Monday, April 10, 2017

Fortune favors the downtrodden

Or: Eventually, the athletic gods smile on everyone, even the ink-stained wretches of the sporting press.

There were a million ways Sunday could have gone at Augusta, but the way it went suggested  someone up there liked the chroniclers. No story truly writes itself -- those of us who write them would laugh you out of the room for suggesting such twaddle -- but when Sergio Garcia's birdie putt on the first playoff hole did half a victory lap and then dropped, the writing got a whole lot easier.

I mean, the man once seen as Tiger's great rival, and one of the most accomplished golfers of his era, finally winning a major after almost two decades? In a playoff? In the Masters?

This was true outlined-against-a-blue-gray-sky stuff, a moment tailor-made for sitting down at the laptop and committing literature.  The storyline was perfect, and so did the way it unfolded, with Justin Rose looking unflappable and inevitable all day, and Sergio looking again like the valiant runnerup.

But he saved that par at 13, keeping himself from falling out of it. He tied for the lead with the eagle at 15, then lost it when Rose came back with a birdie. Then, when Rose opened the door on 18 by missing his birdie putt, Sergio missed his shot again by sliding his own birdie putt just wide.

I can't say, because I wasn't there, but I imagine a few of the wretches were crafting their Justin Rose ledes right about then. Who likes Garcia in a playoff with the guy who'd been pretty much flawless all day long?

Ah, but then, of course, the gods smiled. Rose's tee shot fetched up in a place where his only option was to bail out. Sergio's was perfect. And so to the final green, with Rose missing a long par putt and Sergio looking at two putts from 10 feet for the win.

It only took one. And here was maybe the best it-writes-itself Masters story since Jack Nicklaus, at 46, becoming the oldest Masters winner 31 years ago: Another great Spanish golfer winning on what would have been the 60th birthday of the great Spanish golfer, Seve Ballesteros.

How do you tell that story wrong?

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