A Play-by-Play from the Masters

By: Marino Parascenzo

It is written: The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday. The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday. But this time . . .

This is not a blog. This is not a blog. This is not a twitter or a tweeter or any stuff like that. This is the Masters, rolling along in the final round and this is only thinking out loud while the steeplechase thunders by.

It is written: The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday. The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday. But this time . . .

The Masters began on the second hole about 2:45 when South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, former British Open champ, holed his second shot at the 575-yard par-5 for a double-eagle 2. That had never been done before. Would it be as fruitful for him as Gene Sarazen's 234-yard 4-wood hole-out at the 15th in 1935? Well, Oosthuizen still had 16 holes to go to find out. Sarazen? He went his next three holes, tied Craig Wood and then beat him in a playoff. As for Oosthuizen, the 2 leap-frogged him past Peter Hanson who started with the lead, and Phil Mickelson, who was second. They were just getting underway back at No. 1.

Prologue: There's only one way to cover a modern golf tournament, and that's from the press building, following the action on TV. It's like sitting in the press box at a football or baseball game. Out on the course, you can only follow one guy at a time. This is especially true at the Masters. Media are not allowed inside the ropes and the galleries are huge, which means what you have is a great view of the backs of peoples' heads. This by way of saying that Augusta National's press building has two huge TV screens showing different action, and small computer screens showing another. This by way of saying it's much like trying to follow three tennis matches.

Bo Van Pelt was having himself a time coming in yesterday. How about going eagle-birdie-par-ace in a four-hole stretch? This was from No. 13. For those who don't know what a carbon copy is, here's a cut-and-paste on the par-5 13th: In the 2011 Masters, his 5-iron second stopped just 2 inches short of being a double eagle-2. He hit a 5-iron again this time, and this time missed by 6 inches. He aced the 170-yard 16th with a 6-iron, then added a bird at the 18th for an inward 30 and an 8-under 64, but only a 1-inder 287 finish. "I just finally got in a good rhythm throughout the rest of my bag," Van Pelt said.

[Editor's Note: Award-winning sportswriter Marino Parascenzo was at Augusta National Golf Club for this week's Masters. Marino, who's been covering the Masters since 1976, has provided daily reports for Cybergolf from the tournament. Here's his fourth and final installment.]

What was Phil Mickelson thinking of when he was trying to get his tee shot out of the vegetation off the green at the par-3 fourth? How about a penalty drop? Golfers treat penalty drops as though the ball had leprosy. Maybe he was in such a mess he couldn't get relief with a drop anyway, and figured he'd hit it where it lay. Here's the weird part: Mickelson is the most famous and most successful left-hander in the world, but hen he turned around to hit right-handed with the upside-down wedge, he was actually hitting it his natural way. Remember, he's a natural right-hander. But that first chop barely moved the ball. He stabbed at it, as though it were a snake. OK, he gets the next try out a little ways, onto some tramped-down place. No room to get his gap wedge under it. So he puts the next into the bunker, ends up with triple-bogey 6. Would this cost him the Masters? Probably. (He's carried two drivers at the Masters. Too bad he didn't carry one right-handed wedge.)

Jim Furyk warms up. He birdies four out of six holes from the 10th. Interesting, but that's all. He bogeyed the 11th, and besides, he was too far back when he started out.

Tiger Woods gives a big grin. Sardonic, it's called. He has birdied the 18th. Guys say when you birdie the 18th, it gives you momentum. For Woods, this momentum will have to carry over till next year. For now, there has been a pause in the rebirth of Tiger Woods. That birdie came after two straight bogeys. He's shot this Masters in 72-75-72-74 - 293, 5-over, tying his all-time high, which he posted in his debut in 1995 as a 20-year-old amateur. "Feeling good," Woods says. "Unfortunately, I hit more shots than most guys did today, or this week."

It's 5 p.m. and Oosthuizen has just bogeyed the par-4 10th. There goes that plump lead. Now he's 8-under; Bubba Watson and Peter Hanson are a shot back, and Philly Mick is only two behind. Can Mickelson win this Masters? Possibly.

Good grief! Didn't Philly Mick ever listen to Ben Hogan? Hogan was an apostle of missing the green to the right at the 11th, and chipping on and settling for a par. But Mick goes right at the flag, cut to the left side of the green, perched over the pond. Mick's ball rolls, then stops just before it reaches the steep slope to the water. But he escapes with a par.

Lee Westwood, treading water for so long, birdies the 13th and 14th and is two off the lead. It's his pattern, playing well when he's running out of holes. Can he win this Masters? Same as before: Probably not.

It's 5:27: Six guys are within two shots of the lead.

Take that: Peter Hanson bogeys the nasty little 12th, and in one motion he lifts his ball from the cup and flips it backward into the water as he hurries away. He's two behind Oosthuizen now.

Westwood has birdied the 15th. That's three in a row. He's one off the lead, but three holes ahead. Can he win this Masters? Probably not.

