Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Masters minus Tiger

Know what's really cool about this year's Masters Tournament? No Tiger Woods. Instead of the viewers being force-fed camera shots of Eldrick every 30 seconds -- two minutes max -- the wrap-around coverage is much more equal among the field of world class golfers -- as it should be.

To ESPN's credit, they have so far resisted dragging out old clips of past Tiger highlights while the current tournament is going on. Or perhaps the lovable folks in charge at Augusta National discouraged such nonsense. They have a way with getting their way.

I mean, c'mon, who ever wanted to watch Eldrick Tont Woods eating a banana while some other golfer was drilling an eagle putt elsewhere on the course? See Tiger curse. See Tiger pound a club. See Tiger take a drink of water. See Tiger scratch himself. What we DIDN'T see was all the other action going on at the same times. And, of course, see Tiger in the post-round interview. It didn't matter if he was already woefully out of contention. The TV folks never ceased to faun over him.

Finally, mercifully, this year there is no Tiger and his mania at Augusta. And as was once said by some regarding the term of a recent President finally expiring -- it's about damn time. This insanity has gone on long enough -- thank you very much. Let's move on.

During the first two rounds, this year's Masters has offered up some interesting story lines. It's not surprising Jordan Spieth tops the leader board. After all, he's the defending champion. But the usual sloping glass-like greens combined with windy conditions have kept the scores down, or up, depending on how one wishes to look at it. Shooting even par 72 is no small feat. After a blistering opening round 66, Spieth came back in round two with a 74.

He sits one stroke ahead of that pesky Irishman Rory McIlroy, who's game appears to be rounding into form. They will be paired together in the final group on Saturday.

Jason Day, currently the #1 player in the world, has been really good going out, but stunk it up coming back in. On the front nine, Day is seven under par. On the back nine, he's eight over. Very strange.

Some amateur named Bryce DeChambeau is in the thick of things. Will he hold up over the weekend as the pressure mounts? Ya never know.

Idle thought: How embarrassing would it be to the stodgy old farts that run the Masters -- which has long prided itself on only professional champions being allowed to play -- if an amateur were to win the tournament? Yikes. And what gives with "Butler Cabin"? Instead of smarmy TV talking heads, shouldn't Lurch from the Addams family be doing the interviews. Think about it. After the golfer has been seated, Lurch could zoom in and growl -- "You rang?" Priceless.

Despite his usual sometimes brilliance elsewhere on the course, Phil Mickelson still has a case of the yips with his putter. How is it that he can drain 15-20 footers on undulating greens, but keep pushing those pesky 3 footers wide left? Good grief, on Friday he had a putt from about 10 feet. Not only did he miss the hole, but the ball rolled completely off the green and down a slope. It's not often we see a top-notch professional golfer go from putt to chip. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

Nevertheless, it has been a breath of fresh air indeed watching this year's Masters without it being turned into the Tiger Woods show.

Many once said Woods "saved" golf. Horsefeathers. Golf has been around for centuries. The players, equipment, and training regimens have improved throughout. The courses are longer and tougher than ever before. The young studs from the world over keep on coming. Today's players are infinitely more talented than their predecessors. And the next generation will likely be even better yet.

In short, golf didn't need Tiger. He needed IT. Good grief, what else was he qualified to do in life besides chasing bimbos?

On to the weekend. Go get-em Bryce.

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