Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tiger and Phil

It was the kind of moment you dream of as a sports fan. Two athletes head-to-head, letting it all hang loose as they both tried to do the improbable.

There was no way either one of them was going to actually pull it off and win the Masters. Going into the last round, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were 7 shots back of the leaders. 7 Shots. As people woke up on this glorious Easter sunday, no one really expected Tiger and Phil to do what they did. Everyone in their right mind knew that it would take something so monumental, like a freak accident involving Angel Cabrera, Chad Campbell, and Kenny Perry all losing the ability to control their arm muscles, for Tiger or Phil to pull off the upset. And it almost happened.

What ensued was one of the more incredible sporting events I've watched in recent memory. Immediately after the first few holes, Tiger and Phil had stolen the show, and the Masters would be lost in their grip for the next few hours. Phil made that incredible run on the front 9, shooting an improbable 30, with string after string of incredible shot. Tiger, while doing his best, looked like he was going to get left in the dust.

You'll only understand how incredible these guys played if you've actually tried to play golf yourself. Whatever your handicap and skill level, we all know how dang hard it is to control that tiny little golf ball every sing shot. And yet, Tiger and Phil were making it look as if 175 yard shots around a stack of pine trees and 10 foot, sweeping par putts, were as easy as a 1 foot tap-in.

I sat mesmerized after the first 9, believing it would indeed be Phil's day. Tiger just seemed off, like he was 50% or something. But as the back 9 unravelled, Tiger made his march. Eagling a hole with a 25 foot putt catapulted him right back into contention, and even though he never really got above that 50%, his 50% is better than most people's 80 or 90%. It was like watching a machine. He couldn't command his shots most of the round, but he sure as heck knocked in almost ever putt within 10 feet that mattered.

Until the final two holes. It was like the car had just run out of gas, and Tiger and Phil woke up from their dream. As soon as they hit 17, they went down hill faster than a rabbit with a fox on its tail. They hit such incredibly poor shots that even the commentators had a hard time covering for them. They stumbled their way into the clubhouse, leaving behind a memorable short-coming.

And when they finished 18, the Masters was over. The commentators knew it, the gallery knew it, the CBS executives knew it. It suddenly got a whole lot more boring. It was humorous watching the commentators trying to rebound from such an emotional roller coaster of a round put up by Tiger and Phil. They had stolen the Masters, leaving the guys with the actual lead with almost no gallery following them.

Angel Cabrera ended up winning after a play-off, and, while he played well and deserved the win, everyone knows the Kenny Perry lost the Masters. This will go down as one of the wackiest golf tournaments every played, but one thing is for certain. On this day, it was fun to be a golf fan again.

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