Friday, 9 April 2010

Masters 2010: Watson walks in the sun

I’ve never been to Augusta National, Georgia, and I don’t reckon I’ll be going. They’re sniffy about membership, as is the right of any club, but they also have a special history of offensive racist arrogance. Moreover, their current chairman, this pompous windbag called Billy Something-or-Other, seems to think he can pronounce formidably on Tiger Woods’ failures as a husband and professional. As Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star puts it unimprovably, ‘Who knew God made a high horse low enough for Billy [Something-or-Other] to saddle?’
(The Woods Affair shows that America still retains a weird Puritan streak – a need to confess, to parade conscience, an inability to recognise its own fallen state, smell its own BS, and just live with that, however imperfectly.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, Augusta. Yes, wouldn’t want to go there, but whenever I see it on telly it looks like a Disney matte painting of a dream golf course – lush turf, white sands, stone bridges over glass-like ponds, dappling sunlight and shadow…
I first watched the Masters in 1979, when the winner was 'Fuzzy' Zoeller, one of the tour’s 'characters', who in 1997 celebrated the historic victory of Tiger Woods by joking freely about fried chicken and collard greens on the champion’s dinner menu. In 1980 Seve Ballesteros, whose swashbuckling looks were as improbable in their own way as Augusta itself, won it by a country mile. In 1981 the winner was my main man, Tom Watson.
This morning’s first round Masters leaderboard sees Watson vying up there with Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer in touch too… Hold on, what freakin’ year are we in, 1985? How come Craig Stadler and Ben Crenshaw are so far back?
It appears Watson is graciously trying to leave us, his avid fans, with a better memory than the bitter blow of his final-hurdle failure at last year’s Open. This time, he really can’t hope to stay in the hunt – yesterday the pins were kindly placed, the ball sat up invitingly on the fairways, the wind and rain stayed away, and all that can’t last – but it would have a certain elegance if Watson could stick around the upper echelon of the board this week.
BTW I don’t know what Watson thinks about the smelly hypocrisy of Billy Something-or-Other but in 1990 he did resign his 20-year membership of Kansas City (Mo.) Country Club, the place where he learned the game, because the club refused the application of a Jewish businessman. Billy, there are indeed some people out there with principles, and you could learn some yet.

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