Devil’s Advocate

noun.  

person who advocates an opposing or unpopular cause for the sake of argument or to expose it to a thorough examination.

The 2019 Masters

There are no shortage of blogs, posts, articles, and stories regarding Tiger Woods and his win Sunday at the 2019 Masters.  

I’m going to come at this from a different perspective:  Did Tiger Woods win the 2019 Masters, or did the rest of the contenders lose it?

Entering Sunday’s Final Round

To recap, Francesco Molinari held the 54-hole lead at 13-under par.  Tiger and Tony Finau were tied for second, two strokes back at 11-under par.  

The penultimate grouping consisted of Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Webb Simpson (one of a remarkable three players to shoot 64 on Saturday).  Brooks was at ten under, one behind Tiger, while the other two were at nine-under.  

History and most golf experts dictated that the winner would come from one of the final two groupings.

The 2016 Masters

Before we go too in-depth regarding the “win-vs.-lose” Masters premise, it’s helpful to have a baseline.  One that is easy to remember, because it is so recent, is the 2016 Masters.

When someone brings up the Masters that Danny Willett won, what is your first reaction?  I’m betting it isn’t that Danny Willett played great golf, and his 67 on Sunday was (along with Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick) the low round of the day.  Instead, I bet your first reaction is, “That’s the Master’s that Jordan Spieth hit two balls into Rae’s Creek, took a quadruple bogey 7, and lost by three shots.”

In other words, a great many people describe that tournament as the one Jordan lost, not the Masters that Danny won.

 

What's The Difference?

Right now, just about anyone who writes about golf is falling over him/herself describing how the win by Tiger is one of, if not the, greatest major championship wins in the history of golf.

My point isn’t to diminish Tiger’s return from multiple injuries and surgeries.  It isn’t to downplay how bad his golf was a few years ago, because it was, according to multiple sources, embarrassingly bad.  He has come a long way from when he was arrested and booked for being under the influence of narcotics a few years ago.  

I simply think the same measuring stick and set of standards needs to be used in this result as in the 2016 event.

The Comparison

Molinari started the day with a two-stroke lead.  In 2016, Jordan Spieth started the day with a one-stroke lead over Smylie Kaufman, and three strokes over Danny Willett.

Through ten holes Sunday, Molinari was even par on his round and still 13-under.  Tiger was even par on his round and still 11-under.  Finau was beginning to leak oil and after a bogey at the tenth he stood at ten under.  Brooks Koepka, picked by many as the favorite going into both Thursday’s opening round and Sunday’s final round, was tied with Tiger at 11-under

Here is why it is important to remember what actually happened.

Danny Willett shot 67 to win in 2016- the low round of the day and five-under par.  Yet that tournament is remembered for Jordan blowing the lead.

With eight holes left to play, Molinari had a two-stroke lead.  Koepka and Tiger were tied.  Finau was one behind them, as was Ian Poulter.

So what happened?  Did Tiger shoot 30 on the back nine as Jack Nicklaus did in his historic round in 1986?  Did he shoot a 67 like Willett, or like Nick Faldo in 1996 when he overtook Greg Norman?

No. No.  And No.

Tiger shot a steady, but unremarkable 70, and was one-under par on the back nine.

Meanwhile…

On  the twelfth hole, the same hole that Jordan Spieth butchered in 2016, Poulter, Koepka, Molinari, and Finau all took turns playing shankapotamous into Rae’s Creek.  Four of the final six players couldn’t hit a nine-iron over a creek.  It happens.  It happened to Jordan in 2016.  It happened to Norman in 1996.  But to four out of six in the final two groups???

Molinari was tied with Tiger for the lead, but not for long.  He came back on thirteen, matching Tiger’s birdie with one of his own.  But on fifteen, his third shot, a short wedge, hit a tree limb and ended up in the water, ending his chances.

Koepka recovered from his double-bogey on twelve with a sparkling eagle on thirteen, to close to with a shot of Tiger and Molinari.  He matched Tiger’s birdie on fifteen with one of his own.  And then on the eighteenth, he rifled a drive up the middle, leaving a short iron in to the front pin position.  He hit his approach to about eight feet…..and missed.  A birdie there would have tied Tiger, who bogeyed eighteen.

 

 

Winners and Losers

So many golf writers have had this story written for years, that when it happened, facts and data and comparisons have been left on the editing room floor.  

“Tiger Won!”  And that is all we need to know.

Except….if Norman blew the lead, and Jordan blew the lead, and Jack shot a back-nine 30 to come from behind and win….did Tiger really “win” or did the rest of the contenders blow it.

In this atmosphere, no one wants to compare apples to apples.  It will be interesting to hear and read the dialogue when that finally happens.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!

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