Perhaps it’s just me, but the turn of events yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational strangely reminded me of the Masters. The main similarity is obvious – Clark was gunning for his first PGA victory and Perry was aiming for his first major championship, and well, neither of them were able to seal the deal.
Remember how important those final holes were in determining the outcome at the Masters? Perry led by two going into the final day and finished the last two holes bogey-bogey. His blunders resulted in a three-way tie for the lead between himself, Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell. I’m pretty sure we all remember the outcome. Cabrera. Green Jacket.
Similar to the Masters, a three-way playoff ensued between Steve Stricker, Steve Marino and Clark. Like Cabrera, Stricker had the momentum going into the playoff and executed clutch shots coming down the stretch. And like Perry, Clark couldn’t recover and let his nerves get the best of him. Campbell and Marino (the “other” runner-ups) never seemed like a serious threat or factor in both cases.
When Stricker was asked about recovering from missing his short par putt on 16 in regulation and about closing a win, he responded:
It’s always tense coming down to the stretch, the final few holes of a tournament when you are in contention. That’s what makes winning difficult and hard to do […] It’s about the ups and downs, and you got to learn to pull yourself up after it happened, or something doesn’t go your way. […] But, you know, you just got to keep plugging and do what you know how to do, hit it in the fairway and that’s what ended up happening.
It appeared that Stricker was out of contention after he bogeyed the 16th. But that’s the beauty of golf – one shot or one hole can change things very quickly. Stricker didn’t play flawlessly. Being that he hadn’t won since 2007, he had quite a bit on the line as well – the difference is that he had experience and knew what it took to win. He just continued to play his game. As did Cabrera at the Masters.
It wasn’t the Masters, but you can bet that this loss will haunt Clark for a while.
But unlike Perry who is 48 and most likely won’t have another shot at winning a major championship, Clark is only 33 years old. You can bet he’s reflected on his mental breakdown blunders, and he’ll make light of it the next time around. His time to raise the trophy will come soon enough.