Wow, wow, wow! What a Masters! A record score of 20 under by new champ Dustin Johnson; an amazing performance of shooting all four rounds in the 60s by uber-talented Aussie, Cameron Smith – the first man ever to achieve that feat; and a record number of hours that yours truly sat on an ever-broadening backside and immersed self in the whole November Masters vibe and experience.
And I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it all. Actually, that’s not quite true. A McIlroy win would be the cherry on top for this particular blogger. Alas, an opening albatross of a 75 meant that despite being the best player on the course for the last three rounds Rory could only manage a joint 5th place. All very laudable, but it’s probably almost as tough being a Rory fan at the moment as it is being Rory. Perhaps he needs to work with a performance coach – Dave Aldred comes to mind.
In the recent past, Aldred has worked with Luke Donald, whom he steered to No 1 in the world, and Francesco Molinari who became Open champion two years ago and the only European to win five points out of five at the Ryder Cup. I recall a conversation I had with Denis Pugh, Francesco’s coach, a while back when I quizzed him about Aldred’s methods. It boiled down to every practice shot being competitive and with a consequence, just as it is on the course. By all accounts it’s a brutal regime, designed to knock the player off balance, push all his buttons and tire him mentally, all the while demanding precision shots. The reasoning is that your practice should be infinitely more taxing than anything you may meet in tournament play.
I suspect there’s only so much a player can take of that and as Denis succinctly put it, “If you actually LIKE Dave when you’re working with him, then he’s not doing his job.” Perhaps this would benefit Rory but I’m not sure I could ever see him turning himself over so completely to any coach, performance or otherwise.An unexpected bonus of this edition of the Masters was the hitherto unheard of use of drones at Augusta National. They provided stunning photography and gave those of us at home a real appreciation of the undulating landscape, slopes and angles that the players have to face. There is no doubt these pictures were enabled and enhanced by the fact that there were no patrons present. This year the required space to manipulate these little beauties was readily available without their irritating buzz being within earshot of the protagonists. We were treated to the camera swooping in at ground level, giving us a worm’s eye view of the examination test – something that may well be impossible when those slopes are once again cloaked with thousands of patrons. What’s the betting the green jackets will have patented a noiseless drone come next April? Sunday was a very special day in the life of DJ, but also, in a much more modest way, it was a good day for me. Apart from winning the sweep and looking forward to buying some very nice red wine, I received a call from the WestwoodOne radio crew from on site at Augusta. We have worked together at the Masters for the last four years but the company is not sanctioning any international travel at the moment. Neither am I, of course and I did enjoy my week at home but it was the highlight of my day to hear from them all. Here’s hoping next April isn’t too early to expect to be able to travel.
As if I hadn’t overdosed enough on golf I also found time to turn to the Aramco Saudi Ladies’ International Presented by Public Investment Fund. That really trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? The Royal Greens Golf & Country Club looked spectacular and the demanding, closing par-5 18th hole was one of the best holes I’ve ever seen in a play-off. It was the ultimate risk-reward test where even the lay-up was scary. I was rooting for Welsh player Lydia Hall, who finished a creditable sixth behind the multi-talented Dane Emily Pedersen, who produced a stunning birdie in extra time to edge out the ever-consistent Georgia Hall.
I hadn’t really any intention of tuning in to the tournament because I’m not really certain that I approve of the Tour being there. I’m well aware of the potential positives – if they do indeed happen. We’ll wait and see. Neither do I blame those players who have travelled there. After all, a $1,000,000 prize fund dangled in front of players who struggle to have enough tournaments a year in which to hone their games can be very persuasive. There is a second team tournament taking place at the same course this week and I will watch with interest to see if ultimately this liaison proves to be more than “sportswashing” on behalf of the Saudis, i.e. using sport and large prize funds to attract global goodwill while not addressing an appalling human rights record. However, communication and interaction CAN lead to great breakthroughs…..so, fingers crossed.
Our bubble has reduced back down now that Patricia has returned home to Staffordshire. We will both miss her, but NOT the inordinate amount of time she spends endlessly recycling every plastic container within sight. Each is stripped of its paper label, which is then neatly folded ready for its designated bin. Each plastic pot and lid is washed and put to drain on the rack and the mountains of creased and folded tin foil “ready to be sorted” have thankfully diminished.
Could this be the new definition of “wasting one’s time” I wonder? Be that as it may, life has, for the moment, returned to its Covid-normal.