Weekend Wrap

HPBNC_2011_068PGA Tour
RBC Heritage
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head, S.C.

The week after the Masters proved to be a great bounce back for a few players on several tours. On the PGA Tour Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald were looking great coming into the final round of the RBC Heritage at the famous Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Harbour Town is the course you may recognize with its signature red and white lighthouse.

In the final round Matt Kuchar began four shots behind leader Luke Donald. Donald had missed the cut in the previous week’s Masters. Kuchar carded seven birdies in his first 10 holes. Coming into the final hole, the two stood tied for the lead at -10.

Kuchar’s approach on the final hole found a greenside bunker and it was looking like Donald could claim the victory with a par, should Kuchar have trouble getting up-and-down. Instead Kuchar stunned the fans and Donald with a tournament-winning hole-out from the bunker, a final round of 64.

Greater Gwinnett Championship
TPC Sugarloaf
Duluth, Ga.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is known as the most interesting man in golf, and he never fails to provide great entertainment with his cigar smoking, wine drinking, and swashbuckling golf style.

This week at TPC Sugarloaf marked the Champions Tour debut of Jimenez, and the entertainment was sure to be plenty. Jimenez took the early lead in the first round and never gave it up. When the final putt was holed, Jimenez became one of a handful of players to win their debut Champions Tour event. The nearest competitor was two shots back, Bernhard Langer.

LPGA LOTTE Championship
Ko Olina Golf Club
Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii

It had been a long four years since the last victory on the LPGA Tour for Michelle Wie. In the beginnings of her pro career Wie was called the “female Tiger Woods,” but has had a hard time living up to those expectations.

Victories silence the critics, so the Wie critics will be quiet this week. Wie, like Kuchar, also trailed by four shots coming into the final round. A final round of 5-under 67 gave Wie a total of 274 and a two shot margin of victory over Angela Stanford, who carded a final round 73.

Masters Wrap

Hole 16 at Augusta National. Photo courtesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Hole 16 at Augusta National. Photo courtesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Once again the Masters was a tournament like no other. The course as always, was in immaculate condition. As always, the greens were extremely fast and difficult. The green speed doesn’t just tax putting. It makes approach shots and their accuracy much more important. The speed also makes short game extremely important. Players who putted well and came to the tournament with solid short games, performed well.

With Tiger Woods gone, there was a different feel this week. Many thought the tournament was “wide open.” Well, it certainly wasn’t open for the 60+ crowd, or most of the older and shorter hitting crowd. For the most part the Masters is with a few exceptions, a long hitter’s course. Those exceptions would be players like Mike Weir and Zach Johnson.

The first surprises of the week came Friday as many big names missed the cut, including Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Keegan Bradley, and Jason Dufner.

Rory McIlory struggle to make the cut on the number and would not be a factor through the weekend. One oddity was the fact that McIlory was the first out on Saturday. As a single he had to play with a marker, a player from the golf club, for scoring. The marker beat McIlory by one shot, shooting 70 to his 71.

As the weekend unfolded a few players rose to the top of the leader board. Jonas Blixt John Senden, Thomas Bjorn, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott were all in great shape, with long time favorite Fred Couples in the hunt. Couples would stay close to the lead through the weekend until hitting his second shot on hole 11 into the water during the final round.

By Sunday the players who had a chance to win thinned out. Jordan Spieth, a 20 year old who turned pro in late 2012, was tied for the lead with former champion Bubba Watson. One shot back was Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt, with “The Mechanic” Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rickie Fowler two back.

As the front nine unfolded Sunday, Spieth and Watson separated themselves from the field with a birdie barrage. Amazingly both players made birdie on both par-3’s on the front. These are not easy holes either. On hole nine Watson made birdie while Spieth struggled to make bogey, a two shot swing. Spieth’s two shot lead on the front nine evaporated and he started the back one shot back of Watson.

The back nine was not quite as exciting as the front, quite unusual for the Masters. Watson kept his foot on the gas and Spieth struggled making no birdies on the back. By the 13th hole Watson would hold a 3-shot lead over Spieth, and keep it until play was completed.

With the amazing win Watson joins an elite group of multiple Masters winners, and an even more elite group of players, like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, who won the Masters twice in three years.

Masters Friday

haasblastYesterday’s first round of the Masters Tournament was quite entertaining, despite world #1 Tiger Woods’s absence.  There were many surprises, both in the form of players near or at the top and players who didn’t quite play up to expectations.

Bill Haas holds solo first place after the first round with a great round of -4 68.  Many casual golf fans may not know who Haas is, as he’s not a household name.  Haas is not unfamiliar with pressure golf.  As you may recall, he won the FedEx Cup and the $10 million with the shot of the year back in 2011 when he blasted out of the water on the 17th hole at East Lake Golf Club in a playoff against Hunter Mahan. See photo.

Another player near the top of the leaderboard who is a bit of a surprise is Jonas Blixt.  At one point Blixt held the solo lead, but finished tied for 5th place with a round of -2 70.

Another fun player who held the lead for a short time was golf’s most interesting man, Miguel Angel Jimenez.  He finished tied for 12th Thursday with a round of -1 71.

Players we expected to see near the top of the leaderboard and have made their way there after one round include Adam Scott, tied for 2nd place one shot behind Haas.  Scott fired a first round -3 69 as did Louis Oosthuizen and 2012 champ Bubba Watson.

Notables finishing at -1 Thursday includ Rory McIlory, Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler and Masters rookie 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.

