Golf over the winter does very little for me. I shut it down on the playing front as I hate playing when it’s muddy, and I don’t watch too much PGA Tour action either as there’s just not much there to keep me interested. I only really get interested again when the Players comes around, and this year my boy Cam won it. I had intended to bring back these round ups at that time but it’s just been a mad period for me with work and some personal stuff I’ve had to deal with, but I can’t let the Masters pass by without addressing it, so I’m back in the saddle and will be doing these every week now until I inevitably start to lose interest again in the Autumn.
The last time I did one of these was *checks notes* back in October. So six months ago then. Wow. Where does the time go? So much has happened since then too. First and foremost, Tiger is back. Kind of. He played the Masters and what he did was bordering on miraculous considering he can’t even walk properly, but it might be a little while before we see him again.
It will still probably be quicker than we see his old sparring partner Phil again though. ‘Lefty’ completely torpedoed his own career and has gone from being one of the most loved golfers on the planet to possibly being one of the most reviled (he’s still more popular than Patrick Reed I’d guess).
Aside from drug cheats and criminal cases, has any leading sportsman ever completely self destructed to such an extent as Phil has? It just escalated so quickly and it was sad to see. Hilarious too and wildly entertaining, but still sad. Greg Norman has a lot to answer for, but then I told you all exactly the kind of guy he was back in the very first post I made on here.
Not that I’m excusing Phil. He’s a grown man making his own decisions and he brought this whole thing on himself. I don’t think there’s any way back for him now. Not to get back to the special place he had in the hearts of so many golf fans. The Saudi Golf League is his only real option now, assuming of course they’ll still have him. He sabotaged that almost as much as he did his own career and if he wants to keep his hands attached to his arms he might do well to steer well clear of those “scary MF’ers”.
I’ve always liked Phil even though there was plenty of evidence that he wasn’t quite the jovial, laid back smiley guy he seems and that there’s a darker side to him. I was prepared to ignore all the bad stuff because I wanted to like him. It’s hard to do that now though. There’s still a part of me that feels sorry for him and hopes he can come back from this and I suppose that will depend on whether he shows any genuine contrition or not. By that I mean an actual apology, to the tour, the players and the fans. The last apology he put out was clearly for the benefit of Greg Norman and the Saudis and it just made him look even worse.
That whole debacle did make me look at several golfers in a different light. There were those who spoke out against the Saudi tour. Rahm, Rory, JT and others. They gained my respect (if they didn’t already have it). There were those who were clearly on board with it and didn’t really try to hide it. The likes of Westwood, Poulter, Kokrak, Bubba etc. They didn’t disappoint me because I don’t particularly care what they do and no-one is going to miss them if they go anyway.
The two who did wind me up were DJ and Bryson. They were clearly all in on it (the suggestion was they were going to be team captains) but made no public declaration, and when Phil caused the whole thing to come crashing down they jumped ship and gave the impression they were always staying with the PGA Tour. I hate that. Bryson said nothing despite having plenty of opportunity to distance himself from it. As soon as DJ said he was out then Bryson couldn’t put out a statement quick enough.
Those two should have had way more heat than they actually got but they used Phil as a human shield and just carried on their merry way. The streets won’t forget this though. By the streets I obviously mean me, but the streets just sounds cooler.
Speaking of Bryson though, he had another miserable Masters and is now roughly 287 over par after he declared Augusta to be a “par 67” for him. If we use that par 67 to work out his score, then that makes him +1435. That might be over stating it a tad, but you get the picture. In his defence he was playing hurt this year and is now going to have surgery on his hand. If he’d gone to that Saudi tour they’d have done that free of charge, all he’d have had to do is crack open a cold one in public.
Bryson missed the cut but hung around to go out and watch Tiger play. I love that, I thought it was great and actually reflects well on Bryson. A lot of these golfers are completely absorbed in themselves, and Bryson usually is too, but for him to decide he wants to actually go out and watch the greatest to ever do it, I just think that’s pretty cool. Good for him.
Perhaps the biggest thing to happen during my hiatus is that Scottie Sheffler has come from virtually nowhere (relatively speaking) to become the world’s number one golfer and has just bagged himself a green jacket. He hadn’t even won a PGA Tour event until a couple of months ago. That elusive win had been coming and he had a couple of very near misses at the back end of last year (I’d bet on him twice and he choked) but as soon as he got that first one he just went off on a massive heater.
