It was clear on Saturday night how things were going to go, if you looked at Twitter, watched the Golf Channel, and listened to the pundits. On Sunday, here’s how it was supposed to be…
– Bubba Watson had only won 1 out of 14 tournaments that he had led going into the final round.
– Matt Kuchar had never finished strong on Sunday in a major tournament.
– The only other front-runner was young, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, chasing history.
– And I’d be at Augusta National to witness it all.
And with the first Masters tournament without Tiger Woods in nearly two decades, the historic victory for Jordan Spieth was how it was supposed to be, right? After all, Jack Nicklaus set the record for youngest Masters champion. 17 years later, Seve broke Jack’s record. 17 years after Seve, the 21 year-old history-shattering Tiger Woods broke the record.
And how many years had it been since Tiger changed the golf world forever? 17 years. And Tiger was supposed to easily beat Jack’s record of 18 majors, which doesn’t seem so certain any more.
It’s just how it was supposed to be. It was going to be great when…
We allow ourselves to believe this lie all the time. We make our plans, grasping for control we do not have, and thinking we know the story before life plays itself out. We are addicted to our schedules and dependent upon our to-do lists.
We tell others, “Wouldn’t it be great if…”
We tell ourselves, “It’s going to be great when…”
We do it with small, unimportant things. We do it with the most important things.
But life always surprises us. And rarely is this captured so perfectly as in sports. Sports are the perfect combination of stakes just high enough (tradition, history, legacies, millions of dollars, Wheaties boxes, and record books) to keep us oohing, ahh-ing, and gasping while low enough (this is not life-and-death and hopefully not life-shattering) to make it the perfect escape from the roller coaster of real life.
And there is no greater escape in the wide world of sports than The Masters. It’s a sign that spring has sprung, and the images of the azaleas at Amen Corner among the sounds of Jim Nantz and that magical theme are some of the most relaxing of the year.
When I first went to Augusta National three years ago with Palmer, I was sure I’d discovered the Garden of Eden. When I returned this year with my brother-in-law Seth, it was as wonderful as ever.
The $1.50 egg salad sandwiches and other cheap concessions all wrapped in green. The natural grass is so fluffy that you imagine that’s how it feels to walk on clouds. The best golfers in the world. The most elusive tickets to obtain. The roars of the crowd, the manual scoreboards, and a world without cell phones. Sitting at Amen Corner. Rising to your tip-toes to see if Bubba’s chip goes in at 18. Soaking in the images and sweet tea.
There is no experience like it. As Bubba Watson came back to the field on Saturday and the crowds roared, it was both the most relaxing and the most exhilarating experience I’ve had in a long time… all at once.
And Sunday was positioned to be perfectly historic. The statistics and history positioned it perfectly.
But then life happened. It always does. A funny thing happened on the way to history and the way it was supposed to be.
My brother-in-law woke up with food poisoning on Sunday, sending us back to Nashville early. It was for the best because my mother-in-law had also been hospitalized overnight with chest pains.
On the road back from Augusta, we listened on the radio and heard Freddy Couples’ charge until his putter cooled off. We heard Spieth take a strong lead with the bunker birdie and a steady putter. We heard Bubba Watson steady the shaky ship and do the exact opposite from what he’d done and what he was supposed to do – take a commanding lead, putt well, and win his 2nd green jacket in three years.
The man named Bubba Watson wasn’t supposed to do that. Many fans and pundits had long said his first win was a fluke and he couldn’t put together another major championship run.
The kid named Jordan Spieth was supposed to either make history or collapse. He did neither, showing instead what ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski called “moxie”: “Spieth didn’t lose the Masters; Bubba Watson won it. Spieth didn’t gag, choke or collapse. He didn’t need a binky or a vomit bag. He got beat fair and square by a now-two-time Masters champion who does things to a golf ball that defy the laws of physics. Watson’s 366-yard cut drive on the par-5 13th was in the air so long that they showed a movie on the flight.” I’ve been a huge Jordan Spieth fan for the last several years once my buddy who went to his high school told me about him. I hope he wins more majors than anyone in a long, successful, stable career.
And I wasn’t supposed to watch the back nine of the final round of The Masters in a hospital room.
But life happens. We get twists and turns when we don’t expect them. Our schedules and plans get messed up. Life tosses unexpected blessings, unwanted speed bumps, uncertain questions, and seemingly unnecessary heartbreaks.
Ironically, it’s these moments that provide perspective and remind us of our priorities. Fittingly, Bubba Watson, our 2014 Masters Champion, is a man who understands this well. As The Gospel Coalition reminds us, “On Sunday Bubba Watson, one of the most untraditional golfers on the PGA Tour, was the winner of the 2014 Masters Tournament. But golf isn’t Watson’s top priority. What he considers most important can be gleaned from the description on his Twitter account, @bubbawatson (“Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer.”) and his website, BubbaWatson.com (“Loves Jesus and loves sharing his faith”).”
As Bob Harig reported at ESPN.com, “Yeah I’m going to cry because why me?” [Bubba] said. “Why Bubba Watson from Bagad, Florida? Why is he winning? So I just always ask the question why. Why me? That’s why I’m always going to cry. I’ll probably cry again tonight sometime, just thinking about it. I got lucky enough to have two green jackets. It’s amazing to be up here one time to talk. A second time is amazing.”
So he went to Waffle House and celebrated afterwards.
— bubba watson (@bubbawatson) April 14, 2014
Seth feels a lot better now after feeling the sickest he’s ever felt for over 24 hours.
My mother-in-law is out of the hospital.
There is still heartbreak. There are still uncertainties that draw us to our knees in prayer and remind us of how blessed we are even when we live our life as if we are not, ungrateful and eternally throwing ourselves pity parties, with no perspective and misaligned priorities.
But we have a lot to be thankful for. Spring is here, after all. Another Masters has come and gone, and summer is not far away. Who knows what life will throw at us next? I’m learning day by day to stop dreaming about how I think it is supposed to be and start appreciating what I have, while I have it.