Skip to comments.First-Timer Sim Ready to Wave Australian Flag [Golf Ping: The Masters]
Posted on 03/09/2010 7:18:55 AM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
First-Timer Sim Ready to Wave Australian Flag
Monday, March 8, 2010
Growing up, Michael Sim was a typical Australian child of the 1980s and 90s, especially when it came to golf. He idolized Greg Norman as a junior, he wore a broad-brimmed white hat similar to his heros and the first week of each April, he would rise at 3 a.m. local time to see the Masters on television.
He was not, of course, the only one. Practically his entire adopted homeland Sim was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but his family moved to Australia when Michael was 5 then as now routinely set its alarm clocks to view the final round from Augusta.
Every Australian watches, says the reigning Nationwide Tour Player of the Year and one of 17 first-time Masters invitees.
Everyone talked about the Masters, about what Greg did, he continues. For that tournament, I used to get up early even on school days. Youd see the final round on Monday morning in Australia; Id even miss the first couple of classes to see it.
Perhaps luckily, his memories from 1996 Masters, Normans infamous final-round letdown versus three-time champion Nick Faldo, are not vivid. (Norman) had what, a six-shot lead? he says. Of course, Sim, 25, was only 11 at the time.
But he can describe in intimate detail the Augusta National Golf Clubs fabled course as if he had played it dozens of times, instead of only in his Great White Shark-tinged dreams.
Ive never actually been to Augusta, but I feel like I have been, he says. Ive seen so many shots, especially on the back nine. Watching on TV, I feel like Ive played the course in a way.
When I get there, its not like Ill stand on the 10th tee and say, Where does this go? You know where to hit it, where to miss, where to come into the green (from) just from watching on TV.
Hell get there one month from now, joining fellow Australians Nathan Green, Marc Leishman and players from Japan, England, Korea and Italy, plus seven Americans, as Masters rookies. Few of the rest have traveled as twisting a route to Magnolia Lane.
Yeah, Sim says, laughing. If youd asked me a year ago, (with him having) conditional status on the Nationwide Tour, Do you think youll be in the Masters? There probably wasnt much chance.
Such hardly seemed likely when Sim was the worlds top-ranked amateur in 2005, a young star with seemingly unlimited potential. He turned professional later that year at age 21, and after a season on the Nationwide Tour, where he won once and finished 19th on the 2006 money list, he was off to the PGA Tour.
Except he wasnt, not right away. Unknowingly, Sim suffered a stress fracture to his spine during a Nationwide event in Wichita. I hit my tee shot and felt something down in my back, he says. I had an MRI in Pittsburgh and it was all clear, so I went home, rehabbed for a month and came back. Then, two events later, it went out again.
By the time he was diagnosed and treated, the 2007 PGA Tour season was done and Sim ranked 169th. He failed to win enough money for full exemption during a five-event medical extension in 2008, and returned to the Nationwide Tour last spring.
He did so with a vengeance. In 12 starts, he won three times to earn a battlefield promotion and a tour-record $644,142. He also demonstrated PGA Tour-level savvy, tying for 18th at the U.S. Open while playing with Tiger Woods in the final round. A sixth-place finish at the Australian Open and a tie for fifth at the Australian PGA vaulted Sim to 44th in the Official World Golf Rankings and earned him his Masters debut.
Its a big, big deal, he says. Growing up, I always wanted to play it, and now Im lucky enough to be there. It probably wont sink in until I get there, when I step on the grounds.
I want to get down there after Doral (CA Championship) or Tampa (Transitions Championship) to have a look at the place. If I go early, I can know my way around, and it can become more of a normal event.
But Sim readily admits the Masters is not that. Its the best tournament in the world, he says unashamedly. He knows the rest of his countrymen feel that way, too.
Obviously, Aussies have won every other major but that one, he says. I dont know exactly why its so special, but thats a good reason. (Geoff) Ogilvy won the (U.S.) Open, Greg won the British twice and Elk (Steve Elkington) won the PGA.
No Aussies won (the Masters), and it gets talked about a lot in Australia that weve never won.
No question, an Australian will win a Green Jacket eventually, Sim says. Equally not in doubt, he would love to be the one to end the drought.
To me, the first to do anything, its a great achievement, he says. Whoever the first winner is will be a great champion, a hall of famer when he goes home to Australia.
As a Masters rookie, Sim wont discount the possibility of winning, even if this hasnt happened since Fuzzy Zoellers win in 1979. Im in the field, so I have a chance. As a second choice, hed settle for, say, a top-16 finish and automatic return invitation. Thats pretty realistic, he says. I was 18th at Bethpage last year, and three wins on the Nationwide Tour will help me do my best.
For now, hes content to visualize other firsts his opening tee shot, his first venture through Amen Corner and anticipate sharing those experiences with his coach of 13 years, David Milne, family members and other long-time supporters.
It is, he said, the achievement of a lifetime even if thats only 25 years, just five as a professional golfer.
I dont feel 25, he said. Its moving along fast.
Come the first week in April, Sim probably wont feel 25, either. Chances are hell feel like a kid again
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heh heh, that was quick!
I believe Fuzzy Zoeller won as a first-timer. Who else?
|Before First Victory|
|1, Horton Smith, 1934|
|1, Gene Sarazen, 1935|
|1, Fuzzy Zoeller, 1979|
No sir young Sim. TV does not do the course justice when it comes to the elevation changes and rolling hills. The lies at Augusta can be scary dead in the middle of the fairway. The bathtub like rolls on the greens are so fast it's hard to believe. That said I hope the fella does well, but he's got to get the idea out of his head that he knows the course. He must respect it. It will bite him for an 85 if he's not careful.
And Sarazen won the second Masters. I'd say it's one of the toughest accomplishments in golf to win as a rookie (the course requires an incredible amount of local knowledge, not to mention the pressure of a Major). Thanks for the info.
This was interesting;
Lowest Career Scoring Average, 100 or More Rounds
71.98 - Jack Nicklaus
72.20 - Tom Watson
72.89 - Raymond Floyd
72.90 - Gene Littler
Four weeks to The Master’s and we’re staring a thread already? I’ll go way out on a limb here and pick Lefty to win - again!
And as my dark horse - Roy McAvoy!
Well, this weeks fare is the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular at the Trump Intrntl GC in Puerto Rico. Total purse: $3,500,000
So, here in Ohio we're getting 60-65 degree weather, the birds are starting to make their nests and spring is definately in the air.
Which means "Masters" to me.
Phil's a good choice and so is Rory.
Villegas is playing well but I'm tending towards Robert Allenby or Paul Casey. I'm sure I'll change my opinion in the next month so don't hold my feet to the fire just yet, if you please.
Try this GigaPan (scroll down the page a bit) from Augusta National.
Nice to read you again, Baynative. Haven't seen you in a while.
Of course Tiger will play at the Masters. The Masters is a private tournament, played at a private club and a lot of the tickets have been held by individuals or their families for decades. Augusta National won’t hestitate to eject unruly fans and ban them from ever coming back. This gives Tiger a “perfect” crowd for his return.
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