Oosthuizen has birdied the par-5 13th and leads by two. Some call him a one-trick pony for winning the 2010 British Open and nothing else of consequence. He's homing in on consequence.

Mickelson at the 13th: His second curves beautifully for the green, stops hole-high, 15 feet. He's looking at eagle. Is this 2010 again? In a way. He just misses the eagle, gets the birdie. He's two behind Oosthuizen.

Never mind the jokes about the dimples. Mickelson is one tough cookie. The look on his face - don't be a pine tree he has to bite through.

Bubba Watson, the man in white, birdies the 14th to get to 8-under, just a shot behind Oosthuizen.

This is getting crazy. At 6:06, Kuchar birdies the 15th to tie for the lead at 9-under. The tie lasts only as long as it takes for Oosthuizen to roll in an 8-footer for a birdie and is 10-under. And Westwood birdies the 18th, his fourth in six holes for a 68 and the clubhouse lead at 8-under 280 with the field wide open behind him. Can he win this Masters? Probably not.

And crazier. Bubba birdies the 16th to tie Oosthuizen at 10-under, then at the 17th, promptly hits his tee shot into the left trees. Oosthuizen, his playing partner, does the same.

It's 6:30. The air is soft, sunlight gentle, the tension brittle. Mickelson has birdied the 15th to get within two, and hits an 8-iron at the par-3 16th, but he's over-souped, even with less club. He wanted an uphill putt, he told caddie Bones McKay. Instead, he's got a long, swift downhiller. This might have done him in. He needed birdie here. Of course, it depends on what kind of mess Watson and Oosthuizen are in back in the trees. But they scramble to pars. They are tied at 10-under and leading by two going to the 18th. Can Westwood win this Masters? No.

It's 6:43. Mickelson has to make up two shots over the last two holes. Up ahead, Oosthuizen and Watson are on the green in two at the 18th. Meaning Mickelson is dead if he doesn't birdie the 17th. He doesn't. He's dead.

Everybody can relax a bit. It's only a two-man race now. Hanson, with just one birdie on the day, is three behind. You don't make up three shots on Augusta's last two holes. Maybe not even two.

It's 6:50: Oosthuizen has missed a downhiller of about 20 feet for a bird at the 18th. He goes 4 feet past.

It's 6:51. Watson has about a 15-footer for his birdie. He will win with it. He misses. He taps in for par. The pressure is squarely on Oosthuizen.

It's 6:53. Oosthuizen makes the clutch par putt.

Mickelson has to hole-out his approach on the 18th for an eagle in order to join the playoff. Sure. But his tee shot is in the pine straw.

The numbers: Oosthuizen 69-278, Watson 68-278, 10-under.

The sudden-death playoff goes to No. 18. They tie in par-4s, Oosthuizen two-putting from about 15 feet, just grazing the right side of the cup, and Watson two-putting from maybe 10 and missing his birdie try by an inch on the left. He looks at his caddie. Was Watson looking for sympathy? Did the caddie give him a bad read?

Oosthuizen gets a great break at the second playoff hole, the downhill 10th. Watson slugs his drive to the right. But then so did Oosthuizen, into Augusta's harmless rough. And from 231 yards, he's short of the green with his second shot. Advantage Watson. Except he's hitting from back on the pine straw, 151 yards to the pin. Left-handed, he can do it with a draw.

Wow! To 10 feet. Seve Ballesteros, anyone?

It's 7:29. This should do it. Oosthuizen chips miserably, well past and above the pin. He would bogey from there. Watson can two-putt and win.

It's 7:33. Watson's birdie try from 10 feet just misses and stops just inches above the hole. The crowd starts to cheer. Watson puts his hand out to stop them -now, now, let's don't be too sure. There is laughter. Then he taps in for par, for his green jacket and the first major of his career.

History doesn't remember. Gene Sarazen won in a playoff after his double-eagle. Louis Oosthuizen didn't.

It's 7:34, and the first minute of the rest of Bubba Watson's life.

Marino Parascenzo can assure you that hanging around with great and famous pro golfers does nothing to help your game. They just won't give you the secret. But it makes for a dandy career. As a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (now retired), Parascenzo covered the whole gamut of sports - Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Penn State and others - but golf was his favorite. As the beat writer for the paper, he covered all the stateside majors and numerous other pro events, and as a freelancer handled reporting duties for the British Open and other tournaments overseas - in Britain, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, China and Malayasia. Marino has won more than 20 national golf-writing awards, along with state and regional awards. He has received the Memorial Tournament's Golf Journalism Award and the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines, among them Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and in anthologies and foreign publications. He also wrote the history of Oakmont Country Club. Parascenzo is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America and is on its board of directors. He is the founder and chairman of the GWAA's Journalism Scholarship Program. He is a graduate of Penn State and was an adjunct instructor in journalism at Pitt.