A large percentage of amateur golfers (and many others) enjoy watching the world’s greatest professional golfers in major tournaments, and perhaps most of all the first major of the PGA Tour each April, the Masters.
Even those who struggle with the game had a difficult time believing what they saw from one of the very best professionals in this year’s Masters. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner and leader after 65 holes of this year’s 72-hole tournament, had an amateur-like collapse on the devious 12th hole, a par 3 on which he had to write down “7.” It cost him the tournament.
Golf is an individual sport, and Spieth’s quadruple bogey choke hurt only himself.
In football, no one player can win a game by himself. But, one player probably could be judged to lose a game on occasion.
One position where that is possible is placekicker, and in Saturday’s A-Day Game to conclude spring football practice, Bama’s Adam Griffith had a meltdown.
Griffith, an upcoming senior, missed four field goal tries while kicking for the White team Saturday, and made one as kicker for the Crimson team. (Griffith, along with punter J.K. Scott, were specialists who played for both teams in the A-Day Game.)
The saving grace for Griffith is that the White team won the game with Griffith contributing only an extra point in the 7-3 contest.
In the first half, Griffith tried four field goals, all for the White. He missed from 36 yards in the first quarter. He missed from 47 yards and then from 42 yards in the second quarter. On the final play of the quarter, the White had a rush, rush, rush 54-yard try as time expired, and Griffith was short, but shouldn’t get grief for that unlikely effort.
At least the Crimson didn’t return it for a touchdown or something weird like that.
In the fourth quarter, Griffith had his final chance, this one with just under 11 minutes to play in a game that was 0-0. He nailed the 21-yarder to give the Crimson a 3-0 lead, and the way the game had gone it looked as though that might be a game-winner. As it turned out, the White was able to rally with the only touchdown of the game, freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts completing a 5-yard pass to Derek Kief with 2:48 to play. Almost no one noticed that Griffith knocked through the extra point kick.
Back in the 1990s, Alabama’s Michael Proctor was being interviewed and asked what it was like to be a Crimson Tide football player. “I’m not a football player,” Proctor said. “I’m a kicker.”
That is an attitude of some non-kickers, perhaps. Proctor was a very valuable member of Tide teams as a kicker, including his game-winning field goal in one of the msot exciting games ever played in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide’s come-from-behind win over Georgia in a 1994 night game.
Some of the finest wins in Alabama history have come on last-second kicks. In 1960 in Atlanta, Richard “Digger” O’Dell kicked the only field goal he ever tried, a 24-yard effort to beat Georgia Tch, 16-15. Most legendary, perhaps, is Van Tiffin’s 52-yard field goal on the final play to beat Auburn, 25-23, in 1985. The first big win of the Gene Stallings Era at Alabama ended with Philip Doyle hitting a 47-yard field goal in Knoxville to defeat third-ranked Tennessee, 9-6.
Jamie Christensen was the Alabama king of game-winning field goals. On the last play at Ole Miss in 2005 he hit a 31-yard field goal for a 13-10 Alabama win. With 13 seconds to play against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa the next week he hit a 34-yard field goal for a 6-3 win. And at the end of the season in the Cotton Bowl, Christensen made a 45-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 Bama win over Texas Tech.
By a first-hand account, Adam Griffith was quite distraught in the Alabama dressing room at halftime. Not quite on suicide watch, but…
Griffith missing four consecutive field goals is not unheard of. In last year’s national championship season, Griffith missed his first four of the season – 44 and 39 yards against Wisconsin and 24 (an extra point is generally 20 yards) and 49 against Middle Tennessee. But Griffith went on to a very respectable year as kicker, making 23 of his next 28 attempts, including all five of his attempts (26 yards, 40, 26, 50, and 47) in the Tide’s win at Auburn. He had a long of 55 yards in a win over LSU.
He also hit 62-62 extra point kicks and as kickoff man had 100 kickoffs, averaged 63.2 yards per kick, put 55 into the end zone for touchbacks, and had only one out of bounds. And no one is likely to forget that he was perfect on his successful onside kick that led to a Tide touchdown in Bama’s 45-40 win over Clemson in the national championship game.
Saturday’s A-Day Game notwithstanding, Alabama should consider placekicking to be in good hands (so to speak) for 2016. After all, no one is worried about Jordan Spieth being able to hit a green with a wedge shot.