Jack or Arnie. Tiger or Phil. Golf rivals in the purest sense.
It was as personal outside the ropes as inside. Fans had their favorite, for whatever reason, and the other guy was in the way.
Golf etiquette suggests you pull only for a player, never against – spirit of the game and all that. But that’s a load of hooey when it comes to fans, especially if someone is between your guy and the green jacket at the Masters this week.
There are boundaries. Fans don’t whoop and holler after a key three-putt, but they do whisper a little “Yes!” under their breath. And they might be a little quieter this week at Augusta National than at some places, but just as loud at home on the couch.
Giants fans are giddy when the Dodgers’ shortstop boots a grounder, Raiders fans high-five when the Broncos’ kicker misses a field-goal attempt and Kings fans love it when the Lakers clank a free throw.
Golf is no different; there’s a winner and a loser, and there’s a rooting interest.
Which brings us to Jordan Spieth. Just 22, he’s the defending Masters champion and the face of American golf. By all accounts, he’s a wonderful son, brother, boyfriend, guy. But he behaves like a 5-year-old on the course. And not a cute one, but one in immediate need of a timeout.
He reacts to missed putts as if he’s entitled to make every one. He slams his club to the ground after wayward shots. He barks at his caddie after misfires. He seemingly takes forever to play.
He acts like the guy you don’t want to play alongside. The anti-Jason Day, in other words.
Everybody wants to see great golf this week at the Masters. But if two players pull away from the pack on Augusta’s back nine Sunday, it’s only human nature to have a preference. Here’s one fan’s 2016 for/against list:
Rooting for ....
Jason Day: It’s not easy to be an endearing superstar, but he fits the bill.
Bubba Watson: Openness about flaws have made his quirks less distracting.
Rickie Fowler: Love his aggressive style and absence of excuses when he fails.
Phil Mickelson: He’s brutally honest when assessing his game or just about anything.
Adam Scott: Once he ditched the long putter, absolutely nothing not to like.
Henrik Stenson: He has machine-like efficiency on the course, edgy in a fun way off it.
Justin Rose: The unsung star has a lower profile than many, which adds to his appeal.
Matt Kuchar: He acts as if it’s a joy to play and life is good – which it probably is.
Louis Oosthuizen: You just want to hug the little guy – and swing like him.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s such a good ball striker, yet such an average putter.
Brandt Snedeker: He plays fast, putts great and always has a smile.
Jim Herman: He was impressive last week to qualify; here’s hoping for more.
Rooting against ...
Jordan Spieth: Oh, the histrionics – kind of the DeMarcus Cousins of golf.
Rory McIlroy: We long for the pure kid who manned up to back-nine flop in 2011.
Dustin Johnson: It just feels right to root against he of the evasive answer.
Sergio Garcia: Bad vibes have become part of permanent picture.
Patrick Reed: The smirking, red shirt-wearing definition of a sourpuss.
Jason Dufner: Once a lovable lug, somehow he’s lost his appeal.
Zach Johnson: He’s not exactly off-putting, but not exactly charming, either.
Ian Poulter: If there was a major championship for tweeting, he might win.
J.B. Holmes: Painfully slow play + country boy act = no, thanks.
Keegan Bradley: You have to wonder if karma is related to downward spiral.
Kevin Na: He’s such a slow player, marshals might boot him from Ancil Hoffman.
Tiger Woods: We’ll miss his chipping yips, obscenities and shooting 85.
Masters at a glance
- Where: Augusta National Golf Club
- When: Thursday-Sunday
- Defending champion: Jordan Spieth
- TV: Thursday-Friday, noon-4:30 p.m., ESPN; Saturday, noon-4 p.m., Ch. 13; Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Ch. 13