In recognition of high scores and slow play
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Okay, it’s time for the truth. No sugar coating allowed.
In the second round of the Masters, conditions were tough and golfers were so slow they seemed to be decelerating as they walked. Everybody in the field, especially Tianlang Guan of China, should have been penalized a stroke for delay of game.
The Rules-Are-Rules Award: Guan took his penalty like a man. He is 14 in birth years and about 28 in maturity years. He can handle the heat. Let’s be honest: He was slow. Furthermore, he was warned and advised and counseled on the golf course. The rules official did everything but hit the ball for him. And he still played like a snail. Add one and learn your lesson.
The Big, Bad Bifurcation Award: Mark O’Meara is a standup guy, a wonderful interview. He is observant, smart and forthcoming. O’Meara also is 56, performing on a stage with some golfers less than half his age. After a triple bogey seven on his 36th hole wiped out any chance of making the cut, O’Meara didn’t duck questions. “How long will you continue to play here?” he was asked. He answered by saying he would like to play until he is 60. Then he would reevaluate. “But I’ll tell you this,” he said. “I’m not going to play if I have to hit 4-, 5- or 6-iron to every green.” That’s where bifurcation comes in. Golf for amateurs is a different game than golf for professionals. We all know plenty of amateurs who would be overjoyed to hit 4-, 5- or 6-iron rather than hybrid or fairway wood to every green.
The “Honey, I Got Mugged By a Gap Wedge” Award: Phil Mickelson earns this one. Lefty, considered one of the world’s top wedge players, missed both the 9th and 14th greens with gap wedge shots from the fairway. Even worse, he bogeyed the two holes. “I don’t know what happened,” Mickelson admitted. “I’ve got to figure this out.”
The Mr. Thoughtful Award: Ben Crenshaw, who was playing with Guan, talked about threesomes versus twosomes. “We used to play twosomes on the first two days,” he said. “Now we’re playing threesomes. So everybody is taking their time. It’s difficult.”
The Date Made in Golf Heaven Award: Steve Stricker, talking about Guan, said, “I hope he makes the cut, because that’s unbelievable. I have a 14-year-old daughter, and to see her playing in one of the women’s majors at 14, I can’t even fathom that.” Well, how about a movie and popcorn for these two 14-year-olds? Parents can tag along.
The Best Searchin' for Something Award: Rory McIlroy, still in contention at 2-under-par, must have looked lost to a reporter attempting to interview him. The official query sounded like a golf swing question: “Are you searching for anything?” McIlroy then uttered a priceless three-word answer: “Lunch. I’m hungry.”
The “I Quit” Award: “If you won again, would you do something different?” a questioner said to Fred Coupes. His replay: “You asked me that last year and I said, ‘Yeah, I would quit.’ I’m going to quit when I win this thing. I swear to God.”
The Mr. Cool Award: Couples was asked why people think he is cool, and he responded, “You know, I’m cool, but I can be a jerk, too. So I’m a cool jerk.”
The Snow White Award: Amateur Nathan Smith talked about living in Pennsylvania. “Is there any way to prepare for these conditions in Pennsylvania?” he was asked. “No, not really,” he said. “Not off the mats into the snow.”
The Absolute Most Honest Statement Ever Made Award: Amateur Alan Dunbar from Northern Ireland tried to articulate what he would remember most about this experience (the 2012 British Amateur champion, he shot 83-77 at the Masters). He said, with a straight face, “The practice round. I enjoyed it more in the practice round than the tournament.”
The Regular Guy Award: “Were you surprised at some of the people at the top of the leaderboard?” Ernie Els was asked. “I haven’t really seen who is leading,” Els responded. “Some of the old guys -- Couples,” he was told. “No, he’s a regular,” Els said.
The New Attitude Award: “I have a different attitude this year,” Bernhard Langer said with a message that could apply to all golfers. “I’m trying to win, trying to be on the leaderboard, and not just trying to scrape in and make the cut.”
The Ugliest Putter Award: Sandy Lyle is using a huge, rectangular putter called the Black Swan. “It hasn’t turned into an ugly duckling yet,” Lyle joked. Then he added, “It could be anything, a frying pan maybe.” Lyle concluded by saying the putter “is really, really stable and it stands up on its own.”
The Truth About Slow Play Award: Matt Kuchar gets this one, because he honestly wants to know the truth. “We got to the 4th tee, and we almost had a three-group backup on the tee, so I didn’t think we were ever going to sniff getting warned with backups like that,” he said, wondering out loud what happened. The bottom line: Until all the golf organizations and associations and unions in the world get together and adopt universal standards and policies and penalties for slow play, few will understand how the rules are enforced or how penalties are handed out. It’s our fault as golfers. We allowed the rulesmakers to get away with this ill-defined mess.