AUGUSTA, Ga. — For the second straight year, I have to thank the folks at Augusta National for making me feel right at home.
If you recall, last year's third round was played in a very northwestern North Dakota 40-degree weather. This year, not to be outdone, the good folks here in Georgia conjured up some fantastic 25 mile per hour winds. Again, it felt a little like watching golf at Souris Valley in Minot and not southern Georgia. I am sure that resident SVGC professional Steve Kottsick could have helped these guys in how to manage the wind.
A lot was made about the weather all week here. First, it was too wet to score, the ball wasn't running in the fairways enough. Then, when the sun came out — and it really came out, look at my burnt neck when I get back — it was too dry. The greens are too slick and fast to score. Then, when we had a pure downpour on Saturday, yep, too wet again. Too wet and too cold everywhere to score. Finally came Sunday and it was too windy. Too windy to score. Yet, the final winning tally was 8-under-par by Trevor Immelman and all of the contenders made some birdies. I wonder what perfect conditions would have been?
While the wind did play a significant role in the final score, but Immelman proved that you can play through the conditions. Much like 2007 champion Zach Johnson, he made the shots in the poor weather where everybody else made mistakes. I thought it was interesting that the talking heads at ESPN, The Golf Channel and CBS kept saying that Tiger Woods needed a lot of wind to have a chance. But Woods had to play in the wind as well and a final round of 72, while solid considering the conditions, wasn't going to put enough pressure on the top two groups. With everyone making mistakes, the pressure was somewhat off Immelman. He didn't have to hear the roars in front of him.
Speaking of roars, this might be the Masters remembered for the lack of noise instead of the normal stadium-like atmosphere the tournament is used to. Phil Mickelson said earlier in the week that there were birdie opportunities, but not eagle chances. The course has become just too difficult. While I and probably the majority of golf fans don't want a 30-under-par winner, the incredible noise that can be associated with this place is as much a part of the tradition as the green jacket, the azaleas and the pimento cheese sandwiches in the green bags. A note to chairman Billy Payne, swallow your pride and make sure this remains a Masters and not a U.S. Open.
In Payne's defense, the course has been heading this way ever since Woods took it apart in 1997. Some of the changes are welcome, some are not. Too many green numbers and not enough red ones are the leader in the ones that are not.
During the week, Jason Feldman and I took a notice to Brandt Snedeker and what we saw was a kid who has the potential to be the next big deal. He has the demeanor to win this event and obviously has talent. What struck me the most in the end, however, was the way that he handled losing. He was very emotional as he went about his final press conference, breaking down in tears at the end. He couldn't explain it, he said. Maybe I can. I think Snedeker has that little something that makes a good player great. He won a lot of money Sunday, but he fell short of the big prize. It seems like he understands that.
Well, as you can see, not much went on at Augusta National on Sunday. It was another great end to another great week at the Masters. Maybe we can do it again some time.
(Michael Linnell is the sports editor for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)