Masters 2012 chat with Thomas Boswell

Apr 05, 2012

Golf is back. Post columnist Thomas Boswell is in Augusta, Ga. for The Masters and answered questions about the tournament field, the scene at Augusta National, and more.

For even more from Boz at the Masters, follow him on Twitter: @ThomasBoswellWP.

Get more great Masters coverage from Post Sports:
• Poll: Time for a female member?
• Preview: Tiger enters as favorite
• Photos: On the scene at Augusta
• Augusta National: Hole-by-hole guide

"I'm actually not surprised Augusta National is still bigoted. It wasn't that long ago."

- Tubaras (@Tubarus) via Twitter.

I sit in a row of Brit writers. I asked one at random what they thought about the Masters ability to flunk a different Sociology Exam every year __never technically "wrong," but always making themselves look ridiculous and petty.

My Brit, who's a vet, said: "I long ago came to the conclussion that Augusta National was a complete dung heap of prejudicial values. But they just happen to put on the best golf tournament on earth. So here I am again. Hardly the high moral ground."

They say these thi9ngs off the top of their heads and often without benefit of coffee. Quite remarkable. And they put up with my tendency to hum on deadline.

Hi Tom -- Great to see you on Twitter! This morning you tweeted that the first day of the Masters was more important than Opening Day in baseball. But you wrote a book called "Why Time Begins on Opening Day!" I can't tell you who had the lead in last year's Masters after the first day, but I sure remember last year's frustrating 2-0 shutout loss against the Braves. What's changed? Does time no longer begin on Opening Day?

Ha! Yes, time still begins for me on Opening Day. But that's seven months of time through October. For ONE DAY, this is far more important to the golf world than the Opener is to a baseball team.

The pro golf year only has 16 days! The four majors times 4. The rest lands in the trash bin of history very quickly.  So, this is Day One of a 16-day golf season.

And Thursday at the Masters in incredibly important because many players, including Tiger, have traditionally had bad cases of nerves in round 1. The anticipation and pressure get them. In his last nine Masters, which include "only" one win, Tiger has shot: 76, 75, 74, 72, 73, 72, 70, 68, 71. That's +3 for a star who has been 87-under-par on the other three days here.

Typical: Tigers first pro Masters in '97. He shot 40 on the front. After a wild drive on the 9th __I've told this story before and will again__ I was 10 feet from him in the pine straw and trees. Delay on the green. He went into a crouch, put both hands on top of his head and seemed to meditate or refocus for three or four minutes. Never moved a muscle. He went from 6-foot-2 to about two-feet tall. He got up, hit a nice recovery and then shot 30 __t-h-i-r-t-y__ on the back. Went on to win. That moment told me, "He's the next ONE." Of course, he'd already been on SI cover about 17 times. But you never know what the phenoms will do until they're really pros, really under the gun, really failing. And 40-30--70 that Thursday ignited the pro portion of his career.

So, yes, I'll be picking up Tiger at the second hole today, after this chat, so I can see __up close__ how much of that guy, or some new version of him, is still intact now.   

I just can't like him any more after all the stories about him & his women. I know he still has some huge fans. I read that Clippard & Lannan were in his gallery last Saturday in Orlando, e.g. For the most part are athletes pretty decent guys, or is it too easy for them to fall prey to all the predatory women out there (I'm a non-predatory woman!).

Tiger will probably never be adored __when he's 40, 50, 60__ as he might have been in the Palmer, Nicklaus mold. And he would have been. He owned this place as much as Jack ever did or Arnie the few times I covered here when he still had an outside prayer.  So, he's sacrificed that. Of course, if he gets stuck on 17 or 18 for years and then, after years of work on himself, he has a late-career revival, maybe he actually does get back to that point.

My wife says that you judge people by MANY things and that their private behavior (and problems, issues, sex life) is only one of them. And be careful how harshly you judge. So she's pretty contemptuous of the people who nag or attack Tiger. As always, I try to learn from her.

In general, athletes are people. So they are everything __the whole spectrum.

So did time begin yesterday or last week in Japan?

Good for Japan. But that was a farce. I'm totally against it. 

Do Sonny & Sam still hang out on the porch?

A memory! Haven't noticed. Will report back on Monday if I see them.

Here's a naive question from a non-golfer. When a player crushes the field, he might win a golf tournament by 5 strokes. But for a 72 hole tournament, that means the "dominant" winner is the same on 67 of the 72 holes as the "good" runner-up. What makes the biggest difference on only 5 different holes that one player would be legendary and one player is just a consistent also-ran?

The difference is even smaller than that. The Vardon Trophy __for lowest stroke average__ often has dozens of players within a couple of strokes of the top for the entire season. That's one of the things that makes the sport so psychologically terrifying to players. "Do I dare change my game? What if I get .52-strokes-a-rd worse instead of my goal of .23 strokes better? I'll RUIN MY CAREER instead of moving up into the Top 20."

