AT THE MOVIES
Wilson proves great off the ‘ti’
AUGUSTA, Ga. » After Dean Wilson double-bogeyed the 11th and was heading toward the heart of Amen Corner on shaky ground, a friend of Grace Wilson's came over and gave her a ti leaf for good luck.
Her son then parred the famed 12th, somehow stayed out of Rae's Creek at the 13th to card a birdie, picked up another birdie at the 15th and eventually became the first person from Hawaii to survive the cut at the Masters in blustery conditions yesterday at Augusta National.
"No way I'm giving up this ti leaf now," Grace Wilson said emphatically after Dean shot an even-par 72 for a two-day total of 3-over 145. Wilson landed in a tie for 15th and will be paired with his college roommate, Mike Weir, in today's third round. They are one group ahead of Tiger Woods and Paul Casey.
As is usually the case with the Castle High product, he didn't do any high fives with the numerous family and friends who followed him faithfully through an interesting 18-hole journey. They were there to see him finally get his first birdie at the par-5 eighth. And they felt his pain when his approach at the 11th came up a little short and caught the side of a mound guarding the green, causing the ball to race across the putting surface and right into the water, forcing a groan from the crowd.
Their hearts skipped a beat when his drop shot barely cleared the water and landed about 20 feet from the hole for an eventual double-bogey six that could have caused a slide to oblivion. Even after he parred the always-treacherous 12th, the risk-reward par-5 13th almost sent him home for good.
Wilson hit his drive far enough down the 13th, but he noticed there was some mud on his ball, which gave him pause before pounding his second shot.
"I got a good break on 13," Wilson said. "I had perfect yardage for a rescue club, but I had a little mud on the left side of the ball. Anytime there's mud on the left it goes a little right. I didn't hit a great shot, but it got up there and started curving a little right, but I wanted it to curve left and miss the green left if anything.
"But I got a good break. It was in the hazard (a tributary to Rae's Creek that borders the front and right side of the green), but it was sitting on a little piece of grass just to the right of the water. It was just like being in some rough. I just tried to get that on the green and I did, and made a 10- to 12-footer for birdie."
At the 14th, Grace Wilson still had her ti leaf grasped firmly in her hands as she began to believe again that her son would make the cut. He birdied the par-5 15th after chipping his third shot over the pond guarding the green to within 3 feet for birdie.
"And that putt was outside the cup, even though I was only 3 feet away," Wilson said. "These greens are so dangerous."
By now, Wilson was perfecting his fist pump as he moved steadily up the leaderboard and well away from the cut. He shot a 1-under 35 on the front to go to 2 over for the tournament, but a bogey at the 10th on a missed 5-footer for par and the double at the 11th had him at 5 over, before the two birdies on the par 5s righted the ship.
But it was the par-3 16th that had Wilson believing in his own miracle after he hit a perfect shot about 6 feet from the hole that was tucked in the right side of the green with the bunker only 10 paces away. He gave a little leg kick as the huge gallery roared its approval.
"I was real happy with that," Wilson said. "I've seen that shot a million times trying to keep that ball on that slope. And I tried it a couple of times in the practice round and it's tough. First, you have to have the guts to aim over there and just have it stay up and not roll down. It was good for me to see Sandy's (Lyle) shot stay up there.
"I went ahead and hit a good one. Boy, I had another good luck at birdie, but man it was really fast. I ran that thing 5 feet by again, so, it was really nerve-racking."
Wilson wasn't exactly steady and true on the difficult closing holes. At the 17th, he had to two-putt for par from 50 feet, and at the 18th, Wilson hit his drive into the rough directly behind a pine tree that was only 5 yards away from him. He studied it for several minutes, before asking his caddie, "The right bunker might be OK, right Mike?"
His shot stayed to the right of that bunker, eventually coming to rest in a treacherous spot above the hole. Wilson chipped to within 8 feet, saved par, as he did several times this day, to finish at dead-even 72. There were only a dozen rounds better.
"All those par saves were huge," Wilson said. "It feels like 'Survivor' out here where you're just trying to save as many shots as you can. A lot of times, I'm not trying to make birdie. I'm trying to get it on the green and two-putt because the clubs I had coming in, I can't always get it close.
"I'm happy to survive the cut. I have a chance going into the weekend. It seems like this tournament is all bunched up. The leaders have some tough holes coming in, so the lead could be at 2. We'll see what happens."