Sunday, April 11, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Maybe I'm still hung over from the majors of 2009, but I'll be watching anxiously for the spoiler. The killjoy. (Or the K.J. Choi. Same difference.) Should sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson be walking off the 17th tee with a one-stroke lead, I'll be listening for the roar that tells me the guy in the painter's cap, Ricky Barnes, has holed out from the 18th fairway to deny Lefty his third green jacket.
Should the other really popular guy, Fred Couples, glue another golf ball to the grassy bank at the par-3 12th -- as Fred did in 1992, when he won his only major -- I'll expect Hunter Mahan to trump it with a Gene Sarazen-style double eagle on 13.
And if the prodigal son, Tiger Woods, turns Amen Corner into his very own redemption chapel, I'll look for some self-appointed Y. E. Yang to step up and deny him his fifteenth major.
I'm not a Gloomy Gus, but the last four major finishes have been as satisfying as the "chocolate" bar that turns out to be carob. Sweet Kenny Perry led last year's Masters by two, but coughed it up to Angel Cabrera. Mickelson and an off-the-mat former No. 1, David Duval, were reaching for the U.S. Open trophy when it was wrested away by Lucas Glover. Then you had the letdown of all time, when 59-year-old Tom Watson came within one putt of winning his sixth British Open title. [sotto voce: Stewart Cink]
So maybe I'll pin my hopes on the one guy who can play the spoiler and worthy champion simultaneously. That would be third-round leader Lee Westwood, the great English golfer and six-time Ryder Cupper. Westwood can't match Phil's flair, Freddy's insouciance or Tiger's near-demonic urge to dominate, but he is the best player never to have won a major. That alone makes him a sympathetic figure. Winning the green jacket could make him into something more -- a crowd pleaser.
Are you listening, Heath Slocum?

You May Like