Augusta champs: Masterclass in endurance, grit and prevailing over the course
Sahith Reddy Theegala was at the No.3 spot as the Masters final was playing out at the Augusta National, the USA, and the IITans – almost all of them follow one organised sport or the other with great passion – found a Chennai connect to Theegala.
CHENNAI: Well past midnight on Sunday last, the husband’s IIT WhatsApp group was abuzz. Sahith Reddy Theegala was at the No.3 spot as the Masters final was playing out at the Augusta National, the USA, and the IITans – almost all of them follow one organised sport or the other with great passion – found a Chennai connect to Theegala.
His father Muralidhar Theegala was from IIT Madras, 1987 Mechanical batch. So, that is a matter of pride. The son’s prowess was much discussed, even as other players such as Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed were closing the gap on the two early leaders, Brooks Koepka and the ultimate winner, the Spaniard, Jon Rahm. Someone commented that Theegala is as cool as ‘Thala’ Dhoni.
Echoes of Ind vs Pak, Ashes final
Why has this edition of the Masters emerged as a talking point? Well, this one was equivalent of a tightly contested Test match going to the wire; with five days of action culminating in the final few minutes of play, where it is all-or-nothing for either side. The excited commentators’ proclamation “all results are possible” never failed to quicken the pulse for thousands of cricket fans.
Something similar happened at the Masters. And, a lot of it started with the weather. As Day Two and Three saw plenty of wind and rain intervention, rounds three and four were literally played on the same day. Koepka, who was in a commanding position at the end of round three, was challenged not only by Rahm, who was the closest to him, but also by several others, who were six and seven strokes behind.
The improved weather on the fourth afternoon saw stirring performances from Jordan Spieth, Mickelson and Reed apart from the Masters rookie Theegala. At one point, Theegala was third on the leaderboard and looking as composed as a seasoned campaigner. Theegala finishing alone at 9 in the final tally brought much cheer to the Indian diaspora.
Amateurs’ angst: There were many takeaways for enthusiasts following the tournament on television and digital broadcast. At the end of day three, as round two was winding down, it was clear that Tiger Woods was pushing himself beyond human limits on the rain drenched course with the wind whipping monstrously. But, he was a master at reining in his emotions. His fans were relieved that he withdrew the next day.
For countless amateur golfers tracking the tournament, the sight of big hitters, reaching of longer clubs and still falling short of their target was the first déjà vu moment. The second? The excruciatingly slow play by Patrick Cantlay and the amateur Sam Bennett frustrating the top order that was right behind them. Later, Koepka said that Rahm went to the bathroom seven times, and still had to wait for the slow group ahead to pick up the pace.
Typically, slow players are to be found on every course, world over, but rarely would one encounter them in front of a clear leaders pack. Golf is governed by etiquette and if a player is slow, one can only call the marshals to ask the slow players to pick up speed – no one shouts at the group ahead, because display of anger or temper is a complete no-no on a golf course. Despite the agonising wait, Rahm went on to win and that is the mark of a classy golfer.
Closer home, everyone is preparing for summer and the courses in Chennai are looking less crowded. Cooler climes beckon and golfing trips to nearby destinations are the order of the day. The lull provides the earnest ones to try out new clubs or even try changing the swing hoping to put up a better show in the next season. “Hope” as the bard put it, “lies eternal in the human heart.”
(The writer is an avid golfer)
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