My year in golf: David Dusek
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
During the holiday season I try to see the good in people because I know Santa Claus is watching. Buddy, the Christmas Elf who visits our house every December, also seems to be studying me especially closely these days.
So when I was asked to write a column entitled, "My Year in Golf," I will admit I was tempted to lambaste the USGA for passing its ban on anchored putting strokes. However, with my empty stocking still hung by the fire with care, I'll resist the urge. I am also not going bring up the fact that even after Augusta National Golf Club added two female members, the R&A is still an all-male club.
Nope, I'm going to gloss over those things (and a few others) because I'm hoping the fat guy in the red suit brings me an iPad Mini next week. As they sang in "The Life of Brian," I'm going to look on the bright side of life.
On that bright side, the season that just concluded provided some of the best drama I've seen on a golf course, on some of the grandest stages on Earth.
I live in New York, just a few subway stops from the Great White Way. I've never been a theater buff, much to my wife's disappointment. Everyone else can have Broadway as long as I get to see performances like we got at Augusta in April.
As he stood in the rain, holding his arms outstretched, my wife said that Adam Scott was the first golfer she had ever seen who could make a green jacket look sexy.
Instead of admiring his good looks, I admired Scott's ability to come through not once, but twice, to win the Masters. People will remember Scott holing that 15-footer on the second playoff hole, No. 10, after calling in his caddie, Stevie Williams, who hold told him the putt actually would break two cups to the left. But don't forget Scott's amazing 15-foot birdie putt on 18 that got him to 9 under and put the pressure on Angel Cabrera, who was waiting down the hill and saw the crowd's reaction.
April 7, 2014, can't come soon enough.
The emergence of Adam Scott gave us a new hero, but the U.S. Open at Merion once again turned Phil Mickelson into a tragic figure. Having held the lead or a share of it after each of the first three rounds, Mickelson finished as a runner-up for the sixth time.
I walked with Mickelson's groups Saturday and Sunday, and he said afterward that the loss was especially heartbreaking because at 43, how many more opportunities to win a U.S. Open could he realistically have? Do you honestly expect a 44-year-old Mickelson to finally break through after six runner-up finishes?
Of course, he did break through at the Open Championship a month later to win his first Claret Jug. We counted him out and didn't even consider that he could win, even after his victory at the Scottish Open the week before. It was classic Phil: Just when you stop talking about him as a contender, he emerges as one.
Mickelson's 3-wood from 302 yards out on the 17th green at Muirfield on Sunday was my Shot of the Year. The golf gods might torment him at his country's national championship, but they shined on him in Scotland.
File this under, Words I Never Thought I'd Hear: "Ladies and gentlemen, with a score of 281, the winner of the gold medal in the champion golfer of the year is Phil Mickelson."
The final act of the 2013 major season gave me a front-row seat to history. I walked with Webb Simpson's group Friday morning at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club and watched him tie the course record with a 64.
Then, as he walked into the clubhouse, I started following Jason Dufner, my pre-tournament pick to win the Wanamaker Trophy. The Duf sauntered around Oak Hill and shot down flagsticks like Chuck Connors in The Rifleman. Unfortunately he putted like Hogan on the 18th and left a 15-footer for a record-breaking 62 three feet short.
In one day I'd seen Oak Hill's scoring record get broken, twice.
I loved walking at Oak Hill because I'm from Upstate New York (Syracuse) and it feels a lot like the courses where I first learned to play. I also love the plaques the club has nailed to some of the mighty oak trees around the 13th green. Nicklaus, Palmer, Jones, Hogan. All the stars are quietly there, watching.
The curtain is set to rise on a new year and a new season. (I refuse to acknowledge that the PGA Tour season started back in October.) My fingers are crossed and I'm hoping it's another blockbuster . . . that I get to watch on a new iPad Mini.
Happy New Year to one and all.