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Saturday Night Fever: The night before Maggert's nightmare

By Joel Zuckerman, Contributor

Augusta, Georgia - Imagine Jeff Maggert, tossing and turning in the wee hours in his Augusta rental house. It's Saturday night of Masters week, and the journeyman pro is trying and failing to sleep on his two stroke lead prior to the last round of the most prominent tournament in golf.

Maggert has banked more than $10 million in his career to this point, but only two victories. A win at Augusta would brand him as a fluke champion. But it would also confer upon him Major champion status, afford him entry into the champions locker room and the champions dinner in perpetuity, and give him a free pass into this event for another quarter century.

We'd all have trouble sleeping.

Suddenly he has a vision. Swimming in the faint light at the foot of his bed is an apparition. It's a ghostly presence to be sure, but a friendly one, with a welcoming face, leaning on a hickory stick, and wearing plus fours.

Maggert sits bolt upright.

"Who are you? What do you want? Are you some kind of phantom or genie?"

"Well, let's just say I'm a soothsayer," replied the shimmering vision. "But you can consider me a genie. Call me Genie Sarazen."

The irony goes right over the tournament leader's head. He was agitated before the strange visit, and now he's an odd combination of confused, terrified and eager.

"If you are really a genie can you grant me a wish?" Asks Maggert hopefully.

"I'm pretty sure I know what that wish would be," laughs Sarazen, shaking his head. "I imagine it might have something to do with a green jacket and golf immortality."

Maggert nods effusively, eyes shining.

"I'm not here to grant you wishes, Jeff. But I can tell you the future. Would you like to hear about your round tomorrow?"

Maggert hesitates, and then slowly nods his head yes.

"You'll make five birdies on Masters Sunday," crows Sarazen.

Jeff's heart jumps, but he quickly recovers his cool. "That's great! But tell me, how many bogeys?"

"None," says the genie, with a wink.

The golfer does a quick calculation. He's two ahead of Mike Weir, which would mean the Canadian would need to shoot a 7-under 65 to tie him. Even better, the indomitable Tiger Woods, four shots in arrears, would need to tie the course record and shoot 63 to catch him. He's ecstatic, but then catches himself, eyes narrowing.

"I won't make a bogey, huh? How about double bogeys?"

Genie Sarazen laughs, and slaps his knee. "Good question, Jeff. No, you won't make a double-bogey either!"

Maggert's heart begins to pound with excitement. Visions of the jacket ceremony, an appearance on Jay Leno, his menu for the 2004 champion's dinner and the $1 million payday to come all begin to dance in his head. Again he catches himself, as the oracle's pronouncements seem too good to be true. The middling pro hearkens back to past Masters disasters, and solicits one more prediction in a small voice.

"I won't make a quadruple bogey somewhere along the line, will I?"

The cruel phantom replies for the last time.

"No, Jeff. You won't make a quadruple-bogey either. You're going to play a round of golf tomorrow you'll remember for the rest of your life."

Maggert, emotions soaring, jumps out of bed to hug his visitor, who fades away as the doomed pro reaches the end of the bed. He tosses and turns for another hour, but more in anticipation then agitation. He drifts off to sleep finally near dawn, but there's no problem there. He's the last man on the golf course come Sunday. His tee time, preceding the 18-hole victory lap, doesn't come until almost 3 p.m. The soon-to-be-crowned-Masters-champ can sleep as late as he wants.

Postscipt: Jeff Maggert's Masters Sunday:

· 5 birdies

· 11 pars

· 1 triple bogey

· 1 quintuple bogey

The cataclysmic quintuple on No. 12, featuring two water balls, wipes out the five hard-fought birdies elsewhere. The freakish triple-bogey occurred early in the round, when a thinned shot from a fairway bunker bounced back and hit the star-crossed golfer in the chest, adding a penalty stroke to the humiliation. This pushes him to a final round 75, and he fades from first to fifth. Dreams, even fitful ones, die hard.

Joel ZuckermanJoel Zuckerman, Contributor

Joel Zuckerman is based in Savannah, Georgia and Park City, Utah. He is the author of five books, and his golf and travel stories have appeared in more than 100 publications around the world, including Sports Illustrated, Golfweek, Travel+Leisure Golf, Continental and Golf International.

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