5 things we learnt from the Masters
You can’t win a major without being able to putt
How frustrating it must be for Lee Westwood. He is easily the best in the world from tee to green but, as we all know, that pales into insignificance without being accompanied with the ability to putt. Time and time again we see Westwood hit a perfect drive and follow it with a glorious approach to no more than eight feet from the hole. Time and time again, however, we see his birdie putt slide past the hole and render redundant all that has preceded it.
The trend continued at Augusta. Westwood finished on eight under par – quite remarkable, given his inability to cash in on a multitude of birdie and eagle chances – to miss out again. No one is questioning Westwood’s work ethic, but something is going wrong. Whether it be seeking the help of Dave Stockton or turning to the belly putter, he needs to make changes, and fast. If things carry on as they are Westwood will never win a major, which would be a genuine travesty.
Watson up to 4th in the world
Bubba Watson has been one of the most consistent golfers on the plant over the last couple of seasons, but has always struggled somewhat under pressure. During the final round at Doral (where he held the 54 hole lead), for example, he hit some shots that amateurs would have been ashamed of. There are countless other instances of Watson struggling under Sunday pressure.
At the Masters, however, he looked an entirely different man, sporting a look of steely determination that told everyone watching this was his time. He played some glorious golf to plropel himself into the play-off, where the odds were seemingly against him. Louis Oosthuzien, his rival for the green jacket, had already won a major championship. What’s more, Watson had lost out to Martin Kaymer in his only other major play-off.
When he found the trees on the second play-off hole, it looked like it was all over. It should have been, but he played a truly remarkable rescue shot to within ten feet of the flag, and two putts were good enough for his maiden major championship. The shackles are now fully off, and the big hitting American may well go on to challenge for the title of best in the world. He has an outstanding short game and wonderful putting stoke to accompany his gargantuan hitting. Now he has triumphed in the most pressure-filled of situations, there is genuinely nothing holding him back.
Garcia troubled and disillusioned
It was distressing to hear Sergio Garcia say he doesn’t feel he is good enough to win a major championship, and it is hard to account for such comments. There is obviously more to the situation that meets the eye, but one must suspect that it comes down to his putting. When you hit the ball as well as anyone and don’t reap the rewards, it must be extremely frustrating. The strange thing is, however, that Garcia’s putting has improved of late, and you don’t win twice in two weeks, as he did at the end of last season, if you aren’t putting better than the majority of the field.
Perhaps his frustrations simply boiled over at Augusta, but it may be that more sinister forces are at work. Mental strength and attitude and so important in golf, and telling yourself you aren’t good enough is something you simply can’t do. Garcia is clearly good enough to win a major, and we can only hope that he looks back on his comments with regret. His remarks were deeply worrying, though, especially coming from a player that has come dangerously close in the past to giving up the game for good. On that occasion, friends and family were able to talk him out of it. Let’s hope they can do the same again, because golf needs Sergio Garcia.
Woods still has a way to go
After winning at Bay Hill, the general consensus was that Woods was back for good, and that he had a great chance of claiming his fifth green jacket. Woods is back in one sense of the word, but he still has a long way to go to get back to where he was five years ago. The golfing talent pool has deepened significantly since his fall from grace, and Woods is still coming to terms with his new swing. He admits that he is very close to being back to his best, but he needs to find consistency on a weekly basis, as he did in his prime. The Woods of old would almost certainly have been in contention this week. The Woods of old would have also converted far more putts. He is close, but unless he finds the sort of consistency and putting form that had his peers trembling in his wake, he won’t win another major. What’s more, his peers won’t fear him as they once did. His driving may be as good as ever, but until Woods putts like he used to, he won’t command the same respect as days gone by.
Harrington back to form
It was fantastic to see such a good performances from Padraig Harrington at the Masters. Harrington showed signs that he is coming back to his best with a dazzling final six holes on Saturday and a fine performance on Sunday. The Irishman seemed to be having the time of his life in Georgia, playing 13-18 in six under par and taking that form into Sunday. In truth he could have won the championship, had it not been for a series of missed opportunities on the back nine on Sunday. Nevertheless, Harrington will be extremely confident heading forward, and a first victory for more than two years looks to be on the horizon.
Henrik Stenson is also clawing his way back from the abyss. Aside from a closing 81, he put in a tremendous performance at the Masters. The Swede hasn’t missed a cut on the PGA Tour this season, and finished third in Puerto Rico. The signs indicate that Stenson is working his way back to the form that saw him win a World Golf Championship in 2007.