The Augusta National golf course is a pastel painter’s delight ...or nightmare? The colour green abounds but the varying distribution of chlorophyll in the myriad ferns, plants and shrubs, trees, the over seeded rye grass that create the emerald green fairways, and greens form a whole lot of different hues, chroma and values of the basic colour green; sunlight on these effects produces a lot of tints of green and when clouds flit across the sun as they often do, the resultant muted effect adds further complexity to the already large palette as an equivalent number of shades of green are thus created. How should an artist present an attractive and authentic picture of this piece of heaven? Just think about it and capture it quietly in your mind’s eye as no one has yet been able to do true justice to it.
These subtle and shifting balances of light and shade across dappled greens disguise the exquisitely dangerous bends on them where at least one three putt per professional happens per tournament and four putts are not unheard off (Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain four putted the fourth green this year and even Matt Kuchar has done the same last year). Thus, the environment plays an important role in the final result.
As one traverses the course from one viewing position to another, one is often surprised at a deep thrumming, vibrating sensation emanating from deep underground, as though large engines or generators were at work, and at some points there are exhausts throwing off warm humid air. What are these sounds and exhausts? Inquiry revealed that this is a unique underground apparatus that sucks out excess moisture (particularly on wet days) from under all of the greens, and most of the fairways, and thus regulates the condition of greens so as to be able to offer virtually similar conditions to all competitors throughout the day. This excess moisture is blown off through the exhausts described earlier.
Each year some new marvel of technology is applied to the playing conditions at Augusta to provide players and patrons an experience that is unmatched anywhere in the world. The Links courses in the UK are naturally drained by nature’s design but most other courses in the world get waterlogged with excessive rain and an even playing field is thus denied with advantage/ disadvantage being decided by pure chance. But then every tournament is not the Masters and every course is not the Augusta National.
The differential in strokes between Patrick Reed, the leader at - 14 and Rory McIlroy at -11 was three and a host of potential challengers were between 5 and ten strokes adrift. It seemed as though the contest was destined to be between Reed and McIlroy only, as was an erstwhile Ryder Cup confrontation between them. The latter had openly said that it was his intention to spoil the celebration that Reed, an alumnus of Augusta University, might have already planned in this town of his alma mater.
Patrick Reed Celebrates with the Trophy
A typical Masters type drama on the final day needed both Reed and McIlroy to stay where they were or decline and for one or more of those 5-10 stokes back to make a dramatic move forward. As is well known, in writing of drama there always has to be more than one person involved. Here, there were several dramatic personae as follows:
The final pairing of Reed/McIlroy had the gap between them narrow to just one within two holes. At this point most people expected that Reed would quietly self destruct and McIlroy would achieve his dream with ease. But, possibly, McIlroy sighted the prize too early and lost his concentration. His putter went dead cold and, over the next 16 holes he must have missed at least 8 easy putts to finish at +2, allowing lot others to equal him. Yet, Reed could not get going either, simply bobbing up and down one shot or two; in the end he only had a 71 on a perfect scoring day, while his anticipated antagonist forgot the eternal message of the Gita (or the Sermon on The Mount ) that one’s right is only to the labour and not to the fruit thereof; any reward is the delivery of grace.
The real hero of the drama was Jordan Spieth who, lying nine shots off the pace was paired with good buddy Justin Thomas and as they walked off the first tee, they seemed to be just a couple of college kids out for a little sporting fun, with no thought of winning or even challenging. But then Jordan peeled off a string of birdies to be just four behind and neither Reed nor McIlroy had made a move. Jordan’s stride and intent underwent a perceptible change and he was charging now while Reed still bobbed up and down with a birdie following every bogey. All this while the others in between (Rahm/ Dustin/ Casey/ Hoffman...ace on the 16th /Finau/ Bubba / Cameron/etc) were having a birdie fest and the bowl of Augusta National was reverberating with the roars of the patrons who were having the time of their lives. Yet, Reed seemed unmoved, even just parring the birdieable 13th. Just then Spieth birdied the sixteenth and tied Reed to be co leader. Game on!
Those who know the end result will not realise or believe the palpable frenzy of excitement running through the patrons with the sense of an impending, historic and dramatic upset the likes of which had never been seen before. The largest deficit made up by a victor was eight in 1996 when Greg Norman lost; this looked like becoming a nine or ten. But then Jordan missed a makeable birdie putt on the 17th, ending his birdie run and then sadly missed an easy looking five-footer to make bogey on the 18th to miss equalling the course record, and his challenge was over.
Now the mantle for enhancing the drama passed to Fowler who poured in a birdie on the eighteenth to be, at -14, just one behind the leader. The leader meanwhile was seventy feet away just off the seventeenth green and it was surely a terrifying putt under the circumstances. Reed, no doubt suffering every anxiety that psychiatrists have ever dreamt up, struck the putt...too hard! It leaped forward, and all viewers were at the edge of their proverbial seats when the putt struck the hole and drifted five feet passed. Had it not struck the hole, it was surely going a minimum of twenty feet away. Reed sank that, hit a perfect tee shot on the 18th and a good approach left him about 15-20 feet above the hole for a two putt victory. Remembering the speed of this green, Reed just touched the ball with the toe end of his putter and was shocked to see it drift past the hole to just about that distance from which Garcia and Rose had missed in not deciding who was to win last year.
The Drama had come down to the last putt. Had he missed, there would have been a play off with unpredictable results. Whom did you want to win? Anyway, Reed sunk that putt, earned a well deserved first major sealing his fortune and of course the Masters did not disappoint.
There will be one more article of a quiet retrospective tomorrow.