Masters Part 4

Unfortunately, the writing team at the Fountain was behind a very slow foursome, which prevented the timely posting of Part IV of this series on the Masters.

Let me begin by saying that I am glad that Tiger Woods did not win. It’s hard to explain why, and I do not consider it bad sportsmanship. It’s sort of like the grossly insensitive “jokes” Gilbert Gottfried told about the Japanese, right after their earthquake/tsunami/nuclear tragedy, that got him fired from Aflac — it was simply too soon. It is too soon for me — after the well-publicized, gutter level philandering — to feel anything approaching forgiveness or loyalty to Woods, or the partisan zeal of a fan.

I wanted anybody else to win the green jacket.

Over the first three days it was interesting to observe the way the golfing fans on the course reacted to Woods. Interesting in that he was treated more like a pariah than a pantheon. Tom Boswell, my favorite sports writer, noted in his article, “The silence around Tiger is deafening.” Yet on Sunday, when Woods started a charge remniscient of Arnie Palmer in the 1960’s, the crowds broke their vows of silence and found their voices. As part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, strong evidence of Tiger bias was on display at CBS. They wanted to forget his reprehensible behavior. They wanted to see him win, and long before the tournament was over I had the feeling that the boys in the CBS truck thought that a Tiger win was a fait accompli.

(The CBS truck is where the producer and key technical staff are housed, with their nimble hands on lots of very high tech TV and computer equipment. Inside this state-of-the-art mobile production studio is where they manage the cameras and audio, decide which camera’s output goes to broadcast, which material to replay, what to show in slow motion, etc. Way back in my younger days I worked in a TV studio, where I pushed buttons and made TV miracles happen.)

In the UK, golf tournament coverage is more balanced than it is here. All players get a share of attention, which makes sense because great shots are being hit by players scattered across the course. When I was in Scotland, I talked to lots of golfers, and they told me that they like to see great golf shots, no matter who hits them. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that real golf fans everywhere want to see the best golf, not just watch one player the whole time. Here in the US, it’s just TIGER TIGER TIGER. C’mon! This is a golf tournament, not ‘The Tiger Woods Show.’

At the Masters, I wanted to see lots of different guys hitting the creative and difficult shots Augusta National requires, not just him. But the boys in the truck devoted most of the broadcast to him, imagining that he was the only one viewers wanted to see. When McIlroy finally collapsed — more on this later — and fell to nine-under par, that put him in a group of four players, including Woods. What name was at the top of that group on the TV leaderboard? Tiger Woods. Why? Someone in the truck had to decide in what order the names would be listed, and they wanted Tiger’s name at the top. Bias. McIlroy had led the tournament for three and a half days, so isn’t that reason enough for McIlroy’s name to be at the head of the group? Hadn’t he earned it? If sorted alphabetically — no matter if you choose either ‘T’ or ‘W’ — once again Tiger should not have been first.

At the end of Sunday he was definitely not first. But neither was McIlroy.

On the back nine on Sunday, after the 21-year old Rory McIlroy had been leading the tournament for 63 holes — an amazing achievement — he crumbled, choked, fell apart, had a spot of bother, and melted into a puddle of goo. Last week’s cover of the New Yorker magazine, seen up at the top, did a nice job of foretelling Rory’s fate. On hole #10 his self-destruction began. He launched his tee shot far into the woods, hitting one of the hundreds of different kinds of trees. Ted Ray would have called it “a monarch of the forest.” As Boswell noted, no one had ever expected — in 75 years of the Masters — that a player would wind up in the front yard of one of the cabins, used to house visiting dignitaries. These prestigious cabins are situated about eight Tarzan rope swings away from the fairway. At the Masters, unlikely things have always happened.

For someone who respects the value of statistics, and their ability to analyze the improbable, this intrepid reporter understood that it was extremely unlikely that McIlroy would win. First of all, no one had ever won the Masters from start to finish, and second, Rory was only twenty-one. (Let’s not quibble with months and days.) I dug up the ages of all the first-time winners of the Masters, from Horton Smith, the first winner, who was 26 in 1934, to Mark O’Meara, who was 41 in 1998. The ages are approximately normally distributed, which cleared the way for some introductory level statistics calculations.

The population mean was 31.804 years, and the population standard deviation was 4.689 years. This gives us a calculated Z-score of -2.304 — you’ll have to trust me on this one, since I have a really honest face. That Z-score, when translated into English, means that there was approximately a 1% chance that someone aged 21 or younger would win the tournament.

McIlroy, god bless him, had little hope. But just you watch, we’ll be seeing much more of him soon.

Unhappy with your putter? Send us yours, and we’ll conduct a forensic analysis to see what was wrong with it. Then we will recycle it, unless, like some putters, it is possessed. In that case we’ll have to perform an exorcism, which will cost you. A lot.

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