My Golf Obsession: The 2012 Tiger Woods Masters video game
Quick! Before real golf comes back, lemme tell you about how virtual golf has carried me these last few months.
Not only has Tiger Woods beat me many times in the last week — it happens playing a video game with his name in the title — I’ve also been beaten by both Anthony Kim and Bio Kim. Yes, During these COVID times, the virtual world in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 (Masters Edition) has become my sick and twisted reality.
When you fire up a 9-year-old video game, you’re signing up for surprises, and Bio, now infamous for making an obscene gesture and earning a year-long suspension in Korea, was one of those surprises. (Kim was a full-status Tour pro in 2011 and an absolute menace on the video game.)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is a relic in that it offers an advanced, segmented journey for the single player (called Road to the Masters) but isn’t sophisticated enough that it employs constant online updates. You’re stuck with the stars and flameouts (see: Jeff Overton) of 2011, and with the rare approval from Augusta National, you can actually win golf’s holy grail: a green jacket.
That feature is one of the greatest things ever offered to the virtual golf space. Augusta National, litigious as ever, has repeatedly shut down online course designers who recreate Amen Corner and the flowery campus on their gaming platform. Thus, this EA Sports video game was a priceless asset during the 2020 Masters that Never Was. Here in Small Town, Wisc., in my parents’ basement, even I could win a green jacket.
To do so, I created my best impression of Boo Weekley, a camo-pants-wearing par machine who gets up-and-down from everywhere in his bright red Presidents Cup sweater. And because I have too much pride, we cranked the difficulty to Tournament Mode. No power boosts for Boo. No button-smashing for maximum backspin. No wearing a green jacket unless you’ve earned it. Mr. Weekley, we’re on the tee.
After breezing through the amateur tour, Weekley notched a win in his third Nationwide Tour start. He may have limped in to a 74, but his win unveiled a fun battlefield promotion: Straight to the PGA Tour! If only life were this easy.
Over the course of many seasons, we progressed slowly but surely toward Augusta National. At one point [insert SpiderMan meme], my Weekley even chased after the real Boo Weekley. (I couldn’t catch him.) Eventually, back-to-back wins at the Mediterranean Open (course fits my virtual eye) helped push our hero into the top 100 in the world, earning him that precious invite to Augusta.
Tiger Woods video games have existed for more than 20 years now, first launching with Cyber Tiger on Nintendo 64 in 1999. (I bought that game, too. Mark O’Meara chipped in too often.) Like most EA Sports franchises, the mid-2000s editions are cherished to this day, but they are also plagued for being so damn easy. It may have been fun shooting 18 or 20 under on Tiger Woods 2004, reaping the benefits of Peak Tiger and never making a bogey, but thankfully the 2012 version of the franchise added some realism. As it turns out, winning the Masters on Tournament Mode is tough as hell!
Look no further than the game defaulting Boo to a non-camo look once we stepped foot on the grounds. Seriously, the game stripped me of my clothing creativity and gave us a Jeff Maggert-esque grey-over-khaki outfit. That doesn’t pair too well with hunter green.
Anyway, my virtual Weekley is a brilliant ball-striker, similar to the real-life version, but struggles woefully on the green. In our run-up to Augusta, only once had we played 18 holes bogey-free. Green reading is an intricate business on Tournament Mode, as in real life. At virtual ANGC, you’re lagging everything to the hole, even the 5-footers. One hard lip-out begets another. No more chiding Ernie Els for 2016. To offset some of the difficulty, this is a one-round tournament. It’s hard enough to lead after 18 holes, let alone 72.
Our conquest began with a bogey but quickly turned around as Boo holed out from a greenside bunker on No. 2 for eagle. Back to red numbers! They say that every winner at Augusta National gets some breaks to go their way. Perhaps that’d be one of ours.
Our friend Bio Kim signed for a solid 69. Beatable, but solid. We would add a birdie on 3 to move within one of the lead before going bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie on holes 4-7. What a rollercoaster! After a shameful par on the 8th, this video game showed off its realism again. When my cute wedge into the 9th was just a little TOO cute, it zipped off the false front just like Greg Norman’s in 1996. I’ve watched way too many Masters broadcasts to forget that could happen. Nonetheless, a cheeky pitch helped me make the turn at two under. ALIVE AND WELL.
A brief appreciation of the 10th hole: it should still be the first playoff hole. It’s a great par-4. It requires two very good shots to get close and and an even better putt to earn the birdie, which is exactly what Boo did on this day, tying our man for the lead. It was a brief, tense moment for our virtual hero before the nerves got to him and he pumped his drive into the trees left on 11.
After punching out and pitching on, it was a bogey on 11. One shot back, reaching that treacherous 12th. The 12th wouldn’t be so bad if 11 and 10 didn’t precede it. Those holes being difficult means you teeter on the edge of losing control, only to earn a trip to a swirling wind tunnel.
Unfortunately, Boo Weekley had his Jordan Spieth moment. The ball flew far enough, but it just wasn’t on target, leaking out to the right. One more yard and it may have stayed dry, but it rolled back into that devilish creek. Mr. Weekley would make his triple bogey.
While Weekley and I made a mess of Amen Corner, Phil Mickelson made a classic charge — remember this is 41-year-old Lefty — to finish at four under, beating Eduardo Molinari of all people in a playoff. Mickelson’s fourth green jacket, but his first virtual green jacket. What an honor!
Boo tapped in for a par on 18 and a one-under 71. It was good enough for tie for 11th place and for an invite to next year’s event. We’ve got plenty of work to do until then, and as long as we’re stuck at home we’ll be doing it.