Monday, April 11, 2016

Nature of the beast

We know why we watch. We watch for the same reason other people (Never us! Heavens, no!) slow down to look at car crashes.

This is the ugly truth about the Masters, which did yesterday what the Masters does so well: Torture good men's souls. The back nine on Sunday is always the most compelling nine holes in golf, because that's when things fall apart, the center does not hold and other stuff written by T.S. Eliot happens.

They don't call it Amen Corner because it's the answer to a golfer's prayers, after all. They call it Amen Corner because it's frequently where you don't have a prayer.

And so here was Jordan Spieth, sailing along, kind of, your defending Masters champion and the leader of the last seven Masters rounds played, which surely must be some species of record. He had a five-shot lead as he made the turn into the Corner. No one was really making a run. All he had to do was hold it together on the back nine and ...


Shouldn't have said the magic words: "back nine."

Because first he bogied No. 10. Then he missed a par putt and bogied No. 11. Then he went at the flag on the par-3 12th and dunked it in the water ... after which he dunked it in the water again ... after which he crawled away with a quadruple-bogey 7, never to see the lead again.


And, hello, Danny Willett, who wasn't even sure he was going to play in the Masters until a week or so ago, because his wife was about to give birth. But she gave birth on March 30, and Willett went off to the Masters, where he was pretty much a face in the crowd until the Masters decided to get all Masters-ly on the back nine.

All of a sudden there he was in Butler Cabin with Jordan Spieth, who was putting the green jacket on him that had seemed for most of the weekend to be Spieth's exclusive property.

You could say that was just the Masters being the Masters, and it was. But it was also history rising up, as it so often does at Augusta. What happened Sunday afternoon, after all?

Greg Norman happened.

Norman, who unraveled on Amen Corner in 1996, blew a six-shot lead and lost to Nick Faldo, an Englishman, who shot a 5-under 67 in the final round.

Fast forward to Sunday, when Spieth unraveled on Amen Corner, blew a five-shot lead and lost to
Willett, an Englishman who shot ... a 5-under 67.

Never let it be said that the Masters doesn't have a feel for history. And a sense of humor.

A twisted sense of humor, of course. But, still.

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