I spent Sunday afternoon firmly parked on a couch watching the final round of the 2009 Masters. The final round was packed with great shots, emotional rivalries, and yet an astoundingly anti-climactic finish.
By the end of day four the Masters became a virtual war of attrition. Instead of the best golfer emerging from the field, it seemed as if the golfer who made the fewest mistakes down the stretch earned this year’s green jacket.
Here is my summary of this year’s final round.
Tiger Woods v. Phil Mickelson
I actually laughed out loud when I saw that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired together for the final round of this year’s Masters. Not because of their sheer hatred for each other, but because they both somehow entered Sunday seemingly out of contention.
Before the tournament started, many predicted that these two would spend the final round together, but no one predicted that both men would be seven shots off the lead.
Prior to the final round, I pondered over the media’s dilemma over who to cover: the two men who produce TV ratings (Tiger and Phil) or the golfers who actually stood atop the leader board (Perry, Cabrera, and Co.).
Fortunately for the media, Tiger and Phil’s play allowed them to cover both.
Phil came out scorching on Sunday, knocking in six early birdies en route to a 30 on the front nine. The high point came on No.8, when Mickelson stuck a shot out of the woods (he was literally tucked behind a tree) ten feet from the pin and converted for eagle. Mickelson birdied No.13 and No.15 to climb the standings, and after a par on the scenic No.16, Phil sat two strokes off the lead at 10-under.
Tiger watched and took notes for most of the front nine, but kicked it into gear in the back nine to get within striking distance of Phil and the leaders. He birdied 13, 15, and 16 to tie Mickelson at two strokes off the lead (10-under) with two to play.
Unfortunately for both men, a couple strokes was as close as they would get.
Mickelson picked up a bogey when he went swimming on No.12, and later on missed two crucial putts down the stretch; one for eagle on No.15 and one for birdie on No.17. Both were virtual gimmes for a player of Phil’s caliber, but he (much like the Mickelson of old) choked each one away. Mickelson was still close after his par on No.16, but the birdie-miss on No.17 and follow-up bogey on No.18 took him out of contention.
Tiger hit a dramatic birdie putt on No.16 (fist pump included at no additional cost), but fell face first on the final two holes. He bogeyed 17 and 18 to finish at 8-under, a score which left him undoubtedly out of this year’s chase for the green jacket.
Both men teased the nation by climbing back into contention down the stretch. As both faded away on the final two holes, golf fans begrudgingly accepted that this year’s champion would come from the remaining three horse race: Kenny Perry, Angel Cabrera, and Chad Campbell.
Mediocrity from the Leaders During Holes 1-11
When Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fell out of contention in this year’s Masters, some golf fans probably quit watching. As much as I hate to give in to the allure of the most popular pros, it’s hard to sell players who lack star-power during the most popular tournament of the year.
Kenny Perry opened the day at 11-under, and sat there for the first 11 holes by hitting 11 consecutive pars. During this time, Tiger and Phil were creeping closer while Cabrera and Campbell remained only a few strokes back.
Perry’s par streak was consistent, but still one of the ugliest I have ever seen. He missed ten-foot-birdie-putt after ten-foot-birdie-putt to constantly remain even on the day. Once or twice he may have saved par from a difficult lie, but for the most part every par Perry knocked in was a disappointing tap-in after a painfully close birdie putt.
Chad Campbell played slightly better on certain holes, including a beautiful chip-in on No.3 for birdie, but after 11 holes he sat right where he had started the day at 9-under.
Angel Cabrera undoubtedly played the ugliest golf of all three men on Sunday, riding the typical Cabrera roller coaster of success. Cabrera hit back-to-back bogeys on No.4 and No.5, and added another bogey on No.11 to reach the stretch run at 9-under, two strokes back of leader Kenny Perry.
Excellence from the Leaders During Holes 12-16
Hole No.12 is where Kenny Perry, Angel Cabrera, and Chad Campbell seemingly came to life.
Perry birdied No.12 in magnificent fashion, breaking out of two different road blocks that restricted him for most of Sunday’s round; an 11-hole par streak and a complete inability to sink birdie putts. Perry nailed a 20ft birdie putt to take sole possession of the lead at 12-under.
Cabrera remained asleep for one more hole, waiting to birdie No.13. He also birdied No.15 and No.16 to reach 12-under (a score which carried him into the sudden death playoff). Had he been able to scratch out a birdie on No.17 or No.18, he could have won the green jacket outright.
