Wednesday, April 8
The Masters, Aussie Style
Greg Norman tees off as fellow Australian Aaron Baddeley looks on.
“In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.”
By Michael Green
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
THE ALARM GOES OFF at 5 a.m., which is a lot earlier than usual for a Monday morning. The household stirs a little due to the slight disturbance, but I grab the doona (Australian for blanket), walk down the hall, switch on the TV and lay down on the couch.
I’ve still yet to open my eyes. The sounds of tinkling ivories soon come out of the TV and combined with shot after shot of flowering garden beds it’s almost enough to put me back to sleep. Thankfully, some golf is shown in between these images and my eyes begin to adjust to the picture.
The final round of the U.S. Masters is on TV. In Australia.
There’s a real skill to adjusting the volume to an audible level while keeping it low enough so the non-golf fans in the household aren’t disturbed. I have trouble speaking at that time of the day, and having to explain exactly what I’m doing in front of the TV so early would be near impossible.
This is the way I’ve experienced every U.S. Masters since I was a kid and the story would be very similar for many other Australian golf fans. All of the golf majors are experienced this way Down Under except for the British Open, which is a real test on a Sunday evening. The final round usually finishes around 4 a.m.
In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.
I’ve felt like I’ve wasted many hours of sleep only to see many Australians tumble in the majors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching any golf, but we all have our favourites and the Australians are mine.
You need two hands to count the number of times Greg Norman has been in contention at Augusta. That’s close to ten weeks of my life I’ve felt cheated by getting up to watch The Shark fall at the last hurdle, none more so than 1987 and 1996. School and university were major chores during those weeks. It’s a wonder I passed.
Greg Norman’s amazing shot at last year’s British Open was tough to take as he looked like he was winning for three and a half days, but it wasn’t quite as hard to take as the 2002 Open. Two Australians made the playoff and we still couldn’t win it.
Australians have usually played well at The Open, though. Peter Thomson won it five times, Norman won twice and Ian Baker-Finch chimed in with a win of his own as well. Wayne Grady and Steve Elkington grabbed a PGA Championship each in the 90’s but there’s a feeling that Australian golf has some even better results just around the corner.
Geoff Ogilvy’s win at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open was considered a shock to most fans. Australians knew him as another great young golfer with plenty of potential, but the circumstances of his win left many still wondering how good he was. His WGC wins and early 2009 form have laid any doubt to rest, and many sleepy Australian eyes will be on him at the U.S. Masters.
Regular tour players such as Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby are still playing good golf, but it’s the new brigade that may lead to some big wins.
Mathew Goggin has everyone excited after scraping into the field for his Masters debut. He’s becoming more consistent and has had a stellar start to the year.
Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott are always on everyone’s list of “next Australian major winner,” and while they are not at Augusta this year players such as Jason Day and Nick Flanagan are still considered by many to be future stars.
James Nitties has been around a while and struck a rich vein of form to get on the tour this year and Brett Rumford continues to improve year after year in Europe. This list does go on and we’re hoping they can erase some bad memories in future major tournaments, particularly at the Masters.
We can say the bad memories are in the past and something we’d rather forget. But these trials and tribulations have made Australian golf.
We’re a country that has always struggled with our identity. Isolated at the meeting point of some very large oceans on a piece of land almost the size of the continental United States – and with a population the same as New York – we’ve been punching above our weight in golf for many years and made a name for ourselves.
Those early morning heartbreaks still hurt, but with the likes of Ogilvy, Allenby, Goggin and even the old Shark showing some form, maybe those Monday mornings will soon be a little brighter.
I might even turn the TV up a bit. Let the rest of the house know what’s going on.
Michael Green writes about golf at Aussie Golfer, the
Australian golf blog.