Hate to be Rude: Give Angel some credit
Monday, March 21, 2011
• Because of the dramatic retreats of Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson, double-major winner Angel Cabrera probably didn’t get the credit he deserves for his Masters victory. Thing is, the winner is not always the most compelling story in sports, and that was the case Sunday in Augusta, Ga.
Cabrera will get the kudos he deserves in due time. If he wins another Grand Slam event and reaches that rare three-major level, the way he is viewed will ramp up exponentially.
Sometimes getting proper credit takes decades. In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of his 11-straight streak, Byron Nelson told me that he was getting far, far more attention than he did when the run was happening. What’s more, Harold (Jug) McSpaden, Nelson’s close friend and fellow Gold Dust Twin, told me in ’95 that he didn’t even know his pal was in the midst of that long streak when it was happening.
Time and historical records sometimes have a way of raising a victor’s value and diminishing the subplots.
• The collapse of Perry makes Tiger Woods’ record as a major closer look even more impressive. Woods has won all 14 times he has led after 54 holes, making him remarkably bulletproof.
Perry is the latest example of how differently players react/breathe/play/feel pressure at the end of a major stretch run. There are two main reasons Perry had only four bogeys in his first 70 holes, then bogeyed three of his final four holes: Masters pressure and his own nerves.
• Is this how Perry will be remembered most? Not necessarily. Especially not if he wins a major, which remains a possibility. Yes, this might have been his last shot, given that he’s 48, but don’t fixate on the age too much.
After all, he was the only player in the Masters field to have won four PGA Tour titles in the past year.
• Maybe the biggest surprise coming out of the Masters were not the finishes of Perry or Mickelson but the fact Woods has now won only one of the past seven Masters. When he won his fourth green jacket in 2005, it appeared he could possibly reach double digits.
Earl Woods once said the way to Tiger-proof Augusta National would be to make everyone play from the forward tees. His son’s drought might not indicate that Augusta has been Tiger-proofed, given the fact he has come close the last three years.
But it has been Tiger-tamed.
Perhaps the course changes, which put more of a premium on accurate driving, have something to do with that. Perhaps he doesn’t read the greens and putt them as well as he used to.
Whatever it is, something’s going on.
• That being said, and given that he said he played Sunday with a self-described “Band-Aid swing” that produced quick hooks and blocks on the range before the round, it’s premature to ask, “What’s wrong with Woods?”
Nothing’s wrong, other than crazy-high expectation.
He gets something of a pass this time because, remember, this was only his third medal tournament since returning from an eight-month layoff after reconstructive knee surgery. What’s more, he has sandwiched top-10 finishes around that dramatic victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. So he’s not chopping it.
Various touring pros, including six-time major champion Nick Faldo, said Woods’ left hand looked cupped at the top and he was coming out of his spine angle and straightening at impact.
Consider it a hiccup. He’ll figure it out. He always has.
• If you take a step back, it’s amazing how golf swings, particularly Woods’, are dissected ad nauseam. No other sport is that way.
If a quarterback starts throwing incompletions or a baseball hitter goes into a slump, so-called experts don’t launch into theories about mechanical problems and publications don’t run before-and-after sequence photographs of swings and throwing motions.
• If Mickelson has hit a better shot than his hooked 9-iron around trees to a foot at No. 7, I haven’t seen it. That was Phil the Thrill at his spectacular best. Especially considering the circumstances: Sunday at the Masters, playing with Woods, the exclamation point in a record-tying front-nine 30.
Had he shot 33 or 34 on the back nine – and won or played off – his round would have been in the conversation about the best round ever shot.
• Here’s the shocking thing about Anthony Kim’s making a Masters-record 11 birdies in the second round. While he was struggling to an opening 75, his father, Paul, told me on the 11th hole that his son was fighting a bad leg.
Paul Kim raised his right leg and grabbed his hamstring and indicated that his son was having trouble bracing on that leg.
“Ball go everywhere,” the native Korean said, making left-right-left-right hand motions.
Ball go straight the next day, though. Over and over.
• Sergio Garcia was man enough to apologize – or OK an apology issued through his management company – for his criticism Sunday of conditions at Augusta National. After a 75-74 weekend, a frustrated Garcia called the course unfair because “even when it’s dry, you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway.”
The whiny nature of his criticism was the latest in a series that doesn’t become him. Perhaps the apology the next day is a sign that he’s maturing, but the wording makes one doubt that he drafted the statement himself.
Bet the ranch he didn’t. After all, he made history by being the first touring pro to call Augusta National “iconic.”
• The most important part about buying a newspaper the day after the Masters (or any major championship) isn’t so you can read about the Masters.
It’s to see if the world still exists after spending a week in a 24/7 Masters cocoon.