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So Long, Arnie and Ken, and Tanks for the Memories

April 15, 2002|Mike Penner

They came to Augusta National, they didn't like what they saw, and so, coincidence or no, they are both calling it a day.

Arnold Palmer got out early, just as soon as his rain-delayed second round hobbled into the clubhouse Saturday.

Ken Venturi had to stick it out until the very ugly end, much to his disbelieving dismay.

It was not the most satisfying of exits for these two Masters fixtures.

Palmer played his last Masters, ending a streak of 48 in a row, after taking a look at the newly reconfigured course and assessing: Too much, too long. Venturi, at the same time, called his last Masters, ending a streak of 35 in a row, after taking a look at Sunday's final-round field and assessing: Too many gone wrong.

"I've seen a lot of Masters, I've been here a long time, but I've never seen a Sunday like this in my life," Venturi said as he watched Ernie Els and Vijay Singh take turns going deep-water golfing.

"I wish I could explain myself," Venturi continued, sounding more exasperated than Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson, who also were spiraling fast out of contention.

"On the leaderboard, we have six of the top seven leading players in the world [struggling]. I don't know if it's, 'Am I playing safe? Am I going too much for it? Is Tiger going to win [and] there's no need trying?' Where are we going?"

Not to Butler Cabin, that much was certain.

Venturi ticked off the list of the scattered, one-time challengers to Woods in this tournament.

"Everybody to me, looking at them, they all look--Singh, Mickelson, Goosen, Els, [Sergio] Garcia--they all look confused," he said.

None of them were doing much of anything right, except, Venturi noted, "making sure Tiger wins."

CBS' golf experts found themselves in strange territory during Sunday's final round of the Masters: Tiger Woods was in the lead, right where they had wanted him four days earlier, and the tournament with (all together now) "a tradition unlike any other" had turned into a dud unlike any other.

Woods wasn't charging to his third Masters championship, he was coasting, laying back into a golf-version four-corners offense while everyone once within striking range kept tripping over their spike marks.

In fact, the also-rans were playing so poorly, in Venturi's estimation, it was hurting Woods, who appeared at times to be playing down to the competition.

"Tiger hasn't been challenged," Venturi said, "and that's why we're not seeing the Tiger Woods that we've watched play here [in the past]."

CBS ran a montage of Woods' first two Masters victories, with Jim Nantz, who likes to label, piping up again with his handy nicknames for each.

Woods' record-breaking first Masters title, in 1997, was, of course, "The Win For The Ages."

His second, in 2001, was, if you needed reminding, "The Tiger Slam."

Nantz, however, didn't have anything at the ready for this one.

How about: "Tiger And The Tanked."

With Woods on the 13th hole and every other one-time threat in full-scale retreat, Venturi called them as he saw them.

"You look at the first seven names on the leaderboard--I can't believe the aggregate scores," he said. "Of the seven names on top of the leaderboard, their aggregate is plus-five. The low score so far is [shared by] Tiger Woods and Jose Maria Olazabal, who are both one under. One player today has broken 70 and that's [Shigeki] Maruyama, and he shot 67....

"I was expecting some really good scoring today."

Big scoring is what he got: Singh carded a quadruple-bogey nine on 15, and Els hit water twice en route to an agonizing-to-behold triple-bogey eight on 13.

Venturi was there at 13 for the complete dissection, describing Els' slow trudge into the rough and along the creek as a long "walk of dejection." After Els dried his golf ball, took a drop and knocked his next shot back into the creek, Venturi was rightly horrified.

"Oh boy!" he exclaimed. "This is ... this is crazy!"

This wasn't supposed to be how the Masters played out. At least according to the advertising. The best of the best? Sunday belonged to the busts of the busts.

"Oh ... wow," David Feherty lamented as Singh splashed down short of the 15th green. "This is like watching a, I don't know, just a train wreck in slow motion."

And what music best accompanies a train wreck?

Soft, tinkling piano.

That's what viewers got as they were still mulling Feherty's graphic word picture. A lovely, lilting bit of piano--CBS' trademark ode to the grandness of the Masters--which evidently couldn't be subbed on the spot with Beck's much more appropriate "Loser."

For the record, Venturi had planned to make this his final Masters long before Sunday's dog day afternoon. He had hoped for a better send-off, as had Palmer, but, you know, that's golf.

In the Butler Cabin, where Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson presented Woods with the green jacket because Woods couldn't present it to himself, Venturi talked about his relationship with the Masters, which began in 1954, with Venturi walking the course as a player.

"I thought I had seen everything here," he mused. "Until I saw today."

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