“I approached Abelito when he was in that well of mind and told him to throw a cross into the area that we all headed for.” That was the advice of Abel Gallegos’s father to his eldest son at the worst moment of his first round at the Masters. “You have 22 holes left to have fun, Enjoy Gordo! That’s what we came for”. His son had gone +9 after a double bogey at par 5 on 13. “Abelito” made par at 14, birdie at par 5 at 15, birdie at 16 and birdie at 17. To draw conclusions .. .
Luck played a trick on him at 18 twice. His exit hit the trees and was very far away. From there to the green bunker and then his good serve hit the flag and returned to the edge of the green, to be about 4 meters away. Another bogey. “It was really bad, really. Every mistake cost me dearly. But hey, I thought I had to play golf and have fun. I let go and those three birdies in a row came and I straightened the turn ”. He would tell us when we finished. Abel Gallegos, the young Argentine fan, a native of May 25, obtained his place in this Masters after winning the LAAC (Latin America Amateur Championship in January 2020 in Mayakoba, Mexico.
The first round of this pandemic Masters started bumpy. While the players practiced very early, still dark, with the lights on at the driving range, the clouds were stirring. The thunder did not take long to be heard and at 7:35 a.m. the siren sounded. Game suspended. A three hour delay brought a raging storm that soaked the court.
With play resumed and the sun starting to shine, the players found a friendlier but longer court, and also a bit of mud on some balls.
At 10:55 it was Gallegos’s exit through hole 1. At 10:55 it was Tiger Woods’s exit through hole 10. This year, unusually, it was perfectly possible to see both without moving a step. Oddities of this Masters …
Patriotic sentiment prevailed and I followed Gallegos. I don’t think it’s hard for them to understand how difficult the decision I had to make was. The temptation to follow Tiger was enormous.
Speaking of Tiger, I’ll try not to talk about his return. One tends to think that professional golfers are becoming more and more like almost perfect machines. When they are tuned and ready, the scores arrive, the red numbers increase and the tournaments are won. That is why the statistics show us so much data. How long does such a player hit, how well is he playing the putt and the short game. We know your average score and infinity of numbers and more numbers for analysts. And that is not to start talking about stick speed and others even much more sophisticated. Anyway, statistics … However, man is far from being a machine. One day this dreamy week in Augusta, while watching with David Walsh, the renowned Irish journalist, how Tiger Woods practiced, I asked him if Tiger had a chance. “No chance” he told me confidently, adding: “He is not playing well, he has not done it for a long time and he is far from being able to fight in this Masters.” So I asked him what he thought Tiger himself might be thinking about his chances of winning this week. “He must be thinking he’s going to win.”
The human being is permanently influenced by emotions. Couldn’t it be that Augusta, who was always so important to Tiger, magically inspired him by giving him back his best game? After all, this is where he achieved his most resounding triumphs, and the memories of his monumental return last year must still be very fresh.
As I walked with Gallegos’ father, following his son in his misadventures around Augusta, I looked from time to time at the famous posters on the court that confirmed my theory. I’m not saying that Tiger is going to win. There is still a lot of golf to play. But it’s clear that the only way to hit a 68-stroke round at the Masters, without making a single bogey, is by playing superlative golf. A golf that Tiger didn’t have until last week. A golf that he recovered in the inexplicable atmosphere that is breathed within the limits of this club.
If you asked me who I think can win this Masters, I would say that I really like Web Simpson. He is a very correct player, who always seems to be flying under the radar. He won the US Open in the year 2012, perhaps too early in his career. Then he had a slump that led him to go five years without winning. Finally, after a great job tuning his game, he won the Players Championship in 2018 in style, four strokes clear of second. This year 2020 he won in February the Waste Management in Arizona and the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head. Last year he finished fifth here at Augusta. His round today of -5 (67) with no bogeys and with three birdies and an eagle on hole 2 tells us a lot about play. He’s a great putter, and Augusta is a tournament where putting is essential.
When Gallegos’ return ended, with a score of 79 (+7), I asked the father what reflection he could make about Abelito’s return. “He came here with very high expectations, I think he had the feeling that he could play well at this level. I think that what happened to you today has to help you realize that you have to enjoy this experience, without pressure. You don’t have to put a bag of cement on your back, you still have to have fun. ” A wise man.