Commentary: Augusta makes us all revert to type
Unquestioning, accepting and conforming. Golf fans the world over revel in the sameness and familiarity of Augusta National for a week each April. Sometimes you forget that it is pretty much the same for the players themselves.
This threatened to be the most unpredictable of Masters on a Saturday when little made sense. But in the end, as Bubba Watson found himself in the Butler Cabin for the third consecutive year (champion, defending champion and champion again), it felt like all the protagonists had stuck to the script.
There were those who had not played the par 5s well enough, like Rory McIlroy. With five birdies and the same number of bogeys over the week, including 13 and 15 on Sunday, it was easy to agree. You sense he is so determined to snatch what is rightfully his on these holes that he gets carried away.
By contrast, Watson carded an eagle and six birdies, with no bogeys. McIlroy finished exactly eight behind the left-hander. You do the math, as they say in the US.
In fact, this was McIlroy’s highest Masters finish and his first top 10, believe it or not, but it is clear that he really ought to be a serial contender here.
As has become customary, Fred Couples climbed into contention and then fell away on the final day.
"This was McIlroy’s highest Masters finish and his first top 10, believe it or not."
There was the usual batch off unlikely challengers, young and old, who eventually fell away.
This time Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn were among them without ever quite convincing they might end the weekend as a Major champion.
We had Lee Westwood gamely chugging his way into contention but never getting close enough to the lead for his earnest, stolid efforts to bear fruit. He duly posted his 17th Major top 10.
Matt Kuchar was consistent but couldn’t get the job done.
We all expected a final-day charge from somebody down the field. It never materialised. It never even came close.
The problem is that while the two par 5s are in range for the whole field and the 16th amounts to taking aim at a large bowl, it is nigh-on impossible to play in attacking style without at some point throwing in a momentum-crushing bogey or worse. That is just the nature of the course; or more specifically the way it is set up and where the pins are positioned.
The final conceit is that you are not allowed to win here on your first visit. This year, more than most others, there was scope to change all that, thanks to the gutsy Jonas Blixt and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who appears to have a sprinkling of stardust.
It would be hard to say conclusively it was inexperience that stopped them going one better. But that is how it will be remembered.
And so it goes on. We will all be back next year to pore over the same statistics, accept the same hoary words of homespun wisdom and see the same names on the leaderboards.
Left-handers are at an advantage (but only since 2003). You can’t win on debut. You have to make hay at the par 5s. It doesn’t begin until the back nine on the last day. Experience is everything.
In Bubba’s case, it hardly matters what side of the ball he stands on. It’s more that if he hits it 350 yards in the intended direction one hole after the other then he becomes very difficult to beat. Here or anywhere.
For more on the Masters click HERE