By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Minimizing the worst keys Cabreras win
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Golf’s a simple game, really. All you have to do is minimize your worst shots. The beauty of golf lies in the extreme difficulty of achieving that simple maxim. A difficulty magnified over the final holes of a major championship.

Angel Cabrera emerged from a scintillating competition as Masters champion because he came closest to minimizing his mistakes down the stretch. As he noted in his post-Masters press conference, “At this stage of the tournament, any player who says he does not feel nerves, he’s not human.”

Even the two best players in the world are human. Phil Mickelson roused the patrons with a record-tying 30 on the front nine, charging to within a stroke of the lead.

Alas, he dumped a nine-iron into Rae’s Creek on number 12, a glaring worst shot. Not only did he double-bogey there, he lost his momentum and never made another putt, finishing fifth.

Tiger Woods began his day in the wrong fairway after an errant drive off the first tee. He minimized that effort by saving par, and by the time he birdied 16, he was only a stroke behind.

Alas, he found the woods with his drives on 17 and 18, glaring errors that relegated him to a sixth place finish.

Cabrera’s human, of course. He made mistakes. They just weren’t the glaring, killer mistakes that everyone else on the leaderboard eventually made. Sunday, his three poor shots each found bunkers, resulting in bogeys. He offset those with four birdies. As Cabrera observed, “This is the Masters. It’s a course that you can do a lot of birdies, a lot of bogeys. A lot of magical things happen.”

None more magical than on the first playoff hole. Cabrera lost his drive into the woods. He slammed his second shot off the trunk of a pine, the carom leaving his ball perfectly placed in the middle of the fairway. Now, that’s minimizing your bad shots.

“I only had a spot, like, this big,” explained Cabrera, holding his hands inches apart. So, I’ve got to put it through there, that’s it. As easy as that.”

Sadly, Cabrera missed the miraculous carom. “I heard it. I asked my caddie. He quickly said, ‘We’re fine. It’s in the fairway.’” And was Cabrera pleased? Surprised?

Try disappointed. “I wanted it to be on the green.”

No problem. From 70 yards out, Cabrera pitched to within six feet, and drained the putt. “I knew I had to make that putt to continue in the playoff. I’m happy and I was lucky that I read the line right and made the putt.”

Unlike Chad Campbell, who missed his putt, and thus failed to minimize his poor shots on that first playoff hole.

Campbell set a Masters record by making birdies on his first five holes of the tournament. He never left the leaderboard, surviving a double-bogey on 16 on Saturday. By Sunday evening, he was standing in the fairway with the best drive on the first playoff hole.

As he described it in his post-tournament press conference, “I get up there, and have a perfect 7-iron, and I just kind of hung it out to the right.

I guess I was a little bit worried about turning it over, and just kind of held on to it.”

The ball ended up in the right greenside bunker. Undaunted, Campbell crawled right in. “I hit a great bunker shot. I really thought that bunker shot was very makeable, and gave it a good roll, three feet by.

“I just pushed the putt. It was a left edge putt and I just kind of left the blade open.” And that was the mistake Campbell couldn’t minimize.

Kenny Perry best epitomized the need to minimize mistakes. After hitting the shot of his life to within a foot of the hole on 16, Perry had a two-stroke lead. And then it all unraveled.

“I blocked it a little, hits a tree, comes back,” is how Perry described his tee shot on 17. “My 6-iron, I guess I was pumped up a little bit.” It carried over the pin, off the back side of the green. Still, a chip and a putt, no damage done.

“I had that chip on 17, I skulled it. I can’t stop my right hand when I get a little nervous. It wants to shoot a little bit and I can’t calm it down.”

Then, with no margin for error, he hit the fairway bunker on 18. “I hit a good drive on 18. It just drew a little bit and got in that front bunker.”

From there, the mistakes were too big for Perry to overcome.

“It’s tough when it comes down to one shot here and there. You know, our game’s tough. It’s a mental game and it plays a lot with your head out there. So I’m going to enjoy it. We are going to have some fun.”

So’s the champion. “I was happy with my game and I had confidence,” said Cabrera. “I was just trying to enjoy the moment.”