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Posts Tagged ‘Angel Cabrera’

The old adage goes that no one remembers who came in second.  True, who came in second to Usain Bolt in the 100m in the Olympics?  Who was second to Armstong in all those editions of the Tour de France?  Heck, who did the Celtics beat in the 1981 NBA Championships?  Only true die-hard fans would know (Boston beat Houston in ’81.)

In golf, the same is true, most of the time.  For this year though, as far as the majors are concerned, i.e. up to the Open at Turnberry, everyone will remember the losers as much as the winners. I might even venture that most will remember the 1st runner-ups more than the actual champions.  Strange but no less true.

After a short birdie putt at 16, Kenny Perry had a two stroke lead on Sunday at the Masters.  17 and 18, while no stroll in the park is not expected to cause 2 bogeys and therefore, people were in full celebration mode to honor, one who would be the oldest champion in the Masters.  Kenny Perry, in recent years defied father time and had his most productive seasons after the age of 40.  He is always seen as an ideal man.  Giving up tournament golf to be with his children during their formative years, he only had his legitimate opportunities to make a mark well past what would be the prime for most golfers.  Arguably, he was, at that point, the best player never to have won a major.  He had 14 wins in the PGA and was always near the top of the money list the last few years.  He was in the verge of seeing his dream come true, a major, at last would define his career.  Then a bogey at 17 after hitting over the green.  That’s fine, one shot lead, one hole to go.  Then the bogey at 18.  No problem, he’ll win in the play-offs.  During the first play-off hole, Angelo Cabrera, the swashbuckling Argentinian, who had only one career PGA tour win, albeit a major (2007 US Open), was in the trees after his tee shot.  He miraculously saved par, while Chad Campbell fell by the wayside.  Perry made a routine par.  In the 2nd playoff hole, the luck finally run out.  Perry bogeyed the 10th after hooking his approach.  The swing that held up for so many holes betrayed him in the end.  Argentina rejoiced, finally slaying the memory of Roberto De Vicenzo’s gaff in the 1968 Masters.  The rest of the world sat in stunned silence, commiserating with the gentleman from Kentucky.

The US Open at Bethpage Black was supposed to follow a pre-destined storyline.  Phil Mickelson just found out his wife had breast cancer.  While in the hospital, his wife, Aimee, agreed to allow Phil his chance at history in New York, the state that has embraced him as its own.  He vowed to take the Silver Cup back to Arizona to sit on a table beside a hospital bed, a reminder that all things are possible.  One can already see the ending of the movie. Through glazed eyes, opening from a deep sleep, after a session of chemotherapy, Aimee would see from the haze a gleaming silver cup sitting by the window, reflecting the sun’s morning rays, as her husband, the man with the golden smile, looked down at her with love.  In almost a whisper, he would then say, as he kissed her, “I did it … for you.”  But alas, fate was there to deal another blow.  Tied for the lead after an eagle at 13, Phil, high-fiving his way around the course, was in a high.  He only needed to hang on and surely he could take out the also-rans who dared challenge him on that day.  Then a bogey at 15 and another at 17.  Costly mistakes that allowed, unknown Lucas Glover, whose claim to fame was a win at the Bob Hope and topping the tour in total driving, to stroll in with a 2-shot win.  The dream ending was denied.  Again, the world sat in stunned silence.

And then there was Turnberry.  Tom Watson has been in the pantheon of golfing greatness for many years.  A holder of 8 majors, 5 of which holding high the Claret Jug, Tom is revered as one of the all-time best.  In tournaments nowadays, however, he is viewed to be a participant, many would still like to see, a nod to greatness of yesteryears, but not really considered as a real threat against the flat-bellies.  Sure, he may post a good round now and again but eventually, like all the other elder golfers, he would fade, reeling from the weight of the modern game, to end his challenge with a whimper.  His spot in the field is a concession granted past champions until they reach the age of 60 then, they are then asked to step aside.  He is 59 and has a year left to putter around the great links.  But harking the echoes of those golden ages, hearing the cheers from ’77 when he battled a Golden Bear under the sun, Tom defied the odds and took a 1 stroke lead into the final day.  Surely, his challenge will fade as soon as he stepped into the first tee.  Sure enough an opening bogey seemed to usher in the inevitable collapse.  If Greg Norman, many years younger, failed in his attempt to defy father time last year, an older Tom Watson will also suffer the same fate.  But Tom, with his graceful swing, unchanged for decades, plugged away.  Defying expectations, he matched the young ‘uns stroke for stroke, hole for hole, until at last there was one left.  With a 1 shot lead on the 18th fairway, he chose an 8 iron for his approach on a hard green, on this blustery day.  Rising majestically into the sun, the ball then landed hard on the surface, close to the flag, but failed to bite.  It bounded forward and eventually rested beyond the green resting against the first cut of rough.  Up and down for the win.  He took his putter out, surveyed the green, practiced his stroke, set up, glanced and let go.  The ball skidded up the bank and rolled past the hole 8 feet away.  Tom Watson, who faced, in his 40’s, a great bout with the yips, had a knee-knocker for the ages.  This was going to be the greatest day in golf history.  A man of 59 would reign supreme again with his 6th Claret Jug.  History will rank Tom Watson with no less a legend than Harry Vardon.  His putt though will deny all this.  Leaving the putt short deflated the man, who would eventually lose to Stuart Cink, he of the 5 tour wins and gangly swing, in the 4-hole playoff.  Accounts said that walking up 18 in the playoffs, sure that Watson had no chance, the gallery gave polite applause to the combatants, much like one would give while listening to eulogies in funerals.  For a third time this year, the world would sit in silence.

The world will not be able to take another heartbreak in the PGA Championship in August.  It is therefore fervently prayed of the golfing gods that a storybook ending be finally allowed.  In any event, 2009 will forever be remembered for the runners up, the also-rans, the ones who could not close the barn doors.  Many will not remember Cabrera, Glover and Cink as winners.  Everyone will remember Perry, Mickelson, and even more Watson as men who tickled our imagination, our belief that in this jaded world, storybook endings can still happen.  Just not this time.  Just not this year.

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