Caulton Tudor

Garcia's win, Johnson's injury set theme for dramatic golf season

Posted April 10

Years from now, the past weekend may be remembered as the Momentous Masters.

One of the most memorable golf tournaments ever began Thursday with a shock concerning betting favorite Dustin Johnson and ended Sunday with an emphatic statement about Sergio Garcia’s resolve.

Considering that an injured Tiger Woods already was out of the competitive equation, golf fans couldn’t ask for a more riveting four days in Augusta.

By the time the 37-year-old Garcia claimed his first major after a playoff win over Olympics gold medalist Justin Rose, there was little mention of Johnson’s withdrawal following an accident late Wednesday. There wasn’t even much discussion about a scoring error on Saturday that could have taken Garcia out of the chase on Sunday. It occurred on No. 10, when the tournament’s official scoring system somehow gave him a triple bogey 7 on the par-4 hole, rather than the bogey 5.

Nor was there much time to dissect the ongoing performance problems of Bubba Watson, who only a couple of years ago was hailed as the Augusta palace prince. In high winds and challenging conditions, the 38-year-old Watson shot rounds of 74 and 78 to join Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, defending champ Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson among those missing the 36-hole cut.

It took a day or two longer for Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Jason Day and Adam Scott to wilt, but wilt they did.

At the end of a long day Sunday, there was only Garcia, who finally won a major after starting his career almost 20 years ago as the anointed European Tiger.

So talented were the two that golf pundits didn’t hesitate to predict a developing rivalry of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer proportions. But it never came to be after the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

When Woods, then 23, took his second major win with a one-stroke win over Garcia, who had a two-stroke lead after the first round, the dynamic changed dramatically. Garcia, 19 at the time, wouldn’t win his first PGA Tour event until almost two years later or record another top-5 finish in a major until the 2002 U.S. Open.

All these years later, there’s a chance Woods’ career is over and the highlights of Garcia’s career at just beginning. That will be a big part of the storyline at the June 15-18 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wis., and even more so at the British Open, July 20-23 at Royal Birkdale, and finally in Charlotte’s Quail Hollow for the PGA Championship (Aug. 10-13).

Another lingering issue will be Johnson’s status after falling down stairs on Wednesday and withdrawing at the Masters. There’s not been a definitive news release regarding his condition since Thursday, nor has there been a future tournament schedule other than a long-ago planned stop for the Players Championship (May 11-14, Sawgrass, Fla.).

There’s still some chance Johnson – and perhaps Garcia – could enter the Wells Fargo a week earlier (May 4-7) at the Eagle Point Club in Wilmington, NC.

Then, of course, there’s Woods, who has been sporadically sidelined by back trouble for most of the year. If he can work his way back into the mix, what we saw in Augusta could have been just an unforgettable preview of the drama ahead.

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