Johnson’s win at Masters adds to tournament’s excitement

One for the ages? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Sunday’s final round of the Masters certainly was not lacking in excitement. Throughout the day, there were five different leaders. Stuart Appleby, Rory Sabbatini, Retief Goosen, Zach Johnson, and yes, Tiger Woods, all had the lead at some point on Sunday. Only Johnson was able to keep his cool after seeing his name appear at the top of the leaderboard.

Appleby began the round with a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods, but that lead quickly evaporated after a double bogey on the first hole. Appleby struggled the entire day, and finished out of contention at five over par.

Sabbatini began the round at six over par, but quickly rose to the top with a miraculous eagle putt on the par five eighth hole. From over fifty feet away, Sabbatini played the putt about ten feet to the left of the hole. It rolled to the top of a crest, nearly stopping before turning right and rolling straight into the center of the cup. Sabbatini remained a factor until the end, but was unable to recover from two bogeys on the back nine, and finished at three over par.

Retief Goosen has always been known as a U.S. Open player. At U.S. Open courses, the greens are firm and slippery, and par is a good score. The Masters has traditionally allowed for more scoring, but with no rain and lots of wind this week, Augusta National played much like a U.S. Open course. After making the cut right on the line at eight over par with a pair of seventy-sixes, he appeared to be out of contention. Never assume that “the Goose” is out of contention.

Goosen had the best round by two shots on Saturday, shooting a two under par seventy. After four birdies on the front nine Sunday, Goosen appeared to be in control of the tournament, leading by two shots at two over par. A three putt at the difficult par three twelfth hole led to a bogey, and he was unable to recoup that loss. Goosen also finished at three over par.

And now we come to Tiger. He started just one shot behind Stuart Appleby, and appeared poised to claim his fifth green jacket. The winner of the Masters had come from the final pairing for the past sixteen years, which would appear to favor Tiger, who was playing in the final group with Appleby. However, another striking statistic loomed against Mr. Woods: he has never won a major when he was not leading going into the final round.

Even with that fact, Tiger managed to have the lead to himself for a brief time on the front nine. He made several bogeys before arriving at the par five thirteenth hole at five over par. After a good drive, Tiger hit a second that landed about thirty feet left of the hole before catching a slope and rolling to within three feet of the hole. He tapped in the eagle putt to get back to three over.

Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, calling the tournament on CBS, said that the roars from that putt would affect the other players, letting them know that Tiger was on the prowl. However, Tiger was not able to mount any more of a charge. He put his second shot in the water on the par five fifteenth hole, and did not make any more birdies.

Zach Johnson was a relative unknown before the tournament. With odds of 125-1 to win the tournament, almost nobody would have even mentioned him as a contender. However, only Johnson was able to stand up in the face of both a brutally difficult Augusta National course, and a scare from world number one golfer, Tiger Woods. After Woods made eagle at thirteen, Johnson made a solid par at fifteen before sticking his tee shot on the par three sixteenth and making birdie. That birdie put him at even par. He bogeyed the seventeenth hole before a clutch up-and-down putt at the final hole to finish at one over par and win the Masters championship.

After a few years where it seemed like Tiger and Phil Mickelson kept trading green jackets, it was refreshing to see a relative unknown get a victory. I don’t think that it is at all an overstatement to say that this is one of the biggest upsets in recent sports history. With only one PGA Tour victory to his credit, winning the Masters will, undoubtedly, be a life-changing experience for Johnson.

Here’s hoping that it will be just as inspiring to other players, showing that Tiger can be beaten. It’s exciting when Tiger wins, but no one likes to see him running away with every tournament.

How long until the U.S. Open begins?

Send comments to Brendan Keep at [email protected]