Behold a Battle of Unassuming Men
Saturday, April 11, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sunday at the final Masters of the decade will predominantly feature a Battle of Unassuming Men, a bummer to the casual golf fan without even considering the acronym.
For those of you who were looking forward to watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk up the 18th fairway at the Augusta National on Sunday with the tournament on the line – don’t worry, you’ll get that.
They just won’t be the ones near the line – no matter the course setup, weather conditions or even another 11-birdie round like the one Anthony Kim shot Friday.
Mickelson and Woods both rode roller-coaster rounds to finish Saturday at 4 under for the tournament, seven shots clear of the top, and will shake hands on the first tee Sunday afternoon at 1:35 – or No Chance O’clock.
The tournament’s leaders – Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera, both tied at 11 under – will tee off an hour later, their main worries being guys with the names Chad Campbell (9 under), Jim Furyk (8 under) and Steve Stricker (7 under).
Tiger and Phil will create some roars and even more traffic jams among the patrons. Meanwhile, Kenny, Angel, Chad, Jim and Steve – guys with a knack for going about their business on the golf course – will be too busy to notice.
Most popular items on the menu this week at Augusta National: Pimento cheese sandwiches and grinders.
“I just tried to play smart today, just tried to stay in it. It felt like work today,” said Perry, who has had the best year of anyone in the top 5, with a victory at the FBR Open and five PGA Tour top-10s.
“The first two days felt like vacation,” said Perry, “today felt like work.”
Perry – who is looking to become the oldest person to win a major, nevermind put on the green jacket – is staying this week at a house with his “crazy family,” about 20 of them, spending the evenings playing ping-pong, poker, basketball and even tennis.
Sounds fun, even exciting – you know, for a self-proclaimed “easy going, pretty laid back fella,” as Perry described both himself and playing partner Chad Campbell, who finished tied for third here in 2006.
Neither actually said much to the other during their round Saturday, as Perry said both were just “trying to survive out there on this golf course.” But each stayed plenty alive, Perry shooting 70, Campbell 72 despite a double bogey-birdie-bogey finish.
“We were kind of both in our own little world out there,” Perry said.
Furyk, who will play with Campbell in Sunday’s chase group, knows a thing or two about tuning things out. Like Cabrera, he won a U.S. Open, certainly an official test of keeping one’s nose to the grindstone.
“Mentally, I don’t think there’s a big difference (between a U.S. Open and a Masters),” said Furyk, who tied for the day’s low round with a 68 Saturday.
“You know that you’re in for a grind, you’re in for a tough test and you’re going to have to be very patient, and know that things are not always going to go your way and you’re going to have to gut it out and eventually execute some good golf shots and knock in some putts.”
Relatively speaking, Furyk is the superstar of the top five, and least fits the “unassuming” term that was thrown out by one CBS announcer today when describing the Perry-Cambpell pairing.
But there was certainly reason to believe this wasn’t going to be the week for Furyk, following a tie for 52 at the Transitions Championship and a missed cut at Bay Hill. Same for Cabrera, who missed the weekends at both Bay Hill and Houston.
Cabrera, looking to become the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s, said he is leaning on his experience at Augusta National this week and has a simple Saturday night planned: “Just cook and have dinner and I usually don’t have any trouble sleeping.”
Stricker, who has missed five cuts in eight apperances at Augusta National, drove down Magnolia Lane earlier this week and just said, “Screw it... just try to have fun with it and try not to put so much pressure on myself.”
“I just kind of decided that I wasn’t going to get so uptight about being here,” he said. “I’ve wanted to play so well here every time that I’ve come that I just get in my own way.”
Of course, the only guys in his way Sunday are ones just like him.