For many, this week is a national holiday. This week is The Masters, the crown jewel of golf’s Grand Slam held annually in Augusta Georgia. Once again, this year’s Masters drips with drama as golf fans around the world ask, Is Tiger back? Will Phil make a run? Has Rory found a groove?
I am blessed to have a friend who has invited me to attend the Master’s as his guest on a number of occasions. I attended the Masters in 2005. The tournament was won by Tiger Woods, highlighted by his incredible slow rolling chip on 16 late Sunday afternoon which will forever be remembered as one of the great shots of all time. But I will forever remember that Masters as the round that never was.
On Thursday, Apr 7, 2005, my friend and I were sitting in the bleachers of Redbud, the nickname given to the 16th hole, a 170 yd. par 3, which is protected by a beautiful pond. The surroundings look like the most untouched picturesque park you have ever seen – and someone just happened to put a golf green in the middle of it. The setting is nothing short of specular. Throughout the day, we had witnessed several breathtaking shots executed by the greatest players in the world.
As the afternoon grew long, we watched as a 73-year-old slowly approached the tee. Winner of three major championships, Billy Casper had been encouraged by the Augusta members to consider not playing, lest he embarrass himself and the game of golf. But, Masters champions are forever exempted into the field and the decision was Casper’s alone and, ignoring the pleas of the Augusta members, he decided to play.
Casper hit his first shot on sixteen – into the water. The crowd groaned as we felt sympathy for the former champion. After all, Casper was the only player that day to hit a shot into the water. But, he was far far from finished. Shoulders slumped; he retreated to the drop zone and proceeded to hit his third shot (first stroke plus one penalty stroke) into the water! A third attempt to clear the pond resulted in the third ball landing in Redbud Pond. The fourth and fifth attempts also found the water! On his eleventh shot (5 strokes plus 5 penalty strokes) he finally put the ball onto the green and three putted for an embarrassing 14, the single worst hole in Master’s history! Not the worst par 3 in Master’s history – the worst hole – period – in Master’s history.
For the day, the 1970 Masters champion amassed a round of 106, 34 over par, the worst round in the history of the masters by a whopping 11 shots! Casper was 21 over on the front nine alone (another record). By the end of the day, Casper owned ever record for Master’s futility. I was there! I was a part of history!
Now, look up Master’s history and search for Casper’s dubious records and you will find…nothing. There is no documentation of Casper’s humiliating feat. No record of his 14 on the 16th. No hint of anyone ever shooting over 100, let alone 106. Why? Because at the conclusion of the round, the 73-year-old was officially disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard.
When Casper retreated to the scoring tent, he looked over his scorecard – and decided it would be best for him, his children and his grandchildren (who were all present that day) if the round simply vanished into the Augusta night. And so it did. It never happened! No record of the day. No historical record of the disastrous round.
Wouldn’t it be great if life were like that? Having a really bad day at work? At the end of the day, just don’t sign your scorecard and none of it will be recorded. A great day with the kids? Sign that scorecard – today was a keeper! A $500 speeding ticket on the way to work? No problem! Don’t sign that scorecard. A call from the principal’s office? Son suspended again for fighting? No problem. Don’t sign the scorecard! It never happened!!
The Greatest News: Jesus signs our scorecard every day. In fact, that is what we celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All of my sins and all my self-righteousness were paid for by Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary. He does not hold my sins against me. Instead, he graciously grants me a fresh start every day (II Cor. 5:17). He encourages me to not dwell on past sins (Isaiah 43:18) but to look forward to his fresh grace (Ezekiel 36:26). Any record of my sins has been cast into the deepest sea as God chooses to remember them no more (Psalm 32:1, Jeremiah 31:34).
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