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Grip on Sports: There was a moment yesterday most Masters watchers felt they were actually on the course

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, pauses on the 15th green during the first round at the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. Garcia shot an 8-over 13 on the hole. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Sergio Garcia, of Spain, pauses on the 15th green during the first round at the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. Garcia shot an 8-over 13 on the hole. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s not often a person watching the Masters at home thinks, with some actual justification, “I could do that.” And then along came Sergio Garcia yesterday at the 15th hole. It was something out of a movie script. Read on.


• You saw “Tin Cup,” right? When Kevin Costner, aka Tin Cup, kept knocking balls into the water at the U.S. Open? The lesson was about being stubborn or something. I’m not sure because learning lessons wasn’t why I was watching a movie about a down-on-his-luck golf pro and his love life. 

I also don’t know what the lesson was being taught yesterday as the world watched defending Masters champion Garcia put a sleeve-plus into the pond in front of the 15th green.

Last year, Garcia’s birdie on the 15th propelled him to his first major title at an age when many pro golfers are thinking about annuities and the looming Champions tour. In his next competitive round, Garcia came to the 15th with a wedge in his hands for his third shot. He’s a wizard with the club, sort of like Gandalf at the bridge.

And, to keep the analogy going, Garcia’s title defense collapsed. 

The abyss he fell into was dug with hubris, which may be undefeated among golf’s greatest players. They all think they can pull off any shot – and often are right. But when they are wrong, watch out.

The first wedge hit about pin high with a bunch of spin. Enough spin to pull the ball back, off the green, down the tightly mowed slope and into the water. The ripples were just a foreshadowing of what was ahead.

Garcia reached back to his caddy, took another ball and hit the same exact shot. What the freaking heck? Spin, speed and more ripples.

Again the turn to the caddy. Again with the wedge. Again back to the water.

Enough, right? Three times’ a charm. The next wedge would land well past the hole. No sir. Another one about even with the cup, more spin and more water. And then another.

Finally, Garcia put a little more muscle into the shot and the ball settled 10 feet from the cup. Dry. 

It took 12 strokes, but Garcia was on the par five. There were five balls in a watery grave, but he was on.

There is an old golf joke that comes to mind.

“How the heck did you get a 13 on No. 15?”

“I rolled in a 10-footer.”

Like that joke, Garcia’s meltdown yesterday wasn’t funny. The defending champion assured a weekend of rest – Garcia finished with a nine-over-par 81, so there is little chance he’ll play well enough today to make the cut. 

But he can’t just pack his bags and leave. Last year’s winner has to be around Sunday. It’s his job to put the green jacket on this year’s winner.

Like everything else at Augusta, it’s a tradition. And another one of those things Average Joe or Josephine sits at home and says “I could do that.” 

• The best video from yesterday, besides those of Garcia’s balls rolling into the drink? That would be Mariner starter James Paxton, the Big Maple as he’s called, dealing with a feisty bald eagle prior to the game with the Twins.

Paxton, who never seems rattled on the mound, handled the attack – did the eagle know Paxton is Canadian? – with a strange calmness I’m sure most of us couldn’t muster.


WSU: The Cougars practiced yesterday – they scrimmage Saturday morning at 11 – and Theo Lawson was there. He spoke with offensive tackle Abraham Lucas afterward and has this story on the new-look line. He also has interviews with Mike Leach, assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. and linebacker Justus Rogers. … Larry Weir’s Press Box pod deals with Washington State’s spring practice. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the question isn’t if you want to read stories about spring football – you have no choice. The question is, what type of stories do you want to read? Do you want human-interest stories about sons of famous fathers? Do you want stories about position groups from Washington to Colorado to USC? Or do you want to read a bunch of stories about Oregon State’s smart hires, quarterback battle or other Beaver-related items? Or maybe you want to get caught up with what’s happening at Oregon? … Yes, there is still talk about Arizona State and cuts. 

EWU: Former Eastern quarterback-turned-high-profile-college-coach Jim McElwain sold his Gainesville, Florida home for a big loss recently. Jokes were made. Turns out McElwain was doing a solid for a family with challenges.

Chiefs: Defenseman Ty Smith is keeping the skates on, even if the Chiefs’ season is over.

Hoopfest: Spokane’s 3-on-3 tournament is partnering with The Basketball Tournament this year, and will be hosting part of the national tourney Friday and Saturday of Hoopfest weekend. Whitney Ogden has more in this story.

UFC: Poor Michael Chiesa. The Spokane-raised ultimate fighter was sitting on a bus, minding his own business when Conor McGregor decided to put on a show. Seconds later, Chiesa was bleeding due to broken glass and lost his chance to fight in tonight’s UFC event in New York.

Mariners: Despite being attacked by America’s symbol before the game, Paxton threw well. But it wasn’t enough as the M’s failed to hit with runners in scoring position – they were 2 of 17 – and fell 4-2 to the Twins. … Mike Zunino’s injury is taking more time than originally thought to heal. What a surprise. … Reliever Rob Whalen is dealing with a different type of adversity.

Seahawks: The Hawks scouted quarterback Josh Allen. That didn’t sit well with Russell Wilson’s reps. Why not? Seattle needs a backup and maybe Allen would fall fare enough to be a good fit. It’s called doing your due diligence. … The Hawks may have to wait for an offensive lineman.

Sounders: Maybe speeding things up will help Seattle score a goal. Just one.


• Until Garcia grabbed the spotlight, the big news from Augusta was Tiger Woods’ return. He was OK. (As was Tony Finau.) But Jordan Spieth was the star. Until later … 

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