The triple bogey and the snowman are the bane of the Sunday
chopper, not of a golfer in the final twosome in the final round
at Augusta. It seems preposterous that Mike Weir, seeking the
Masters title while keeping the card of his playing partner, Jeff
Maggert, had to mark down such scores, but he did. Maggert stood
on the 1st tee with a two-shot lead and striped one down the
middle, but he never imagined himself slipping into the club
coat. Some guys think winning starts with a dream. Practice the
victory speech on Thursday morning. Visualize. Fantasize. Be the
ball, etc. Maggert doesn't go there. He's a grinder, just like
Tiger. He put on black pants and a gray shirt on Sunday without
ever thinking about how they'd go with green.
He made a workingman's up-and-down par on 1, an ordinary par on 2
and tripled the par-4 3rd, which was playing extra short for the
finale. After three holes Maggert's scorecard looked like one of
those new area codes: 4, 5, 7. He had hit a two-iron off the
pushed-up 3rd tee, pulled the ball a smidgen into a fairway
bunker and thinned a sand wedge as he attempted to get out. The
ball had caught the lip of the trap and ricocheted onto his
chest. "Tried to get out of the way, but my reflexes aren't that
fast anymore," Maggert said. He's 39, a low-ball-hitting Texan
with the modesty of a Toledo CPA.
As every rulehead knows, it's a two-shot penalty if your ball
strikes you or your caddie, accidentally or not. (An absurd rule;
one shot would be plenty.) Brian Sullivan has been on Maggert's
bag for 13 years. Once Maggert hit him with a ball. Never had
Maggert hit himself--until Sunday.
He had been five under par. Now he was two under par. He had been
the leader. Now he was chasing. He wasn't through. Augusta
National was playing like a U.S. Open course, with actual rough,
and Maggert has often played well in the U.S. Open. He had
finished third at Bethpage last year, which was how he had earned
his spot in the 2003 Masters. He made a birdie on the 5th hole
and another on the 10th. Standing on the par-3 12th tee, Maggert
was four under par and one behind the lefthanded Canadian. Game on.
Breeze helping? Breeze hurting? You never really know at the
Masters, especially at 12. Maggert's seven-iron shot finished in
a bunker over the green. Balls that land in bunkers at Augusta
National are supposed to roll down to the trap's lowest point,
but this one did not. "The sand was all wavy, and the ball got
stuck on the slope," said Sullivan. "Somebody did a very poor job
raking that trap, and it cost us a chance to win the tournament."
This was not looper hyperbole. Maggert faced an unstoppable
bunker shot, downhill to a downhill green. The ball came out hot,
rolled across the green and into the water.
Maggert was seething, partly because of the rake job, mostly
because of the tee shot. Outwardly he reveals little. The truth
is, he gets angry at himself, gets down on himself. Tiger
concentrates even better when he's mad. Maggert loses focus. He
went back to the drop circle, 68 yards from the hole, and hit a
lob wedge, fat and unfocused. Splash. One in the back bunker, two
in the drink, three out, four in the drink, five out, six on, two
putts. Eight. Snowman. Quintuple bogey. Game over. As his score
was posted on the giant scoreboards across the back nine, a wave
of communal groans swept through the grounds.
And then Maggert did the unlikely--he rose from the dead again.
He made birdies on 14, 15 and 16, pars on 17 and 18. Give him a
bogey on the 3rd and a bogey on the 12th, and he wins by a shot.
But Maggert doesn't do that fantasy stuff. He had a long birdie
putt on 18, rolled it up close, tapped in for par and got out of
the way. Fifth place was all his. He'll be back next year.
Before he made his exit, he spent a half minute tamping down
spike marks near the hole, as a courtesy to the rest of the
field, which right then was one lone golfer, Mr. Weir. Maggert
was taught to leave the course in better condition than he found
it. He knows, better than most, that the game will mess with your
head, but you can always act like a gent.
Fantasize. Not Maggert. He's a grinder.