Monday, August 15, 2011

The Man With Two First Names

I've been asked in the past where is the enjoyment in watching grown men chase a small white ball around a golf course. I'd begin to explain the history of the game, but soon the questionnaire would be asleep, leaving me free once again to watch in peace. These days I prefer watching behind a locked door. Less questions. More golf.
Tonight on the 15 th hole at the Atlanta Athletic Club, World number 80, Jason Dufner watched as Keegan Bradley scuffed a pitch from the rough and roll the ball off in search of a watery grave. After a drop and two more putts, Dufner lined up his drive with a five shot lead. Having played the notoriously difficult final four holes in three under par for the week, Dufner must have felt his first major championship was in the bag.

Bradley, who at last weeks World Golf Championship in Akron fell apart after leading at 11 to eventually finish in a tie for 15th, birdied the next two holes to finish out at -8. Dufner, who never looked nervous, bogeyed 15, 16 and 17 before paring the 18th to also end at -8. It was the biggest turnaround late in a major golf championship since Jean Van Der Velde's capitulation at Carnoustie in 1999.
This time though it was more to do with Bradley's nerve than anything Dufner did wrong over argueably the toughest finishing four holes in golf. Bradley, must have walked off 15 fearing a repeat of last weeks collapse and must have felt he had blown his chance.
Both went for the jugular early in the 3 hole playoff and it was Bradley who delivered the first blow when he birdied after Dufner missed following two great approach shots. Bradley was two up after 17, after Dufner bogeyed the par three to Bradley's par.
With nothing to lose, Dufner followed Keegan's approach into the 18th before holing for birdie. But it was too little to late when just seconds later, Bradley secured his first major title when he rolled a tap-in for par.
What makes the victory more astonishing is this was the Rookie's first outing at a major championship. He is only the second golfer since 1913 to do that feat. In winning the final major of the year, Bradley also ended a seven-major drought since an American victory. Oh throw in he's the first to win a major with a long-putter too.

There were four first-time winners of majors this year and the seventh in all since Big Phil won the 2010 Masters. Perhaps we are on the verge of a new golden age in golf, following the collapse of Tiger Woods game following his little bout of humanism. In an effort to leave the past behind him, Woods sacked faithful caddie Steve Williams three weeks ago, only to see the New Zealander partner Adam Scott to last weeks World Golf Championship.
This week Woods failed to make the cut and offered little by way of a sign of a return to the Tiger who loved chewing up competitors on a Sunday for fun for over a decade. Just four short of equaling the great Jack Nicklaus Major record of 18 wins, if Woods doesn't turn things round soon, his 15th might be a while coming around yet. Golf is full of stories, so who knows...

It's been a great year in the Majors. Rory McIlroy's Masters meltdown, followed by his genius at the US Open. My golfing year belongs to Darren Clarke who at the ripe old age of 42, won the British Open Championship for the first time.
But just one week after his crumbling at Akron, Bradley made his point tonight in McIlroyorian fashion by proving that he has what it takes in a sport which is as much about the mental side of things as it is about talent. That may mean more to the 25-year-old in the long run than any other single factor.

Next big golf is the Fed-EX Cup Playoffs which culminate with the Tour Championship in late September and the race to Dubai which ends with the Dubai World Championship in December. World Number 1, Luke Donald is aiming to become the first man to win both in the one season. But without major championships, the history books just never read the same. Ain't that right Monty?
Who am I calling it for? Hey, I called Dustin Johnson on Thursday (missed cut) and Dufner today as it went into the back 9. What the hell would I know...

1 comment:

  1. If you play the game as well as you write about it you would be in the Majors also.