With the year’s first major championship still fresh, let’s take a spin around the Front Nine:
1. GRACE…AND THE LACK THEREOF
As if the differences in 48-year-old Kenny Perry and 29-year-old Sergio Garcia (above) weren’t obvious enough beforehand, Sunday afternoon at Augusta National revealed just how far apart they really are.
One of them is a grown man. One isn’t.
Despite a devastating loss, Perry said and did all the right things. He applauded Angel Cabrera’s remarkable par save on the first extra hole and admitted he couldn’t hit the clutch shots at the end when the tournament was his to win.
It’s hard enough to lose a Masters you led with two holes to play. Then you have to tell the world why it happened. Perry was gracious, honest and sympathetic.
It’s no secret that once Tiger and Phil lost their chances, Perry was the sentimental choice. Perry knows that could have been his last chance to win a major and it must sting a little more.
He could have whimpered. Instead, he said, “I’m not going pity-party on me.”
Then there’s Garcia, who apparently loves pity parties because he keeps having them.
During one of the early rounds, Garcia’s tee shot at the par-3 16th hit the flag and skittered about 15 feet away from the hole. He shook his head then made a gesture to his playing partner about how his ball could have fallen straight down but instead ran away like rabbit being chased.
Sergio, he always reminds us, never gets a break.
Then after the tournament ended, The Golf Channel caught Sergio in full whine. “I don’t like it to tell you the truth,” Garcia said of Augusta National and the Masters. “I don’t think it’s fair. It’s too tricky. It’s too much of a guessing game.
“I don’t care. They can do whatever they want. I just come here and play and then go home.”
Apparently the comments struck a nerve. On Monday, Garcia issued an apology to Augusta National members and golf fans through his management group.
In his statement, Garcia said he "blamed the golf course instead of putting the blame where it belongs, on myself. I didn't get it done this week." He added that playing in the Masters is "an honor" and he hopes to one day add his name to the list of champions.
The damage -- more of it to his reputation -- was already done.
2. TWO U.S. WINS – BOTH MAJORS
At No. 67 in the world rankings entering the Masters, Angel Cabrera became the lowest-ranked player to win the green jacket since the rankings came into existence more than 20 years ago.
He’s won only twice on the PGA Tour but he picks good spots – the 2007 U.S. Open and this Masters.
With two major championships, Cabrera put himself in a category that includes Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, Curtis Strange, Jose Maria Olazabal and other big-time players.
It also gives Cabrera more majors than Davis Love III, Tom Kite, Fred Couples, Jim Furyk and many other accomplished players.
3. GETTING IT RIGHT
Among the lasting elements of this Masters will be the changes to the course set-up to allow for better scoring.
Rather than take a rigid approach, the tournament committee backed off in places, moving tees forward, setting slightly softer hole locations and allowing more opportunities for scoring without minimizing the challenge.
“The golf course could not be better,” Ben Crenshaw said. “There was a slight give in the committee and it was nice to see.”
When the wind blew, it threw an added dynamic into the mix. More than at most courses, Augusta National’s personality changes with the wind.
“It makes the course so elusive and slippery then,” Crenshaw said. “You’re really fighting for pars. It magnifies the undulations.
“(Augusta National) has a different set of hazards. This course has a lot of mental hazards.”
4. A LASTING MEMORY
Masters week wasn’t all U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee hoped it would be, but he won’t soon forget what happened on the 10th hole on Friday.
That’s where the 18-year-old six-putted.
So if you’re wondering how you make a Masters record nine at No. 10 – the highest score ever on the hole – you take three to reach the green then kick it around from there like you’re playing hockey.
Lee said the six-putt stayed with him for a while. I can see that.
At least it didn’t cost him any money, since he was an amateur.
Now he’s turning pro and those six-putts can be expensive.
5. SPEAKING OF THE KIDS
Not surprisingly, the teenagers – Lee, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa – weren’t factors in the tournament, unless you count McIlroy’s near disqualification because of his apparent frustration in a bunker at the 18th hole Friday afternoon.
McIlroy was subsequently cleared of any rules violation but he wasn’t a factor beyond getting more exposure on the world stage.
Perhaps more than any other event, experience is invaluable at the Masters. It seems we’re reminded of that every April.
6. HURRY UP, PLEASE
Slow play seems to always be an issue but it was especially aggravating during the first two rounds of the Masters.
Five-hour rounds were routine and, in Friday’s second round, the final pairing needed 5 hours, 23 minutes to finish.
It got so bad that at one point D.J. Trahan lay down on one hole for 15 minutes waiting to play.
It has been several years since a PGA Tour player has been penalized for slow play. That needs to change. What good are threats if there’s no follow-through?
7. ON TO HILTON HEAD
The Verizon Heritage has another good field this week led by two-time defending champion and island hero Boo Weekley.
Ernie Els was a late addition to the field that includes five-time winner Davis Love III, Justin Leonard, Trevor Immelman, Camilo Villegas, Paul Casey, Jose Maria Olazabal and 19-year-old Rory McIlroy.
8. THE LIST
The three most difficult holes in the 2009 Masters:
1: No, 11, par 4: 4.328 stroke average
2. No. 12, par 3: 3.301 stroke average
3. No. 10, par 4: 4.239 stroke average
9. THE LAST WORD
“I’m not going there. I’m not going pity-party on me. All I know is the big stars make it happen. They are where they are and we’re down there. I just hope somewhere I can get back up there again.” – Kenny Perry to reporters after the Masters.