It also shows how even a player like Tiger knows how close he is to fall back to No. 20-30 if his putting goes sour too often or his latest swing change doesn't "take" or he can't repeat it under Sunday pressure at a major or his bad knee-achilles keep getting worse.

No sport FEELS as CLOSE as golf to the players. Tiny margin for error.

Boz, Everyone's talking about Tiger, Rory, Phil - who's your Masters dark horse to watch?

Sometimes there really is a Big Three in golf. It's a number that seems to work brilliantly for drama. Sometimes that trio doesn't stay intact for long. The original Hogan, Snead, Nelson. Palmer, Nicklaus, Player.

I'd say, right now, in a narrow window while Phil is still a power, that Rory-Tiger-Phil ranks very high for drama/plot lines/career trajectoires. I just scanned the whole board here in the press room. Man, we are in an era with a lot of good players but after 12 different winners to the last 12 majors there is a drop off in star power __and confidence under the gun__ after those three. Westwood always crumbles and he's 39 now. Bubba Watson has the length. Can he handle Masters pressure. Luke Donald deserves his ranking but pretty-excellent-at-everything isn't the "type" that wins here.

I'd predict __why do I do this when I know you can't predict golf?__ that Rory, Phil and Tiger all finish T6 or better, one of them wins and they will finish in that order. Gee, did I just pick Rory? That could be wrong by sundown!

Thanks for getting me in trouble. I LIKE Westwood, so he'd be my sentimental pick. Last few years, lost weight, finally got on the fitness kick late in career, not cigars and easy lifestyle. 

With all of the changes in the course(length,location of tee boxes,etc),the scores haven't changed significantly.Any explanation?

They trick up the course to get the scores they want. And always will.

Shoot the arrow, then paint the target around it.

All the damage cleaned up from the storms? Are the greens slow enough that we should see even more aggressive approach shots?

They should be able to go "pin hunting" almost no matter where they stick them. Unless they can find a way to put regulation holes in the bunkers. 

Slower greens should help Tiger. His putting has looked horrible (under pressure) at times this year. Then he runs the table at Arnie's Place __where the greens sure aren't Masters lightning speed. So, he has some confidence back in his stroke __now, with soft greens__ maybe that's enough. If it has been 'firm and fast" here I don't think his putting would have held up.

Ask your chatters this. How many of them could resist 20 beautiful women propositioning them every single day of their adult lives? Tiger lives in a world none of us can imagine and while what he did was disgraceful, it was also somewhat understandable.

He's not the only golf great with this track record. I actually do believe that his case is different, to some degree. As I've written, I think he had an utterly abnormal prodigy life from age two, total "stage parents" of different but ultra-intense types. All parents see their kids "rebel" like clockwork at age 2, 6, 12, etc. I couldn't believe it. Tiger never rebeled. Never went nuts. Never did much work on figuring out who he was vs. what the whole world around him wanted him to be. He picked a "sensational" but hardly novel way to act out.

Okay, how can any of us know? I don't pretend I do. But I'm "over it." He's paid an enormous price. I hope he gets his golf game back. All of it.

If this is a Master's chat, why do the online editors put a promo for it embedded in all the Nationals links ON OPENING DAY????!!!!??? Dear editors, please don't tease us baseball fans like that.....

Believe me, the large majority of questions are abolut baseball and Nats. So, that shows a shift in "readership interests," to say the least because D.C. has been a HUGE golf town for generations __back before my time to Venturi, etc. And we sustained a mundane Tour Stop event in grand style it barely deserved for 26 years.

So, I'll get to Nats, etc.

This falls under the "whatever else you want to talk about" category--thoughts on the Lannan trade request? This can't be a huge shock to the club but I'm wondering how inclined they are to accomodate this request and what type of player they might actually get in return. Also, is Detwiller really the man--I'd feel much better about this if I knew that Detwiller had the chops to be a major league starter, we already know Lannan does.

They can't get a box of rocks for him. And now he's devalued his trade market even further by bitching in public. It was a 100% bad decision on his part. He's an average MLB pitcher who had a good reputation and was durable. And lefthanded. That guy always gets more chances somewhere some time. But stars demand trades, not John Lannans. He's never quite understood where he stands in the pecking order. He moaned to Riggleman about being taken out of games too soon.

Unless the Nats get decent value for him __which they won't, they should keep him as insurance at AAA. Maybe he helps them in September/Oct when Strasburg is shut down and maybe somebody else gets hurt. Then, even though the Nats control him for another year, they'd probably non-tender him because, in arbitration, salaries almost never go down much __so Lannan might conceivably take them to arb for '13 and nail them for >$4M after a year in AAA! What a sport!

