“TO ME, GOLF IS GREAT THEATER.” Those were the words of Frank Chirkinian, the legendary CBS-TV golf producer who recently died after a long fight with lung cancer. Chirkinian, considered to be the father of televised golf, explained that he never thought of himself as a golf or sports producer. The golf course was the setting for drama, tragedy and triumph. Above all, it was theater.
Can you imagine what Chirkinian would have thought about this most recent Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club?
Like a lot of golf fans, I’m still trying to process what I saw take place yesterday amid the pines and azaleas, through Amen Corner, and on those last four holes. I wholeheartedly agree with Chirkinian. The Masters is certainly “great theater.” I’ve been spellbound by it for three decades. I remember 1986 and so many others. But I’d never seen this episode. Not even close. This one had everything, and it was mesmerizing.
The mind tries to pick a winner. Who has the lead. Who has the look. Who still has enough birdie opportunities and nerve on the way to the clubhouse. But yesterday it was impossible to identify the 2011 Masters champion. I couldn’t even narrow it down to two or three. This was by far the largest cast of Sunday contenders on Masters Theater.
Who would wear the Green Jacket?
It was Rory. It was Tiger. It was Rory. It was Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi and Charl Schwartzel. It was Tiger. It was Geoff Ogilvy. Bo Van Pelt? No. It was Adam Scott. Definitely Adam Scott. Wait, maybe Jason Day. No no no no! It’s Schwartzel. Yeah, that quiet skinny guy who sinks every five-footer. (And chips in for birdie and holes out for eagle.) For the love of Jimmy Demaret, that 26-year-old birdied the last four holes to win the Masters!
Who had done that? Exactly no one in the 75-year history of Bobby Jones’s invitational.
Those four Schwartzel birdies, especially the final three that were medium-range putts, were stupendous.
Charl “Don’t Add ‘es’” Schwartzel didn’t lose any sleep on Saturday night like young Rory McIlroy. As Phil Mickelson said, it’s pretty difficult to sleep on a 54-hole Masters lead. It’s even more difficult to play with a four-shot lead. Poor Rory.
McIlroy’s implosion was probably the least surprising aspect of Masters Theater. Tiger’s charge was amazing and tragic. But nor was it the most surprising thing. What surprised me the most about the 2011 Masters was the number of players who struck quality shots down the stretch, who played their fancy white pants off to win the Green Jacket, even after Tiger set off explosions all over the grounds.
That was incredible stuff. It was good for golf. Most of all, it was great theater.
−The Armchair Golfer