Masters Sunday – inside an English pub
Monday, April 12, 2010
KENT, England – Normally Steve Norrell wouldn’t have had a problem backing a winner on Masters Sunday, but he was struggling.
Norrell, a seven handicapper from Eagle Marsh Golf Club in Coral Springs, Fla., should have been rooting for Phil Mickelson or Anthony Kim, or any other American on the Augusta National leaderboard. But when you’re sitting drinking pints in the heart of Kent, England, you need a Plan B. No wonder Norrell was playing both sides of the pond.
“I’m hedging my bets,” Norrell said. “I’m playing both sides of the fence – sorry, pond – because I want Mickelson to win but at the same time I wouldn’t mind if Westwood won.”
Norrell was right to split his loyalties. The majority of the golfers in the bar of the Broadacre Hotel in New Romney, Kent, England, were rooting for Westwood to pick up his first green jacket. Of the 20 golfers in the bar, 16 were rooting for Westwood. Three were backing Mickelson to pick up his third green jacket. Norrell would have been happy for either player to win. He was the honorary Englishman in the room.
Those in attendance compromised the 72 Club, a group of aficionados who get together every year to play 72 holes in one day. Cards and beers are normally the order of the day. But on Masters Sunday they had gathered together to watch Westwood try to win his first major.
For the first time in many a year, no decks of cards were broken out. Westwood’s chances of becoming the first Englishman since Nick Faldo to win the Masters was more important.
There were calls of “Come on, Lee” throughout the broadcast. “That’s in all the way,” said one voice as Westwood putted for par on the 9th. Loud groans followed as the ball slipped past the hole.
Lewd, alcohol-fueled jokes took over as Westwood slipped down the leaderboard. The English crowd practically conceded Mickelson his third green jacket when lefty stiffed it from the trees at the par-5, 13th hole. “That’s massive,” said Jon Daly, a two handicapper and long serving member of the 72 club.
The frustration grew when Westwood missed the fairway at the 14th. “Why can’t he hit the fairway?” Dave Kingsman asked.
Good question. When Lefty managed to negotiate par at the par-3 16th, most of the group were just intent on making sure they got their money’s worth out of the drinks’ whip.
Not Norrell. He left the Broadacre Hotel not sure if he should skip or tiptoe into the night. Mickelson might have won his third green jacket, but the Florida native had the good sense not to celebrate the win.
As for the Englishmen in the room, well, they are used to not winning green jackets. After all, it’s been 14 years since Nick Faldo won at Augusta.
They left just hoping they wouldn’t have to wait another 14 years to see another Englishman win the Masters.
Norrell was lucky: Losing wasn’t an option.
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