Vousden on the Masters

Apr 04 2017

Thought for the Day
Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together

Picking the winner of the Masters is often the most difficult bit of prognostication of the year. Because it’s the season’s first major we have had comparatively little time to size up the runners and riders, and there’s something about driving down Magnolia Lane to that superb clubhouse that turns the legs of otherwise hardened pros to jelly and their bowels to water.

Augusta Clubhouse

Except this year. Dustin Johnson has, for the last nine months, been playing at a level of such sustained excellence that he’s a shoo-in to get his first green jacket. He has always hit the ball further than most of us travel on holiday but he now matches that long game with superb work on and around the greens. In addition he has that slow, easy walk of a cowboy and gives the impression that his pulse never rises above 48 beats per minute. With all that in his favour, how could he possibly not win?

Well… Unfortunately he has history when it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in majors. In the 2010 US PGA he missed out on a playoff because of a two-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole, when he grounded his club in what he thought was a waste area but was, in fact, a bunker. Just two months earlier he had led the US Open by three going into the final day but shot 82, and himself in the foot.

And then in 2011’s Open Championship he was a stroke behind Darren Clarke after 13 holes on Sunday before carving his second shot on the 14th OB. But even worse was to come at the 2015 US Open. On the last hole he hit a beautiful approach to 12 feet and needed one putt to win or two putts to enter a playoff. You don’t need me to tell you he took three.

So last year’s US Open, when he managed to put aside a nonsensical USGA ruling that earned him a penalty stroke and sail serenely on to victory was as welcome as a kiss from Thandie Newton. He ended the season as leading money-winner in America, had the lowest scoring average and was voted player of the year by both the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. Subsequently he has risen to number one in the world and, although you wouldn’t know it from looking at him, must be as happy as a pig in manure. Oh, and he’s won three of the last four tournaments on the US Tour. Therefore we must surely surmise that whatever ghosts were dancing around in his brain have left forever.

So that’s settled then. Having exorcised all his major demons, Johnson is the shortest favourite since Muhammad Ali climbed into a ring to fight Mickey Rooney. Except, of course, Jon Rahm is the Jordan Spieth of 2017, Tyrell Hatton is finally delivering on his huge potential, Justin Thomas (who?) has stealthily climbed to a world ranking of 7th, Phil Mickelson looks sharper than any 46-year-old has a right to, Justin Rose has been making quiet but steady progress in recent months, Ricky Fowler looks ready to do something special, Rory McIlroy can blow away any field if his putter runs hot and Jordan Spieth himself is desperate to banish the awful memories of last year when he led by four after nine holes, and then shot bogey, bogey, quadruple bogey.

So if you can ignore all that, and the possibility of someone like Danny Willett surprising us all, put your mortgage on Johnson.

Another nonsense
In years to come a favourite pub quiz question will be as follows: Which golfer entered the final round of a major two strokes ahead of the field, shot a best-of-day four-under par and lost in a playoff? The answer, of course, is Lexi Thompson who has just been denied the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspirational, by some interfering, pedantic, nit-picking idiot of a TV viewer. This numpty emailed the LPGA on Sunday to say that Lexi had, in the third round, incorrectly replaced her ball on the 17th green. We are talking fractions of an inch on a two-and-a-half foot putt that in any match would be a gimme.

lexi

Thompson was hit with a two-stroke penalty for playing from an incorrect place, and a further two strokes for signing for an incorrect scorecard, and this news was delivered as she walked off the 12th green. I don’t blame the LPGA, which has to be seen to apply the rules with scrupulous care. But I do blame the microscopically-minded idiot who sent an email 24 hours after the incident occurred.

Quote of the Week
The only thing I ever learned from losing was that I don’t like it
Tom Watson

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