By Bob Arnett
TERRE HAUTE — Tiger Woods should have been reminded of two important golf axioms last Sunday when he walked off Augusta National’s 18th hole. One, it’s bad karma to state publicly that winning golf’s Grand Slam was “easily within reach,” and two, when the magic in the putter is missing, you’re probably not going to visit the winner’s circle which is synonymous with Butler Cabin when you’re playing The Masters.
After Tiger drained a monster putt measuring 70 feet on the 11th hole, it appeared he was ready to mount another patented charge as his competition folded like wet newspapers. Then something unthinkable happened. Tiger’s usually dependable, rock solid putting touch deserted him and he staggered around the next six holes until an 18-footer on the final green found the cup.
By then it was too little, too late and Trevor Immelman’s eight-under-par 280 was good as gold and gave the South African a three-stroke victory in spite of a closing 75. His three over par effort tied the highest final round ever shot by a Masters’ champion.
Golf, like life, can be difficult to fathom. Near the time Woods was expressing his thoughts on annexing golf’s slam, Immelman was winning the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa. A week later, he was diagnosed with a tumor on his diaphragm that necessitated surgery through his back. Although the tumor was benign, he spent two months getting his golf game back in shape.
I’m certain Trevor Immelman went to Augusta without the slightest idea of winning a green coat. Golf is indeed a fickle game. In Tiger’s case, it’s always better to tell the press “how you did it,” rather than “how you’re going to do it.”
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Immelman’s fellow South African, Gary Player, declares that Trevor’s swing is the best since Ben Hogan was in his prime.
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No amateur has ever won a Masters’ title. Ken Venturi came close, but Jackie Burke, Jr. came from far back on the final round to win by one stroke.
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The Masters is organized and operated by committees made up of members of Augusta National Golf Club. The tournament is unique in that once you have won The Masters, you are eligible to come back each succeeding year for the remainder of your life. As a practical matter, however, you are urged to refrain from entering once your skills preclude you from playing in the 70s.
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Shortly after the final shot in each Masters has been taken, each committee meets to discuss how the tournament could be improved. Since this was the 72nd Masters, you can imagine how smoothly The Masters is organized and operated.
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With a new golf season in the offing, it’s obvious that Mother Nature has not been kind recently to dedicated linksmen who reside in the Wabash Valley.
Local golfers are accustomed to a number of “good days” during the period from Christmas to March, but those were few and far between since Santa’s last visit.
High School golf teams like to hit the fairways as close to March first as possible to prepare for matches and tournaments scheduled for early April.
Chris Cassell, South Vigo’s coach, has had his team hitting balls at Fore Seasons in order to get a jump on his opposition.
While high school girls golf squads play in August, September and October, the guys suffer through cold winds, rain, hail and sometimes even snow flurries before some heat comes their way.
Cassell confided to Jon Holloway, Fore Seasons’ General Manager, that 10 of his players had posted scores in the 70s by March 15 during the few times they had been able to tee it up at Rea Park. It sounds as though the Braves may be ready for another outstanding season as the Southside divotmen recently won the Vigo County Tournament with Phillip Myers leading the way with a red-hot 34 at Hulman Links.
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Tom Jones, one of Terre Haute’s finest amateurs, didn’t waste much time in getting back on a golf course after receiving a new hip on Jan. 16. Seven weeks later, the six-time city champion shot 75 at Lost Creek at the Elks. He also bowled a 220 game on his first trip back to the alleys. It would appear that Tom is ready for a banner season.
Among his many golf credits is an Indiana Senior Open Championship won at Swan Lake in Plymouth in 2006 when he carded rounds of 72 and 68.
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• Tip of the week — If your golf muscles are not in top physical condition, start your season by working on your short game. Hit wedges; nine, eight and seven irons until your hands get toughened.
After all, those four clubs, plus your putter, will dictate what kind of season you will have in 2008.
Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.
Bob Arnett can be reached by mail at the Tribune-Star, P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47802 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.