When I covered golf in the 1970s, the golden age of wooden woods and pastel pants, I never set foot on the course.
So, I feel a certain comfort reporting on this weekend’s Masters from the home office in Mississauga, Ontario, 1,141 kilometers from Augusta, Georgia.
Let me begin with Jordan Spieth. Like most golf fans, I was drawn to the young Texan during his sterling string of victories last year.
But his performances within earshot of a microphone became ever more grating.
First, there is his use of the royal we when speaking about his game.
We hit a five iron. We sunk that 20-footer on 10. We chili-dipped that pitch into the creek.
Then there is his excruciating pre-shot routine: Talk to his caddie for 20 minutes, take 10 practice swings, set up to hit, back off and talk to his caddie for another 15 minutes, take another 10 practice swings, repeat.
By the time Spieth found his Waterloo at the 12th hole on Sunday, I was ready to take a break every time he appeared on TV and read War and Peace.
Instead, I recalled Tom Weiskopf’s breakdown at the same par-3 at the 1980 Masters. He scored a 13 – with five balls in the water – compared to Spieth’s rather pedestrian seven.
After the round, Spieth confessed he turned to his caddie at one point and said: “Buddy, it seems like we’re collapsing.”
As for the winner, Danny Willett, I was more struck by his all white outfit than his golf game.
“He’s wearing English colors,” remarked Sir Nick in the booth.
Really? I thought the white flag was more closely associated with the cheese-eating surrender monkeys on the other side of the channel.
In any case, if Willett had not won he probably would have been rounded up with all the caddies forced to wear white overalls, and carted off to the nearest cotton plantation.
But there was not much chance of that since the CBS crew, stunned by Spieth’s collapse, trained their cameras on the Englishman and tracked his every move.
There was Willett talking to someone on the phone – we were told it was his wife Nicole back in England.
There was Willett and his caddie rolling around on a couch and giggling when Spieth missed a putt to assure the result.
But the karmic miracle of the victory, we were told, was Willett’s ability to father a child and have it delivered in time for him to make the trip to Augusta.
Zachariah James Willett was born March 30. The baby’s due date was April 10 – the day his daddy won the Masters and got his green jacket.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
(This Masters was also a coming out party for Bryson DeChambeau, who joins my list of Thurston Howell III aliases on the PGA Tour: Charles Howell III, Davis Love III, Harris English, Chesson Hadley, Webb Simpson and Hudson Swafford. Honorable mention: Tyrone Van Aswegen.)
Dan Jenkins, whose writing career has degenerated into tweeting insults, described Willett as looking like the “getaway driver for Bonnie and Clyde.” (That would be the bug-eyed Michael J. Pollard.)
Jenkins was one of my writing idols. I never forgot his lead in Sports Illustrated after the 1975 Masters:
“Yeah, but Manny, we want Redford for all three leading men. Okay, maybe somebody else for Weiskopf, but Redford’s got to play the two blond guys, Nicklaus and Miller.”
We were both of a certain age when I laughed aloud at his novels – Semi-Tough (1972), Dead Solid Perfect (1974) – his Texan takes on men being men and women being bimbos.
I finally closed the book on Jenkins after his 2014 memoir, His Ownself, filled with reactionary diatribes and Republican jingoism, too much Dan and June Jenkins hanging out with George and Barbara Bush at Camp David.
Poynter did a piece last week on Jenkins, 86, attending his 66th Masters. “A Mt. Rushmore candidate as one of the greatest sportswriters of all time, Jenkins has become a master tweeter,” writer Ed Sherman marveled.
While Jenkins now fires 140-character sniper rounds from the media center, real reporters are also required to remain indoors – since golf is one of the few sports where you can only observe every crucial moment on television.
At my first tournament, covering the 1975 Canadian Open for UPI, I had to phone every score in to the sports desk in New York.
No computer. No fax. Phone.
The leaders would come into the press tent after each round, go over their scorecard – four-iron to about eight feet on No. 1, sunk the putt, birdie; into the trees left on 2, pitched out, nine-iron, two putts, bogey; repeat, repeat … – and answer a few questions.
From this, I’d piece together a story, get back on the phone, and dictate.
That ’75 Canadian Open was at Royal Montreal, the oldest (1873) golf club in North America.
Its home since 1959 is on Ile Bizard, which my seatmate John Radosta of the New York Times, called Ile Bizarre after a thunderstorm blew away the press tent on Saturday night.
It was raised again for Sunday’s final round, when Weiskopf beat Nicklaus in a playoff, though rainwater dripped on our typewriters.