Watching the US Masters from behind the couch
*This column was originally printed in April, 2017.
It's Sunday evening as I sit down and write this column. The golf is on the TV – remember, the same tournament I ranted about last week and the same one I have been glued to since Thursday evening.
My money is on Adam Scott (a meaty 50/1) but the Aussie can't make a putt here on the front nine. Neither, surprisingly, can Jordan Spieth, who usually waves the short stick like it's a wand.
Right now, Sergio Garcia – the mercruial Spaniard who is renowned as much for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Majors as he is for his awesome skills - is out in front by three.
My Whatsapp group is bleeping 10 to the dozen as the lads await what we all agree will be his inevitable collapse. The kinder comments suggest that white trousers was a poor choice by the Spaniard today...
In the age of binge-watching box sets on Netflix, the Masters is what the advertising gurus call 'appointment television'. This is the kind of drama you dare not miss in real time.
Slowly, as expected, it's all starting to unravel for Sergio. Now he's is on the seventh and he's hit a poor approach. His body language is not good.
“Still a chance of a chip and a putt,” remarks BBC's Peter Aliss, trying to remain upbeat.
But the chip goes skew-ways.
“By his standards that was very clumsy. Very heavy-handed,” comments Aliss. He misses the putt.
And then Rose sinks a big one at the par-five ninth for a birdie. No fist pumping, no screaming at the sky, though – just a tilt of the club to acknowledge the gallery.
“Is that the shot that wins the day, Ken?” asks Peter. “We'll have to wait a couple of hours to see.”
The Masters doesn't start till the last nine on a Sunday, they say, so as the players walk to the tee box, I race to the kitchen to boil the kettle (there will be nothing with it though, as readers of last week's column will know. That's another story.).
On my return, a stat pops up on the screen telling us that Rose has played that back nine in +11 for his career; Garcia has managed it in +34. The writing is clearly on the wall.
“Here we are are and it's 251 yards to the hole, Sergio is going with a 4-iron,” says another commentator, Paul Azinger.
“That could be fatal right there,” he sighs as Garcia lands in the bushes,
Cut to Whatsapp. “That's like us in McSeain's. Only it's usually the slurry tanker hazard, down the right on the first, we land in.”
Back to the Beeb and Garcia, 37 and playing in his 74th Major having never won one, bogeys, the first blot on his card in 19 holes.
And Rose drains his, making it look easy. The thought occurs that we are watching a sportsman implode on the biggest stage as, on the next, a camera, placed among the pines tracks Garcia's ball as it bobbles its way into the rough stuff.
“Sergio is in trouble again here at 11, he needs to settle down,” warns Azinger gravely.
(Meanwhile, on the 16th, Matt Kuchar has a hole in one. “You never, never know,” says Aliss, as the crowd's lowing of “Koooooch” brings to mind a farmer calling in his weanlings for feeding).
And then my man Scott bogeys the ninth and more or less rules himself out and now I'm going all in on Garcia. He's behind a tree and, the announcers tell us, he CAN'T miss left.
Beep. “Splash coming,” says a text. But Sergio plays it well and gets a nice bounce to stay alive.
Rose, while lacking Garcia's Gallic flair, is robotic in his play. The Englishman rarely makes a mistake and he coolly reels off a beautiful riposte. As Sergio bogeys (Azinger: “You've got to believe a couple of those missed putts on the front nine shook him up”), Rose makes par.
After three successive birdies, the latest is the matador's final jab, surely. Garcia looks a broken man. It's hard to watch.
“Will he even get in the top five?” I text, from behind the couch.
Next, he creeps across a bunker and ends up with bogey but Rose misses a makeable birdie putt that would have surely sealed it.
The camera cuts to newcomer, the giant Jon Rahm, who weeps into his hand as he finishes with a treble bogey, a big man feeling small on the 18th green. I think of the digestives in the press and then remember my cursed bet and send good vibes Rahm's way. Ifeel your pain, bro...
Back in Georgia, it gets worse for our man. He swings like a hacker at the 14th. “Oh Sergio!” Aliss scowls, like a disappointed parent. “And Rose is getting stronger and stronger.”
We zoom in to Sergio's ball, buried forlornly under a bush. I've seen daffodil bulbs with better lies.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm watching with three female members of family – wife, sister-in-law and cat (the latter of whom has made an appearance on these pages before, you may recall). At this, the missus looks up from her laptop. “That's probably a common sight for you, is it?” she says, referring to the buried golf ball and not actually meaning any harm.
“Begone, wench!” I bellow, in my head, as my gaze returns to the screen. (Forgive her, she knows not what she says).
So, hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped, Garcia hokes around his ball.
“Reminds me of us,” I tell the lads via text, “only there are no mulligans there.”
“Us? We're not as shite as you,” the lads tell me back.
And then it happens. An awesome approach from Garcia and a long par putt and then the pride of Hampshire misses, inexplicably, from three feet.
On the 14th, Sergio looks like a new man. “Perhaps that escape was the lift he needed,” we are told.
And, on the 15th, still down by one, he mouths “be good” as the ball sails through the air, landing in the centre of the green as the trees shake with cheers and I leap to my feet.
He sinks it for an eagle, Rose makes birdie, and they're level. After 15 gripping minutes, I take a gulp of my tea. It's cold.
“And suddenly,” says Aliss, “all was still.”
I return with a fresh brew to find six notifications on Whatsapp. “Sergio will hardly get done for that!” says one text. What was this?
Turns out there was a query over a twig moving or something a few holes back but the commentators quickly put our minds at rest...
Both men suffer power failures on the next green and now we're on 18. They match each other, Rose gets a slice of luck but Sergio has a four-footer for glory. And misses. Damn your flaky ways, Garcia.
So, it's a sudden death play-off. By now, I'm the only one up – even the cat has slunk off to bed with a sullen look that says “what are you staying up for, you fool, Sergio will blow it”.
But Rose is in the trees and Sergio hits what the commentator calls “a crackerjack” of a drive. And Rose goes close with the putt but misses. And Sergio has two goes at it from 18 feet...
“Odds he blows it?” I ask.
“Normal golfer 500/1. Sergio, 5/1” comes the reply.
But he sinks it in one. History is made. And off to the cot, contented, I skip.