Blame Sheila?


Before explaining why bachelor boy Adam Scott should never marry a fetching American girl – sometimes known in Australia as a Sheila – I need to address the failure of Scott and other Australians at the Masters.

The Aussies are 0-for-the-Masters. They are winless in eight consecutive decades. They have claimed every other major championship at least twice, but never this one. Why?

I hate to be simplistic, but the cause is elementary, really. Blame it on the American Sheilas.

Australian golfers appear to be fascinated with American golf and American women. Greg Norman, Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley took American wives. They are a combined 0 for 46 at the Masters.

They are steadfast and confident as they woo and marry their American darlings, but station the Aussies on the first tee at Augusta National and they are as nervous as acne-faced teenagers headed to their high school prom.

Why is this? Because they want to prove they are worthy of their adopted American families. Because they want to show everybody they are genuine American stakeholders, not just visitors from a planet far, far away.

Payne Stewart had it backwards – an American golfer marrying an Australian women – but he too was afflicted with the Augusta National curse. He won the U.S. Open (twice) and the PGA Championship, but not the Masters.

You think Norman was responsible for kicking away those four Masters titles? Twice (1986, 1989) he bogeyed the 72nd hole to lose by one stroke. In sudden death (1987), he was victimized by the Hail Larry shot. That, of course, was the cross country chip-in by Larry Mize. Finally, Norman famously blew a six-shot lead (1996) heading into the final round.

Perhaps it wasn’t his fault. Behind every Australian failure or collapse at the Masters, there seems to be a good American woman.

There is something very special about the Masters – the first major of the year, the intensity, the devout atmosphere. If golf has a cathedral, this is it.

For the Australians, the tournament also has been transformed into a cultural phenomenon. They desperately want to be accepted as reconstituted Americans. They want it so badly that their golf games stammer and stutter at the Masters, this all-American tournament in the good-old-boy South.

The Masters is more American than the U.S. Open, our national championship. The U.S. Open was defined and dominated by foreign golfers in the beginning, but the Masters was founded by the American-as-apple-pie Bobby Jones and immediately became the playground for America’s most famous golfers in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

It remains a big deal whenever a non-American wins the Masters, yet this feat has far less significance in the U.S. Open. Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo gained international recognition as multiple winners of the Masters, which has become the primary yardstick of worldwide golf acclaim.

On this scale, the Australians don’t measure up. If only they would stop chasing these American women. Tell that to Australian Mark Hensby, engaged to an American.

There are Australian golfers who married Americans and gave up tournament golf for other segments of the golf industry. Wayne Smith, once a superb player, is now an agent for golfers such as Nick Flanagan, the Australian who won the U.S. Amateur Championship. Kel Devlin, the son of another Australian Masters victim, Bruce Devlin, was born in Australia and lived there until he was 9. He came to the United States, eventually married an American, and is now part of the braintrust that directs Nike Golf.

Which brings us full circle to Adam Scott. He is a boy with a man’s golf game. He is viewed by many as the most talented of the Australians. His potential is unlimited. He could (dare I say it?) win the Masters.

Well, on second thought, he might be a Masters contender if he stays away from these American girls.

Am I am being unreasonable about both the Australian golfers and their American women? Maybe, but the exercise here is to predict the outcome of the year’s first major championship.

The Australians won’t win. Bet the house on it. Bet the dog, too.


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