So, most likely scenario, they non-tender Lannan after this year and he signs with one of a half-dozen teams who always need a 10-12, 190 inning pitcher for $2M or some such. Then, if he buckles down and keeps his stoick up within the game, he gets "another life."

If he'll just play it that way __which I think he will because he's smart__ and not sulk at Syracuse, I still believe he can be a classic southpaw TYPE like Bub Black, Paul Splitorf, Larry Gura, Scott Mcgregor, Tom Browning, Denny Neagle, Ross Grimsley and a dozen more I could name. But DON'T screw up your reputation as a good guy. It's too easy to view Lannan as marginal/not worth the trouble. Don't let that happen by acting empotionally. It was a tough break but NOT an unfaiur decision. It was a classic baseball decision __and Davey looked sicky when he was announcing it. Everybody in the locker room felt bad for Lannan. BUT they also felt great for Detwiler, Stammen  and Matteus who all ended up ON the roster. Detwiler has earned a shot at starting. Wang has looked FAR better than Lannan has ever been; if he gets healthy (if), then he ranks far ahead of Lannan in the pecking order. 

Lannan's feelings were hurt. Cut him slack. But now it's time for him to get over it. That's the game. It's hard, hard, hard. At least he's getting paid $5M for the bumps in the road.

My math for 2013: 7 million saved on LaRoche, 7 million saved on Jackson, $5 million on Lannan, $4 million on Wang, plus increased TV revenue ($30 million?), a huge increase in ticket revenue, minus raises to players like Werth, Zimm...ect and revenue sharing = a huge increase in net revenue for the Nats. All of that = Greinke or Hamels. Strasburg/Greinke/Gio/Zimann/Detwiler for 2013. I'll take the field vs. Tiger.

They will be able to afford almost anybody they need/want. And I'll hold them to it.

Check out the latest Forbes on the vast value of local cable TV deals to MLB teams. Team values in major markets __DC No. 8 in MLB__ are skyrocketing.

The Lerners fell into a gold mine. And their MASN renegotiation came uip at just the right time. They'll go from $28M in '12 to $60-$80M next year, probably. Oh, that'll be a battle. But the Nats can't lose. It's just a question of how big they win.

You are going to see players, like Votto and Zimmerman, locked up fast for nine-figure deals because everybody knows that another round of Auction Madness for free agents is coming next off season.

The RSN money may have as much long-term beneficial financial impact on baseball as the 20 years of stadium building following the opening of Camden Yards. Sometimes it seems the damn sport can't get out of its own way or tries to shoot itself (PEDs), then it falls off the roof and lands in a wagonfull of million-dollar-bills.

You wrote "The pro golf year only has 16 days! The four majors times 4. The rest lands in the trash bin of history very quickly. " With 10 out of 30 teams making the playoffs, you could say the same about the baseball regular season, yes?


But it better never get to 16 like the NBA or NHL. Seriously, what business do the Capitals have still being in the playoffs __maybe. They don't deserve it. They may see Stamkos in their nightmares for months.

But "go Caps" tonite anyway.

Sorry this isn't golf related, but why haven't we heard a peep from Andrew Luck all off season? The hype is all RGIII all the time. The media couldn't shut up about Luck all season, now not a word. Whenever I turn on the TV RGIII is there - signing autographs, cheering on Britney Griner. All the while Luck has been silent. There's just something about all this RGIII hype that makes me think he doth protest too much, you know what I mean? The noise from one guy and the silence from the other is making me nervous. That and the fact that heisman QBs are almost always a bust.

For Skins fans it was a huge moment when RGIII turned down the Colts request for a private workout. Doesn't matter what anybody says, that is a flatout snub and tells Indy "don't pick me."

So I really think Skins are home free on this. And I'm more interested in finding out RGIII's ceiling than Luck's.

Tiger snapped it left off the first tee. I'm going to go catch him at the 2nd hole. One more answer. That's for chatting.

Oh, and I'm on twitter now. Forgot that. Seems like a lot of fun. ThomasBoswellWP 

The Post ran a column yesterday over your byline stressing the importance of tempering expectations for a talented Nats team. Clearly you didn't actually write this, because (a) you, more than anyone, know how talented these guys are and (b) you, more than anyone, know the importance of optimism on Opening Day. Just keep an eye on those editors.

Yeah, I gotta keep that "reasonable guy" under control.

If you don't imagine the best at this time of year, you are cheaping yourself.

Nats best case __not prediction, but sane best case__ 92 wins and they win the N.L. East as the Phils fade. The Marlins are just overrated, period. Braves are good but banged up.

There's a worst case, too. But you could see the Nats in the NL Division Series. And even, if everything falls right, with a bye. Sanity says: 86-76.

See you on Monday with more chat. Take 'em away Tracee!

In This Chat
Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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