My preview last week of the Masters Tournament which concluded at Augusta National on Sunday focused on two players: Scottie Scheffler and Tiger Woods. I wrote “the destiny of this year’s green jacket will likely lie among Scottie & Co”. For once, I was right – but you can forget about the rest.
Scheffler, the 25-year-old world No. 1 from Texas, could afford to fluff a couple of short putts and run up a double-bogey at the last and still win by three shots from a fast-finishing Rory McIlroy, who fired an eight-under-par closing round of 64, holing out a preposterous shot from a bunker for a birdie at the last. It was a fabulous effort but one which was never going to bring him the Grand Slam title he wants the most; the one he hasn’t got. The more significant score as to determining the outcome was probably the triple-bogey six incurred by Cameron Smith, in the final pairing with Scheffler, on the 12th hole after his visit to the water there. That pretty much ended his challenge even if he rallied late on to finish in a tie for third with Shane Lowry.
Scheffler’s 10-under-par total nailed down his fourth PGA Tour title in less than two months. He hadn’t won a single one before. And, for him, this was the one. “If you’re going to choose a golf tournament to win, this would be the tournament I would want to win,” he said. “I had a five-shot lead on Friday and a three-shot lead going into today. I don’t know if you get better opportunities than that. You don’t want to waste them.”
As for Tiger, he opened with a 71 and overnight on Thursday a victorious return to competitive golf in his first tournament since the 2020 Masters seemed at least not a ridiculous scenario. But then reality kicked in, slowly at first with a 74 on Friday but then with a 78 on Saturday and the same again on Sunday. He finished outright 47th, 23 shots adrift of the new champion. It was somewhat poignant that Woods finished his round just as Scheffler was leaving the first green.
Even for such a consummate athlete as Woods, there is a limit to how many ice baths the body can endure during the course of a major championship in order to enable it to cope with the belated strains and stresses associated with involvement in a near-fatal car crash. But the whole process will surely be of benefit come July when Woods tries, over the gentler terrain of the Old Course, to win the Open at St Andrews. “That is something near and dear to my heart”, he said. “I’ve won two Opens there and it’s my favourite course in the world. I will be there for that one. Anything in between that I don’t know.”
The winner’s cheque, incidentally, was for $2.7 million, a big rise on the $2.07 million Hideki Matsuyama received last year. The total purse of $15 million represented an increase of $3.5 million on 2021. Anyone might think the Saudis were talking of pumping money into golf? And talking about money, and back to Woods, the Masters each year sees the online staging of golf’s Golden Age Auctions. The glory prize on this occasion was the set of irons with which Woods completed the ‘Tiger Slam’ in 2000-1. The highest offer by 11 am BST on Saturday had been $935,111. The auction closed at 2 am BST on Sunday. The clubs sold for $5,156,162. I am not aware of Rishi Sunak (or his wife) being the successful bidder.
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