The Roar That Was Heard Around The World
By Roddy Carr
When I went into partnership in the early nineties with Seve in Spain to run 30 European Tour events and the Ryder Cup at Valderrama, he named our company Amen Corner.
He loved Amen Corner at Augusta. The Catholic connotations touched his Spanish heritage as did the matador in him with the ‘win or die’ strategy that Bobby Jones cleverly concocted for these three great holes.
Oh, what drama they have delivered over the years: Couple’s ball hanging on the bank of the notorious and sumptuous 12th hole destining him to go on and win or the crippling blow it delivered to the unsuspecting Speith and he looked like cruising to victory again.
This hole, in particular, is the cruellest of them all as it sits in front of you like a beautiful framed painting waiting to be taken advantage of with only a short iron in hand. The tall pines elevated further by banking shelter the swirling wind from touch or feel at man height. Only the inconsistent movement at the tip of the tall pines on the left give any indication of what the ball will feel when it reaches their altitude.
This year’s Masters was one of the great classics in golf and sports that we will witness in our lifetime.
Tiger the fallen icon and hero battling against the self-inflicted nightmares he has had to endure publicly, a body sown and cemented together and lastly father time as his clock ticks by for his ‘life on tour’ at 43.
In the opposing corner, you had the crème de la crème of the current Major winners with Molinari and Koepka followed by another handful of the top young guns chasing the coveted Green Jacket for the first time.
Tiger played a classic hunter’s game, not chasing (you never chase at Augusta) but waiting and watching a brave Mollinari defend his lead on the first nine as the chasing pack bunched and moved closer to their prey.
‘Welcome to the back nine at Augusta on Sunday’ – All the players know this saying. They know there will be casualties, some fatal for careers, some with wounds so deep it will take years to heal.
Tiger is walking purposefully, slowly, in control, not tired, alert and waiting…..patiently.
The struggle by Molinari hanging on to his lead for 11 holes uses more gas than he expected and he starts to look tired, the spring in is step softening ever so slightly on 10 and 11. Koepka, seemingly oblivious, stalks ominously looking fresh, youthful, fearless and aggressive as always.
Respect. That is what Augusta is all about. Respect for the traditions Bobby Jones has established around the whole event and for the golf course, he designed. If you are arrogant, presumptuous, fearful, reckless you will be punished. You need a cool calm head and the ‘Cohones de Elefante’ as Seve had to win on Augusta’s back nine on Sunday.
Molinari, who gave a Hoganesque performance playing with Tiger to win the Open last year and Koepka who displayed fearlessness in the heat of battle for the last three Majors he has won stood centre stage on the picturesque 12th tee with Tiger.
Molinari a student of the ‘Pressure Principle’ philosophy designed exactly for these pressure cooker situations must not have done his homework on Augusta. The same for Koepka. All of the traditionalists have listened to Jack Nicklaus say dozens of times over the years; ‘Never go for the Sunday pin at 12. Play to the middle of the green between the two bunkers on the left. If you’re short with the winds, it’s in sand, not water. Take your three, say your Amen and move on”. Molinari also did not notice, as Tiger had, that Poulter and Koepka have hit it in the water in front of him on 12.
Molinari looked at the pin and then 10 meters left……..but not at the spot between the two bunkers. Koepka only sees pins and pulled the trigger. Two train wrecks. The multitudes surrounding this almost coliseum scene are stunned, not knowing how to react.
Tigers eyes harden, he slows down, breathes a little deeper, his patience has paid off, he now sees two wounded prey, he smells blood. His laser eyes focused on Jack’s spot between the bunkers. He never once looked at the pin. El Tigre will show no mercy.
Tiger strode briskly off the tee, his shoulders back his head high like the Gladiator he is, alone now on Hogan’s bridge, while the two wounded warriors walked shell-shocked with their heads bowed into the cathedral-like silence of that 12 green, far from the maddening crowd, trying to come to terms what had just befallen them.
The error was fatal for Molinari and broke his spell of infallibility as it had done with Speith before him. The brave Koepka kept the ‘metal on the pedal’ and bounced back with an eagle on 13. Incredibly, four of the final six ‘invitees’ got wet on the12!!
Tiger drove the final nail in the coffin on what must be his favourite hole, the magic Nike moment 16th hole. He bent to his knees talking to his ball affectionately like a little puppy dog, coaxing it to go in (from 180 yards !!). It nearly did. The roar was deafening and caused Koepka to back off his tee shot on 17. It had the volume of a hole in one…it’s definitely a Tiger decibel; surely he couldn’t have……??
Tiger’s roar after the final putt went in was like Hercules shaking off the chains that had shackled him for years and Braveheart’s roar of freeeeedom. He is now finally free to hunt his ultimate prey, Jack’s Nicklaus’s 18 Majors and fulfil the destiny laid out for him by his father at the age of three.
He is a more humble man now and kinder than before having discovered true love as a father along with friendships and support. He let people touch him for the first time, he embraced and shared his true inner happiness with his fans. It was a sight to behold.
He beat them all fair and square hitting more fairways and greens than any of his challenges to win. Tiger is now back for good or as long as his body holds up.
Time to move on: normally there is a nice long break before the next Major but with the change in schedules this year, the PGA Championship will now be played on the notorious Bethpage ‘Black’ public course in NYC on May 16-19! Tiger won the US Open there in 2002 and Phil has finished second there twice, where the New York fans have taken to him. They also love Tiger in NYC and Tiger mania is already building in the air. It’s a brute of a course that suits the shot makers and those strong of mind. Can Tiger recharge enough to be a factor and grind his way into contention again? Who would dare say no?
Phil has only the US Open remaining to complete his grand slam. Coming off the back of winning the AT&T at Pebble earlier this year, will he be able to complete the home run there come June? Or will Jordan Spieth beat him to it next week in Bethpage?
The other top players will have had time to digest the rollercoaster ride of Augusta and regroup as they would normally do. It may well suit the Major contenders who did not get close enough to the fire to get burned at Augusta.
My money is on the young guns at Bethpage. Koepka has shown true valour and the ability to bounce back. Rory still has the Masters monkey on his back but its weight is gone for another year. DJ was invisible at Augusta all week but finished only a shot behind and Ricky is overdue his first Major. Don’t count Molinari out either, it suits him too.
One thing is for sure; there will be more people watching than in recent years after Tiger exploded the game of golf back on to the front pages of newspapers with the win that was heard all over the world.