The Masters was its typical self yesterday as the pretenders faltered under the pressure of the course on final day and the best players rose to the top. I have to admit I was wrong late on Saturday when the final pairings on Sunday were being finalized as the last groups finished their rounds. It was clear that England’s Justin Rose would be paired with Spain’s Sergio Garcia and I said it out loud when they said Garcia would be playing with Rose that, “Sergio’s going to choke. He always does.” Even as late as the 13th hole I felt that Garcia would manufacture a way to lose and I figured it was when he hit his tee shot into the out of bounds area on the right of the fairway that was the shot that lost him any shot at winning the Masters. Sergio sucked it up and he managed to save par on 13 and that is went the worm turned. Sergio birdied 14 and he eagled 15 and just like that he had gone from 6 under to 9 under and tied Rose for the lead. Rose took a one shot lead when he birdied the Par 3 16th but he gave it right back with a bogie on 17. Rose parred 18 to complete his round with a 69, -3 on the day and a total score of 279. Sergio parred in after his eagle on 15 as he finished with an identical -3 69 on the day a 279 cumulative score so there you have it, sudden death in the Master for the first time since 2013 when Adam Scott beat Angel Carbrera on the 2nd playoff hole. This year it only took one hole, #18, to determine a winner. Garcia birdied and Rose bogeyed to give Garcia his first win in a Major. It was especially meaningful to Garcia as he got the “best player to never win a Major” monkey off his back but it was also the birthday of one of Garcia’s idols, Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011. Seve was a former Masters champion and winner of 5 Majors. He truly was one of the greats to ever play the game and it’s no shock to learn as a young Spaniard Garcia would idolize him.
There were two players I figured would uphold the USA representation on the Masters leaderboard and that was Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spaeth. Fowler was in 3rd place one stroke behind Rose and Garcia at -5 and Spaeth was 2 back in a group of 3 at -4. Fowler couldn’t make a putt to save his natural born life and Spaeth couldn’t hit a fairway with a seeing eye dog and road map. He actually had the roadmap on his scorecard but it didn’t make any difference. He also hit a ball into the water on the Par 3 12th that led to a double bogey 5 that killed any hope he would win his second green jacket. Fowler just couldn’t make a put and he had opportunities out the wazoo. His play from tee to green was pretty darn good he just couldn’t get the rock into the hole. Fowler had extra motivation in the tournament just like Garcia. While Garcia was playing for Seve, Fowler was playing in tribute to golf legend Arnold Palmer who died last September. This was the first Masters in 59 years, or more, without him. Fowler wore a special pair of shoes at Palmer’s tournament, Bay Hill, earlier this year in tribute to The King and, as the ESPN article linked below talks about, there was a special connection between the 20 something Fowler and the 80 something Palmer. So, I’m sure Rickie is bittersweet about his poor weekend at the Masters, THIS Masters especially.

The opening ceremony at the first tee when the oldest surviving past champions began the tournament by teeing off first was tear-fest. This was the first Masters without Arnold Palmer but he was not forgotten. There was a white chair with Palmer’s green jacket draped over it and the remaining 2 of the Big Three, Jack Nichlaus and Gary Player, not to mention practically everyone present at the first tee had to do whatever they did through tear soaked eyes. Yes, me too. I was watching on my computer at work and I couldn’t help but shed a tear myself as everyone remembered The King. Arnold Palmer was The King. He was the Tiger Woods of his generation, not because he broke racial barriers like Tiger did 40 years after Palmer burst on the scene, but because Arnie was a guy the common man could relate to. Palmer was a man of the people, never too tired to sign an autograph or take a moment to talk to a fan. His main advice to famous people was that they should sign autographs legibly so people could read the name because it meant something to those fans and they deserved no less from their idols. Such was Palmer’s fame that the legion of his fans became known as Arnie’s Army and their ranks never waned even after Jack Nichlaus usurped his claim as the best golfer in the world in the mid 1960’s. It was because Palmer always was respectful of the fans and he was truly beloved in the world of sports. It has been said that nobody has done more for the sport of golf than Arnold Palmer.
"No one did more to popularize the sport than Palmer," according to Adam Schupak of Golf Week. "His dashing presence singlehandedly took golf out of the country clubs and into the mainstream. Quite simply, he made golf cool.”

Jack Nicklaus said: "Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in the sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself."

Here is the video of those opening ceremonies from Youtube.