He’s won four of his last six events including a major and he’s clearly the best golfer in the world currently. I don’t expect that to last as these things go in cycles and are very much form related. It wasn’t that long ago people thought Rahm was going to dominate but he’s cooled off. He’ll come again, so will Morikawa and you’ve got Hovland and my boy Cam Smith right there too. Golf is really exciting right now as there are so many great players and loads of them are under 30.
At the moment though Scottie is the man to beat, and at Augusta no-one could. I can’t actually decide if I enjoyed the Masters or not. Was it a bit boring? I kind of think it was, as Sheffler had it under control basically from the second round onwards. My boy Cam got close but couldn’t catch him and then fell away in gut wrenching fashion on the notorious 12th (I’ll get to that) and in the end Rory was the closest to Sheffler even though he was never actually in contention.
This was just Rory doing that thing where he shoots the lights out in the final round when there’s no pressure on him after playing himself out of the tournament in round one. It was still cool to watch though and it made Sunday way more interesting. When Rory remembers who he is and what he can do he’s still the most talented golfer out there. He just can’t seem to do it consistently though, especially in majors. That last round 64 was a lot of fun but can we really take anything from it moving forward? I’m thinking no. Shoot 64 when it matters, Rory, and then we’ll start to believe again.
The bunker shot on 18 was incredible though and what made it even crazier was that Morikawa then followed him in from the same bunker. The way they were so happy for eachother and celebrated each other’s shots was great. A real feel good moment that. What are the odds on two players holing from that same bunker though? Probably about the same as the odds I took on Garrick Higgo and Brian Harman to win. Yeah I did that. Why? Well, I had this theory you see. Lefties have done well at Augusta and I saw those long odds (Higgo was 400-1 with a price boost) and thought I could outsmart the bookies.
Turns out that being left handed isn’t really an advantage at Augusta. Phil and Bubba didn’t win because they were lefties, they won because they were incredible golfers. Higgo and Harman aren’t. Actually I just remembered that I also bet on Big Bob McIntrye too, another leftie. At least he was still there at the weekend and actually gave another respectable account of himself. He’ll win there one day I think.
The week belonged to Scottie though. A fully deserved winner who (almost) never looked like he was in anything less than complete control of his game and his emotions, even though it turns out he wasn’t. He said afterwards he cried like a baby on Sunday morning and told his wife that he didn’t think he was ready for the moment. It’s mad that, he never looked nervous at any point, even though inside he must have been shitting himself.
The only time that manifested itself was when he reached the 18th green and suddenly turned into Will Zalatoris and four putted. You can do that with a five shot lead of course. It was funny seeing it unfold, and it did make me wonder whether that would have happened had the lead only been one or two. I’m glad that wasn’t the case as I wouldn’t have wanted him to go through that.
There’s nothing to dislike about Sheffler is there? Even in the Ryder Cup when the US were humiliating Team Europe I couldn’t find it in me to have any bad feelings towards Scottie. He seems like a good guy, very normal, and he reaffirmed that at the Masters with the way he handled his success and the humility he showed afterwards. I like him, but I was badly wanting him to fail at Augusta. Nothing personal, but he was up against my boy and not only that, I had money on the line as I’d backed my boy (as I always do). I also had money on approximately 25% of the rest of the field, but Cam was the only one I really cared about.
He’s the only golfer I’ve truly cared about since Payne Stewart was taken from us. I haven’t been emotionally invested in any golfer since then but over the past year Cam Smith has shown me that it is possible for me to love again. A suitable amount of time has passed since Payne died and although no-one will ever truly replace him, I’m ready to move on with Cam now. Back in the day I had plus fours to be like Payne (see below), but I think I’ll stop short of growing the mullet and little ratty moustache in honour of my new hero.
It’s always a roller coaster with Cam. He gets himself right up there, I get my hopes up thinking he’s going to get over the line and then more often than not he does something mad and it all goes up in smoke. The reason he does mad stuff though is because he’s got balls of steel and goes for absolutely everything, whatever the risk.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cam Smith is the living embodiment of the expression “he who dares wins”. Not that he always wins, but he always dares and never shies away from the moment. He goes balls out on every shot. If I had his talent I’d go for everything too. Shit, I do anyway even though I’m crap, so seeing someone out there playing the game with the exact same approach I have, only actually being able to pull off those shots, yeah that’s why he appeals to me so much.
