From Down Under to the Top of the World

Toby Florendo, my former CIS schoolmate, is a huge golf enthusiast. I sought Toby’s comments on the 77th edition of The Masters.

“Since five years ago, The Masters has been setting an unbelievable standard for excitement,” Toby said. “Bubba’s playoff shot last year. Schwartzel’s birdie run on the last 4 holes in 2011. Mickelson’s shot off pine straw in 2010. Cabrera’s battle of nerves in a 3 man playoff in 2009. This year it continues to live up to the hype.”

Toby — a 10-handicapper whose credentials include being the Handicap Chairman of CCC, a member of the Rules Committee at CCC, a member of the Monthly Tournament Committee at Alta Vista and part owner of Redgolf — said that two controversial rulings made the 2013 event more exciting: Tiger Woods’ 2-stroke penalty and the one stroke penalty for slow play on Tian Lang Guan, whom Toby simply calls “TLG.”

As for yesterday’s victory by Adam Scott — what a historic moment. Like most golfers, I woke up early to watch the last few rounds.

I switched on the TV. Isn’t it a beauty watching sports on high-definition? More so with The Masters. The carpet green grass. The shiny white sand. The colorful flowers and shirts of the spectators. The green and white striped umbrellas. All amidst the rain. Nothing looks more pristine and picturesque than The Masters.

When I started watching, I was surprised: A Filipino was going to win The Masters.

Jason Day, who looks Pinoy and whose mom is Filipina (his dad’s Australian), led the field at 9-under with a few holes left. Sayang. It wouldn’t last long. It wasn’t Jason’s day in The Masters!

ADAM. Minutes later, when another Australian — Adam Scott — sank a long birdie putt on the 18th, I thought it was over. In the fight between two As: Adam vs. Angel and Australian vs. Argentinian, we thought the Aussie won.

Wearing a white T-shirt with the logos of Uniqlo and Mercedes Benz on his chest, Adam shouted, “Come on, Aussie, Come on!” He slapped a high five with caddie Steve Williams.

But Cabrera wouldn’t surrender. He, too, birdied the 72nd hole.

“That finish was unbelievable,” Toby said. “Cabrera’s answer in regulation to Adam’s 20-foot birdie. Their play in the playoff was quality golf. Scott has always never played to his potential; after missing opportunities in the first 17 holes, it looked like it would be another major heartbreak for the Aussie. Scott’s making those pressure putts after missing everything the whole day shows how fickle golf can be.”

In the end, Adam Scott — who led by four shots with four holes to play in The Open Championships last year but still lost — did not collapse last Sunday. He birdied the 2nd playoff hole to win the Green Jacket.

TLG. With the 14-year-old Chinese phenom, Toby added: “TLG opens a huge door for golf. Golf in North America and Europe is stagnating. The new market is Asia. TLG just awakened tens of millions of possible golfers on the mainland. Remember Yao Ming’s impact on basketball? This will be bigger an impact for golf.”

MASTERS. Toby further explains why this event is special.

“The Masters is my favorite because it is the only major that has the same venue year in and year out. The design of the course is really risk-reward. It is the triumph of victory and the agony of defeat. All of that creates better memories. It is also the only tournament in the world that could care less what the outside world thinks. It is a tournament run by the club. Golf’s governing bodies have no say on who can/cannot play. It was originally called the Augusta National Invitational because that is what it is, a tournament where the club invites players to play. They set the criteria beforehand but at any moment they can decide to add or subtract someone from the list.”

How expensive are the tickets? Toby said they cost $5,000 to watch “live” the entire week. (That price rose to $10,000 a few days before the start.) Toby stayed in Cebu. But someday, sometime, Mr. Florendo will go and watch golf’s masters play in Augusta.

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