Asked once what he had to shoot to win a particular tournament, US golfer Roger Maltbie answered: “The rest of the field.”
It’s been a bit like that following Australian golf for about the last 20 years.
Even when Greg Norman held the world number one position, you could never comfortably watch him play a tournament.
We still get twitchy thinking about the 1996 US Masters, when the Great White Shark took a six-shot lead into the final day and lost by five. It’s deemed one of the biggest sporting chokes of all time, right up there with the All Blacks any time they play a World Cup away from home.
But last year, Adam Scott broke the US Masters hoodoo, pulling on the coveted green jacket that had never once been near an Aussie back. Which is ironic considering it’s half the colour combination of our national sports clobber.
Coming into this week’s Masters, the talk was all about the Australian invasion of world golf, with Jason Day, John Senden, Steven Bowditch and, just last week, Matt Jones, all racking up recent PGA wins.
Finally, we could experience a golf tournament without watching it through our fingertips. Or so we thought.
We came to Augusta with seven little Australians. In keeping with Ethel Turner’s classic book of the same name, we had to lose a favourite character along the way, in this case two, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones, who didn’t make the cut.
No biggie. At the midway point, Scotty was still in the mix in third place, as was John Senden in second. Scotty had fought back hard after a dodgy front nine on day two. You could see his status growing, see him morphing into the world’s top golfer, as he was destined to become if he finished the tournament in third place or better.
To cap it off, Oliver Goss was the only amateur to make the cut, becoming the first Aussie in 74 years to win the Masters low amateur trophy. Not a bad way to celebrate your 20th birthday.
There was so much for an Aussie spectator to look forward to. Then day three happened. Without going into too much detail, it wiped us off the leaderboard. And we never got back on it.
Americans Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth were left to duke it out for the winner’s cheque and a questionable wardrobe addition.
Watching it all on telly, a recuperating Tiger Woods could breathe easy, knowing that if Adam Scott, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson weren’t firing, his grip on the world number one position would survive another week.
It’s the third tournament in recent weeks where Scotty’s had a chance to get to the top of world golf. I haven’t given up hope, not by a long shot. But we’ll be watching through our fingertips for a little while yet.