What did we learn from the Masters

I really did enjoy the Masters this year. There was a contest that could have gone a number of ways, and Sky Sports had the A Team on parade. Very excellent they were too. There were a number of things that struck me during the never knowingly under-sold week in Georgia

A worthy Champion

No question. Patrick Reed has some serious cojones. Grit, determination, “bounce backability” (isn’t that just an awful phrase) call it what you will. The man had everything needed to become a Major winner. He holed the putts that he had to, played the shots that he needed. It was a fantastic performance deserving of receiving the Green jacket

Rory on the verge of history

He should have done this, he should have done that; he changed his game plan on the last day, why didn’t he stay with what he was doing? As someone this week on the fringes of contention in the final round of a comparatively important regional event where my second shot on the first hole hit a ball spotter’s fold-away camping stool and rebounded into the only bush in 400 square yards let me tell you on a golf course shit happens.

That the image of Rory’s week is standing in a flower bed is unfair. He played beautifully, and if it didn’t happen Sunday so be it. His time will come. He’s trying to move into a pretty exclusive 5-member club from an equally exclusive 12-member club who have won 3 out of 4 – drive yourself crazy trying to identify the other 11; I got 8 without having to look them up to check.

There’s some true giants of the game outside that group of 17 people. Seve, Peter Thomson, Vardon, Braid. So give the kid a break, eh.

Course set-up

The tournament only became watchable after it hammered down with rain and made the greens “hittable”. We know the green contours are huge and the pin positions one step removed from the mad house, but days 1 and 2 we were treated to some real stupidity. Loved DJ’s par putt from 40 feet on 16, just not that it followed a missed 12-footer for a 2. It was all horrible to watch.

We all know it’s to try and rein in the impact of club and ball technology. The 13th is 60 yards longer than 15 years ago (and going back further) but they’re hitting short and mid irons where once it was a small wood. If we don’t do something soon we’ll either get this painful to watch struggle on concrete greens or moron golf on 20-yard wide fairways with hack out rough on either side. That’s really going to be fun to watch. Not.

Professionals take a very, very long time

Whilst I understand that the funereal pace of play is connected to the course set-up, and that they’re playing for a lot of money and a place in history fewer than 90 golfers taking over 5½ hours days 1 and 2 is extracting the Miguel a touch.  How these guys maintain flow and structure to a golf swing when they only hit 30-odd full shots in 330 minutes is a mystery to me.

Of course the answer is a lot of them don’t.

Until or unless golf starts to enforce the 40-second per shot rule that appears not only at professional level, but on the rules “Hard Card” for serious amateur golf we are going to be stuck with this nonsense. Bring on the Shot Clock Masters – at this venue.

A less than universally popular Champion

We can’t really avoid this. There was muted support for Patrick during his final round, albeit that it got to the traditionally raucous stage come the end. To the uninformed (me) it all seemed a bit odd, particularly in a Ryder Cup year, to see higher levels of support for the European than for the tub-thumping, rabble-rousing centre of OTT US patriotism that is Patrick Reed at the matches.

Then I read Alan Shipnuck’s piece, and things became a lot clearer. College conduct questions, family issues; didn’t leave a great impression behind him, our Patrick.

Mr Shipnuck came in for some hammer, which he very bravely and conscientiously took on head first but to be honest I couldn’t understand much of said criticism. Alan painted a picture that is not that uncommon in sport; a young man in pursuit of an ambition does virtually nothing but practice his sport, to the exclusion of the normal elements of growing up. He then hits college as a less rounded, less life-experienced individual than his peers and goes berserk, behaves not well to those around him so that when he makes mistakes he doesn’t get forgiven them, because he’s viewed as an SOB and a right royal pain in the butt. Add in the really sad estrangement from his own family which has led to some stuff which if even half true is ludicrous and you have an understanding. This guy is not going to cause the juices to flow in a traditional golf-orientated, very mature and family-orientated bunch of Augusta “patrons” (hate that terminology too).

Alan did the journalistic duty and revealed this side of the Reed story to those not living inside the hot house PGA Tour bubble. It really is a story of current relevance and did have to be told to explain what was going on. Took nothing away from the excellence of Patrick’s play and the worthiness of the win, but the reaction to the story from some was so extreme as to be nonsensical. A vast amount of holier than thou humbug from people who undoubtedly followed and wallowed moment by moment in the Tiger car into the hydrant moment, subsequent revelations and skin-crawlingly embarrassing press conference (was ever a sportsman less well served by his advisors?) An awful lot of hypocritical claptrap.

Augusta is trying to change its reputation

The arrival of a new Chief Executive in the person of Fred Ridley is definitely to be welcomed. An administrator in touch with the World, not simply the world within 20 square miles of the club.

The club’s record on racial diversity is, to put it mildly, mixed. The appearance of Tiger forced their hands but it isn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things that black tournament winners’ invites mysteriously seemed to get lost in the post. Mind you, it’s also in my lifetime the PGA Tour had a Caucasians-only membership rule.

The initiative on the women’s event is excellent, but we have to face the fact that men’s elite golf is extremely white. Can you imagine if such a haven of privilege, in the heart of the old Confederacy, were to do something specific and high profile to extend golf into the inner cities. It would be amazing. Mr Ridley could just be the man to lead that type of initiative. I hope so.

All augurs well for Paris

Whilst put forward as a triumph for the US team and an indicator of their undoubted forthcoming victory the final top 20 actually had 6 locked on US team members and 6 locked on European team members.

That suggests things will be really close at Golf National. That’s great for golf. Nothing matches a close finish to the Matches. Medinah rerun anyone?