The opening weeks of the 2012 golf season have been the best in recent memory, and this week did not disappoint as Hunter Mahan won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, closing out world No. 2 Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 in the final. And, since the grand finale was held on the same day as the Oscar Awards (which seemingly lasts the same five days as the Match Play), let’s have some fun and give out the first annual Match Play awards, or “Matchies.”
Performance in a Leading Role: Hunter Mahan. After stumbling in a number of earlier opportunities to be a leading man, most recently at the Ryder Cup, it was a possibility that Mahan might not get another shot at a leading role. But Mahan stepped up to fulfill the potential as a professional on a major stage he has shown since winning the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship as a child actor. He was consistently excellent throughout the week, producing a barrage of birdies that overwhelmed even the precocious McIlroy on the opening nine holes of their championship duel. Runner-up mention goes to McIlroy, who almost took home the trophy with only his B-Game.
Best Original Story: The drama between Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. As clients of agent Chubby Chandler, and Ryder Cup teammates, Rory and Lee had been connected at the hip for years as mentor and mentee. Westwood and McIlroy had formed a strong, seemingly permanent bond. That bond was damaged, if not severed, when McIlroy left Team Chandler, and what was once a warm relationship developed a thick layer of frost. McIlroy’s emotional victory in the semifinal over Westwood likely took a bit of steam out of him over the first nine holes of the final, where the combination of his loosest iron play of the week and the Mahan buzz saw dropped him into a four-hole deficit. He eventually found his second wind and made a game of it, but he simply ran out of holes to get it done.
Best Supporting Actress: The fan who caught Westwood’s wayward drive on ended up with a ball down the back of her sweater on the 13th hole of the semi-final against McIlroy. After somehow snagging the drive in her pullover without chipping a vertebrae, she displayed perfect comic timing as she stood patiently and waited for Westwood’s caddy to deliver the memorable line, “Would you mind walking 250 yards down the fairway?”
Best Supporting Actor: Rory McIlroy’s 3-wood. Forget the PGA Tour; Homeland Security should be investigating the grenade launcher/golf club that McIlroy has only had in his bag for just over a week. Striping it up to forty yards past his opponents’ best efforts with a driver, we are sure to see this weapon star again in Augusta.
Best Special Effect: The dust devil that held a pavilion umbrella aloft over the golf course early in the Mahan – McIlroy match. It looked like Mary Poppins was making her way to the hospitality tents.
Best Set Design: Mother Nature and Jack Nicklaus share this one. Nicklaus gets the nod for the stunning Dove Mountain layout that was such a perfect combination of natural beauty and unforgiving vindictiveness they could rename it “First Wife.” Mother Nature, after sneezing out a snow squall for last year’s final, this year graced the mountain layout with six days of sun-drenched weather in the gorgeous Arizona high sierra.
Best Animated Feature: Ricky Fowler’s opening day match. Ok, I know he’s real, but he sure dressed like a cartoon character and after his surprising upset loss to David Toms, all that was missing was Nick Faldo saying “Th-Th-That’s all, Folks!”.
Best Director: To shared by all of the directors who ran the coverage of the event on the first two days of competition. With 16 meaningful matches to cover, The Golf Channel/NBC team did an exceptional job of getting great pictures, great angles and great slo-mo replays. And they kept the stars of the TGC team (Faldo, Rosaforte, Chamblee) in front of the cameras for the lion’s share of the time, minimizing the painful dronings of some of the other talking heads in their stable.
Makeup: Jason Day takes this Matchie for making up a three-hole deficit in three holes in his first round against Spain’s Raphael Cabrera-Bello. Look for Day to be near or at the top of all of the leaderboard and all of the majors this year.
And just like the Oscars, the Matchies saves the top award for last. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matchie for Best Picture goes to … any picture of Hunter Mahan’s wife, Kandi. Check your google machine for conformation.
Like I said, it’s been a great season.