He went for the pin on 12 and it cost him a triple bogey and ended any hopes he had of winning, but it wasn’t a moment for playing safe. He’d just made an incredible birdie on 11 (such a tough hole) yet he was still down by three. Scottie was rock solid and wasn’t going to give it away, so Cam needed to go out and win it. That’s what he tried to do and ultimately it cost him second spot and hundreds of thousands of dollars. But he doesn’t care about that and that’s why I love him.
Cam Smith is the most electrifying man in golf. Birdies or bogeys, he rarely does pars. The bet I placed on him to win had a bonus attached to it where you get a free bet for every birdie made by your player in the first round. As a result, I ended up with eight free bets even though he only shot four under. That’s Cam. Eight birdies, but doubles on the first and 18th. Never a dull moment.
He’s going to win here one day, and when he does rest assured I’ll have money on it. I’ve already bet on him to win the Open at St Andrews later this year. The only worry I have there is that the Cat might win, so I’ll cover myself with a few quid on him too.
Other Masters thoughts. I always enjoy seeing Freddie Couples out there, and Bernhard Langer too. The rest of the former champs leave me pretty cold though. The honorary starters especially. I don’t like Jack, Gary Player is even worse and don’t get me started on Tom Watson.
It was nice seeing Danny Willett featuring on the leaderboard too. I’m not sure that he played particularly well as every time the footage showed him he was in trouble trying to avoid dropping shots. He kept scrambling though and had a decent finish. I’d like to see him get back to the level he was as he’s still pretty young and Europe could do with all the help they can get for the next Ryder Cup.
Best shot of the week was an approach by Tiger on Thursday to, I think it was the 10th. Ball below his feet, 4 iron, he went right over the front bunker and stiffed it about two feet from the hole. Sensational. Rory’s bunker shot on 18 was spectacular too, obviously, and some of Sheffler’s up and downs were ridiculous. Sheffler’s 3 iron off the pine straw into 18 on Saturday after taking a penalty drop was really impressive too. I probably should also mention the crazy wedge Bubba hit out of the trees too, but I’m loathe to give him any kind of credit so I won’t.
No sooner had the Masters finished than Greg Norman was piping up again about his Bonesaw League and how loads of top names are on board. Those names? Washed up has beens like Bubba, Poulter and Westwood, plus never was Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak, a middling PGA Tour pro who in fairness – unlike the others – has made absolutely no attempt to hide the fact that his motivation is solely the cash. No talk of ‘growing the game’ from him, he just wants to buy a yacht and retire. I actually respect that on some level. I’m not saying it’s ok, but give me that over the bullshit being peddled by Norman anyway.
Norman is on another planet. He’s so deluded and full of himself. “We wanted to let the Masters go off before making our announcement” he says, as though anyone would have given a flying one about his crappy little side show if he’d said any of this DURING Masters week. Implying that he didn’t want to undermine the Masters by stealing their thunder is just about as Greg Norman as it gets. Mind you, it’s far from the first time he’s “let the Masters go”. See what I did there? A mate of mine insists Norman is called ‘the Shark’ because he spent so much time in every water hazard on Amen Corner.
What a line up he’s got though. Poulter and his stupid trousers. Westwood, a man who has spent the past couple of months stalking and harassing a golf journo on Twitter, Bubba the massive phoney and Na, a busy little traffic warden type known for two things; annoyingly walking in putts, and patronisingly putting his hand on DJ’s shoulder before lecturing him on the etiquette of matchplay golf.
No-one is missing them and certainly no-one is going to tune in to watch them going up against eachother. The golf world owes a massive thank you to Alan Shipnuck, the writer who made public the obviously private conversation he had with Phil, because without that bombshell there’d be a lot bigger names than Westwood, Watson etc playing in that new league. Mr Shipnuck, we salute you.
Meanwhile, the tour moves on to Harbour Town this week for the MCI Heritage. Stewart Cink won it last year. I know this little nugget without even researching it because I had a quid each way on him at 125/1. I’ve backed him again this year, not to win this time, but I’ve done him for a top ten finish. I’ve backed Cam as well, obviously. He’s either going to stink this week or he’s going to win by ten shots. I’m expecting him to shoot 62 in the first round as he’s a gunslinger.
I’ve also done Sungjai and Kisner as I’ve got a good feeling about both of them coming off their Masters showings and their odds were very tempting. Corey Connors at 25/1 caught my eye too and I’ve backed Lowry after he won me a few quid with a top five at the Masters. Cam’s going to win though.
See you next week.