly away from Augusta) don’t expect the tour to make him an ambassador of the game.

Criticism of Jordan Speith…
Darren Rovell tweeted out the following prior to the final round of the Masters…

And Rovell was exactly right, at least for how the PGA Tour perceives the game (see above).

The Spieth storyline for Sunday, principally him becoming the youngest golfer to ever win the tournament, provided a necessary degree of drama to make the final round of Augusta about more than Bubba’s dominance of the course.  Could the tour’s newest young gun possibly break one of Tiger Woods’ records and become the newest force to be reckoned with?

Interesting enough the media tended to, perhaps for the first time, down play the hype around Spieth’s star potential. Perhaps the talking heads finally recognized learned their lesson from the shortcomings of young guns like Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy, and Ricky Fowler, deciding it was wiser not to go “all in” and instead speak with measured optimism.

However, this coverage of Spieth in turn allowed for the media overly criticize the 20 year old’s reactionary body language down the stretch.  Spieth’s arm gestures, occasional club slamming, and perceived frustrated postures, allowed for the conclusion that the young Texan wasn’t mature enough to win a Green Jacket and therefore we should be cautious about his long-term potential as a professional.

It’s understandable how people might come to these types of conclusions. But I’d prefer to put forth another, mainly that Jordan Spieth’s body language during the final round of the Masters actually demonstrated exactly why we should buy into his future greatest.

Easily read as frustrated failure, in actuality Spieth’s actions and body language reeked of a young professional who could taste victory and sought nothing more than to have it. The imperfections in his swing, however small, were dually noted by Spieth in his reactions, even when “misses” like that off the 10th tee, resulted in a drive that exceeded Bubba Watson’s. More importantly, when Jordan’s actually did miss hit, he calmly recovered with great shots instead of falling completely out of contention.

All of this is not to say that Jordan Spieth is the next Jack Nicklaus, but on Sunday him seemed to demonstrate the determined focus and confidence to win we’ve seen in champions like Tom Brady or Michael Jordan.  One can see it in his eyes as well as his words. This stands in stark contrast to golfs other young guns, like Rory McIlroy, who shown more of an youthful exuberance while competing than a dogging mentally to win.

Golf is a fickle game where fortunes can change from year to year and even tournament to tournament. But because so many others have failed to deliver doesn’t mean we should assume Spieth can’t.

Speaking of Rory…
For most golfers who are only 8 years into their career and weeks away from turn 25, Rory McIlroy’s tenure on tour could be labeled as that of a professional destined for golf’s Hall of Fame.  To date McIlroy has amassed over $35 million dollars, winning 11 tournaments including a U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Photo By: Jeff Sutherland

Photo By: Jeff Sutherland

Yet, for all his success the current state of Rory’s career doesn’t seem like that of a super star in the making.  His failure to win a single tournament in 2013 and the fact he earned his lowest dollar total since 2008, has brought into question whether or not McIlroy is truly the next big thing in golf or is just a kid who’s success can be defined by his blissful ignorance to the gravity of the tournaments he was playing in. Complicating matters is Rory’s club and ball change last season to Nike and his relationship/engagement to tennis professional Caroline Wozniacki, two factors widely labeled as contributing factors to McIlroy’s subpar performance in 2013. Rory’s uninspiring and largely irrelevant performance at this year’s Masters only seemed to confirm that McIlroy wasn’t who the media was once pumping him to be.

To be fair it’s difficult to label any young golfer a disappointment or potential bust, especially when, in McIlroy case, he has at least 20+ years left in his playing career.  Still there is every reason to debate whether or not Rory possesses the mental determination to become a legitimate successor to the sport’s current big names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.  Is he committed to being one of golf’s greats or does money and/or relationships trump his interest and time?

With as much talent as McIlroy possesses I personally have little doubt that Rory has a long and profitable career ahead of him.  This might even include additional major championships.  But for me it’s hard to believe McIlroy will ever be the great champion people stated he would because of what Rory’s missing: a competitive fiery edge visible in his eyes and body language.  I’m not saying that Rory has to be a replica of the Tiger of old, but rather that his gentle presence and demeanor is closer to that of a challenger than a champion and we should question just how great McIlroy actually is.

Better to be Wiser than Long???…
Some degree of criticism has been leveed at CBS for promoting the 50+-year-old storyline during the Masters, specifically that “wisemen” like Fred Couples or Miguel Angel Jimenez had legitimate chances to win the Green Jacket.  As with just about every year, this year’s senior class of contenders gradually succumbed to the difficulties of Augusta and winning a major.

Still I always enjoy seeing the older guys fight their way into the weekend and almost inconceivably finish in the Top 10 (Jimenez and Berhard Langer both did). In part it’s what makes the Masters the Masters.  Augusta is a course where knowledge and patience is just as important (if not more) than accuracy and long drives, consistently humbling young bucks like Dustin Johnson who are all about because I can rather than whether or not I should.

So, while I never actually believed Couple or Jimenez would win, I thoroughly enjoyed them proving to us all that sometimes it truly is better to be wiser than long.

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2 Responses to “Lingering Thoughts on the 2014 Masters”

  1. Christiane ~ Taking On Magazines says:

    Excellent piece. I, myself, was thrilled to see Freddy keep it together for as long as he did this year. He always seems to fall apart on Saturday so it was nice seeing him on camera as much as we did on Sunday this time.

    Regarding Jordan, at one point after one of his mini-tantrums I mentioned to Hubby that he was definitely acting like a child. Hubby made the argument that he was only 20. But, I responded, he’s in the Master’s. He shouldn’t be acting like a 20 year-old, but like he belongs there.

    The same was expected of our daughter when she tested for her black belt in Tae Kwon Do in December. She was told that she was not going to be tested as a seven year-old but as a black belt candidate and that she needed to carry herself as a black belt does. She rose to that challenge admirably. I’m figuring a 20 year-old could too.

  2. Sportschump says:

    You’re right about Couples and Jimenez, and even Langer for that matter. These guys have been around for ages, know that course and always make for an interesting Sunday.

    You raise an interesting argument about Bubba and I’m not sure which way to side, other than to perhaps compare it to tennis.

    We’ve had strong, marketable stars, superstars even, who were unable to win on certain surfaces.

    Sampras couldn’t win a French. Federer’s got one French to his seven Wimbledons. Nadal’s got one Australian to his eight French’s.

    So you tell me. Does that impact their star power? Do we see them as any less athletes if they can win at one place and not another?

    It makes for an interesting argument.

    I do know this though. If Bubba wins one or two more Masters and nothing else, I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with the way his career ended up.

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