Sunday in his adopted home of Houston, Steve Elkington decided it was time to uncork the good stuff. If not on the evening a fellow Australian won the Masters, then when?
It was a bottle of 1986 Grange Hermitage, a $500 or so value today.
Australian, of course.
A Shiraz, as bold as an Adam Scott approach shot to 15 feet on a second playoff hole. Paired nicely with the steak.
As Elkington sipped his wine, his father was enjoying a more common brew back on Australia’s Gold Coast. “I called my dad, and my mother answered,” Elkington said. “He already had gone down to talk to the guys at the club. Just to go down and have a couple beers.
“At least a couple.” It was morning in Australia, but nevermind.
Steve Elkington’s American-born 16-year-old son, Sam, a Tiger Woods fan to his marrow, made an important decision as Woods faded from contention. “He jumped on the Australian bandwagon,” said his father.
But, then, who didn’t?
“I don’t think there was one guy in the whole world who felt bad about Adam Scott winning. Not even Cabrera,” Elkington said. That would be Angel Cabrera, the man beaten in the playoff.
Now on the over-50 PGA Champions Tour — which stops this weekend at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth — Elkington won his major in 1995. Claiming a PGA Championship then was not exactly greeted as exuberantly as Scott’s victory at Augusta National last weekend. For Australians had been winning around the world for decades, on every Tour, at every big event you could name. Everywhere except Bobby Jones’ place off Washington Road.
The pieces of Australia’s considerable golfing tradition had come together like those of a giant jigsaw puzzle, Elkington said. But the Masters was like the one piece that always goes missing, the one right in the middle. Then, in the rain and the gloom, in a stirring playoff against Cabrera, Scott found that piece.
Elkington has all sorts of platforms to comment on Scott’s triumph. He has a golf networking site, called secretsinthedirt.com. On his Twitter account, he included several stylish cartoons done in his own hand celebrating the moment.
Or, on the occasion when he is in town to play a seniors’ event, you can just ask him.
He’ll tell you that he feared Scott never would recover from last year’s British Open, in which he surrendered a four-stroke lead over the last four holes.
“He’s had a bit of a flat, flying hook shot that creeps up on him under pressure,” noted Elkington. “He hit it three times last year at the British Open the last four holes. Did the same at the Players Championship (where he won in 2004) and perhaps should have lost that.”
“Those last four holes at the British Open may have been a turning point for him. They say the average major winner is 32, and he’s 32. I was 32 when I won my major championship.”
A 10-time winner on the PGA Tour — younger man’s division — Elkington followed in the footsteps of Bruce Devlin and then Greg Norman. He was one of the first Australians to play collegiately in the United States (at Houston), while most of his countrymen were going from high school to try their luck on the European Tour.
“I didn’t want to do that. Europe stinks when you’re poor,” he said.
He remained in the United States after school and made a tidy living playing on the PGA Tour. Turning 50 in December, Elkington transitioned to the Champion’s Tour. He has played five events this season, with three top-10 finishes and $154,000 in winnings.
In this, the first Greater Gwinnett Championship, Elkington returns to the course he visited regularly when it was part of the PGA Tour. He finished 11th in the final AT&T Classic in 2008.
The Down Under theme still is in play this week — TPC Sugarloaf was designed by Norman.
“I texted Greg Norman this morning and said Sugarloaf looks great. I always thought this was one of Greg’s best designs,” Elkington said.
“I always thought this place favored a guy who drives the ball like Greg Norman (Elkington is third on the Champions Tour in driving distance, 288.4 yards). I like this course. I’ve done well here, but never won. This is the first Champions Tour event where I’ve had a chance to play on a course I know. I feel a little bit better.”
This week Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proclaimed that Scott’s Masters victory was “an historical day for Australian sport.”
She may not, however, be moved to weigh in should Elkington follow up with a victory at the Greater Gwinnett Championship. Nor has he decided exactly what vintage would be appropriate to toast his first victory among the over-50 set.
AUSTRALIAN-BORN MAJOR CHAMPIONS
Jim Ferrier (1947 PGA Championship)
Peter Thomson (1954-56, ’58 and ’65 British Open)
Kel Nagle (1960 British Open)
David Graham (1978 PGA Championship; 1981 U.S. Open)
Jan Stephenson (1981 du Maurier Classic; 1982 LPGA Championship; 1983 U.S. Women’s Open)
Greg Norman (1986 and ’93 British Open).
Wayne Grady (1990 PGA Championship)
Ian Baker-Finch (1991 British Open)
Karrie Webb (1991 du Maurier Classic; 2000-01 U.S. Women’s Open; 2000 and ’06 Kraft Nabisco; 2002 Women’s British Open).
Steve Elkington (1995 PGA Championship)
Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open)
Adam Scott (2013 Masters)