Campbell reached No.12 in a tailspin, having bogeyed two of the previous three holes. He turned it around with a birdie at No.12, however, and also birdied No.13 and No.15 to reach 12-under on the day.
The pinnacle of hot play for holes 12-17 came on No.16, a treacherous par 3 which featured it’s traditional Sunday back-left pin placement. Campbell parred the hole while Cabrera sank a solid putt to earn a birdie, but Perry outshone them both.
Perry hit the shot of his life on No.16, a beautiful tee shot which rolled within inches of the hole and left him a tap-in birdie putt. This birdie vaulted Perry to 14-under on the round and gave him a comfortable 2-stroke lead with only two holes to play.
2-stroke lead with two to play… It had to be over, right?
Kenny Perry Gives Away a Green Jacket
Perry teed off on No.17 with a 2-stroke lead. He subsequently bogeyed No.17 and No.18 to fall back to 12-under, where Cabrera and Campbell happily met him for a sudden death playoff.
The worst shot of Perry’s tournament came on the tee box at No.18.
Chad Campbell was in the clubhouse at 12-under, and Cabrera was one stroke behind with one to play. All Perry needed was a par to guarantee a higher score than Campbell and press Cabrera to birdie the hole.
What should Perry have done? Take out an iron, drive the ball at the bend 160yds from the pin, and attack the green from there. The fairway bunker 300yds into the hole was noted by commentators and fans alike, and was easily reachable with an errant driver stroke. What did Perry do? Took out his driver and sent his chances to win the tournament outright directly into the fairway bunker.
From there, chaos ensued.
Cabrera parred, Perry bogeyed, and the previously mentioned three-horse-race suddenly turned into a three-horse-playoff.
Three Men All Try to Lose a Playoff Hole
Seriously though, I’m convinced after watching this playoff that neither Perry, Cabrera, nor Campbell wanted to win this tournament.
Here is a quick run-down of how the 2009 Masters sudden death playoff unfolded:
- Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry sent good drives to the bend in No.18. Both men had an excellent look at the green. Kenny Perry thought to himself, “That felt good. If I’d have done it last hole I’d be wearing a green jacket right about now.”
- Angel Cabrera sent his drive at No.18 into the woods. At the time, this virtually eliminated him from competition in most fans’ minds.
- Cabrera’s second shot was a punch out of the woods which hit a tree at full speed. Instead of careening further into the trees, however, it took a hand-of-god (no Argentinian soccer pun intended) deflection into the center cut of the fairway. It remains unclear whether Cabrera was sober at the time.
- Perry hit before Campbell and right after making contact immediately showed his disgust with the shot. It tailed right of the green and left him an easy but disappointing pitch onto the green, but a thin chance at birdie.
- Now to Campbell. Think about it this way Chad: both of your opponents have taken their second shots and neither are on the green. If you can just put this ball on the green you will virtually guarantee a 2-putt par (and a push if they par as well) and also give yourself a solid chance at winning!
- With this in mind, Campbell promptly put his second shot in the bunker.
- Cabrera made a fantastic up-and-down for par, Perry nearly chipped in for birdie but settled for a par, and Campbell missed a 4ft par putt to eliminate himself.
- The result: On to another playoff hole between Perry and Cabrera. Both men tried to give away the first playoff by respectively missing the green and going in the woods, but somehow mediocrity prevailed and they were each given another chance.
- In the second playoff hole, it was again a battle of who could screw up the most. Perry ended up winning this competition by sticking his approach shot off the green to the left.
- Perry duffed his chip and left himself an improbable par save. He missed the par putt, thus allowing Cabrera to two-putt for victory.
- Cabrera obliged (sinking a clutch putt is overrated anyways) and earned his first green jacket with a tap-in for par.
And that’s how it played out. Cabrera won a sudden death playoff with two consecutive pars…
I was thoroughly entertained by the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson show early on, then I was excited to see Kenny Perry’s hot run in the middle of the back nine. The cold finish by all three leaders at the end of the round really turned me off to the tournament, however.
Had Kenny Perry nailed his par putt on No.18 to seal the deal it would have been a Masters to remember. An improbable victor, a clutch putt to win, and a hot streak to close the day.
Unfortunately this tournament ended in a weakly fought playoff and a two-putt for victory…
In my opinion, this will soon be a Masters to forget.