In the “not out of it but need a great round Friday” crowd at four over par are Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, and Justin Rose.

Too far gone are players Luke Donald (79), Tom Watson (79), Trevor Immelman (79), Jason Dufner (80).

The highest round from Thursday belongs to Branden Grace, a +12 80.

The weekend will prove to be exciting as the Masters Tournament always does.  Enjoy!

2014 Masters Preview

Hole 13 - Par-5 - Photo coursesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Hole 13 – Par-5 – Photo coursesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

This year’s Masters should prove to be exciting with a wide open field of many players who have the game to win. Tiger Woods is out after having back surgery, and some feel his absence opens the field up. I say perhaps not, as Woods was not playing well coming in to the tournament.

Players to watch this week include favorites Rory McIlory, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day. Sergio Garcia has been playing well as of late and has surged to the top of the favorites list.

More than any other tournament though, the golf course and the history of the event are a bigger story than the players. The course setup is unlike the other major championships in that it does allow for low scoring and hot streaks. That setup produces guaranteed excitement year after year.

This is the 80th anniversary of the Masters Tournament. With the event taking place in the same venue every year, historic shots and happenings can be remembered from nearly every hole. Some of those include the Bubba Watson gap wedge hook shot on hole #10 in the playoff, Phil Mickelson’s 6-iron on the par-5 13th from the pine straw, and Tiger Woods’s chip-in on the 16th hole as the Nike swoosh appeared a split second prior to the ball dropping. Older shots include many putts from Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to seal the deal, and of course perhaps the greatest shot in Masters history, the “shot heard ‘round the world” by Gene Sarazen. That amazing shot was a double eagle on the par-5 15th hole in 1935.

Masters Coverage

Thursday April 10
3-7:30 p.m. — Live First Round Coverage
8 p.m. — First Round Encore

Masters.com/Masters App/CBSSports.com
11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Masters On the Range (Also On CBS Sports Network)
2 p.m. — Masters Radio coverage begins
12 p.m. – Completion Of Play — Featured Groups 1 & 2
10:45 a.m.-6 p.m. — Amen Corner Live
11:45 a.m.-7 p.m. — 15th & 16th holes

Friday April 11
ESPN/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
3-7:30 p.m. — Live Second Round Coverage
8 p.m. — Second Round Encore

Masters.com/Masters App/CBSSports.com
11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Masters On the Range (Also On CBS Sports Network)
2 p.m. — Masters Radio coverage begins
12 p.m. – Completion Of Play — Featured Groups 1 & 2
10:45 a.m.-6 p.m. — Amen Corner Live
11:45 a.m.-7 p.m. — 15th & 16th holes

Saturday April 12
3-7 pm — Live Third Round Coverage

Masters.com/Masters App/CBSSports.com
11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Masters On the Range (Also On CBS Sports Network)
2 p.m. — Masters Radio coverage begins
12 p.m. – Completion Of Play — Featured Groups 1 & 2
10:45 a.m.-6 p.m. — Amen Corner Live
11:45 a.m.-7 p.m. — 15th & 16th holes

Sunday April 13
1-2 p.m. — Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta: Nick Faldo At The Masters
2-7 p.m. — Final Round Live Coverage

Masters.com/Masters App/CBSSports.com
11 a.m.-1 p.m. — Masters On the Range (Also On CBS Sports Network)
2 p.m. — Masters Radio coverage begins
12 p.m. – Completion Of Play — Featured Groups 1 & 2
11:45 a.m.-6 p.m. — Amen Corner Live
12:30-7 p.m. — 15th & 16th holes

Weekend Wrap – Major Accomplishments

This past weekend’s LPGA and PGA Tour events should be called “Major accomplishments.” Both events involved major championships and breakthroughs for each winner.

Kraft Nabisco Championship, Final Round (5-9:23 p.m. ET)
Mission Hills Country Club
Rancho Mirage, California

It was a perfect setup for a great finish Sunday in the LPGA’s first major championship, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

In the final group where to LPGA stars looking to break the ice on their first major championships, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie.

Tied for the lead coming into Sunday Wie managed a final round of 1-under 71, a respectable score on Sunday in a major. But the 19 year old Thompson dropped a fantastic -4 round of 68 to take her first major win with a three shot margin of victory.

“On the first tee I was definitely nervous but it just shows how much I care about it. I’ve worked my life to win a major. This was my main goal coming into this year to win a major. I’ve always seen myself winning the Kraft Nabisco and taking a leap into Poppie’s Pond, so I am so excited and so grateful for this opportunity.” ~Lexi Thompson

With the win comes the ceremonial plunge into “Poppie’s Pond.”

PGA Tour
Shell Houston Open
Golf Club of Houston, Humble, Texas

At the end of regulation in the Shell Houston Open there were two players tied atop the leaderboard, Tour veteran Matt Kuchar and relative unknown Matt Jones. Jones came from six shots behind to tie Kuchar and force a playoff. How he got into the playoff and how he eventually won it comprised of two of the best shots of the year to date, and will be hard to beat the rest of the season.

With the unthinkable 45 foot birdie putt followed by the incredible chip-in on the first playoff hole, the Aussie Jones punched the last available ticket to the Masters field.

Masters One Week Away

Hole 16 at Augusta National. Photo courtesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Hole 16 at Augusta National. Photo courtesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com

It would have been the best and biggest April Fools joke in history. Tiger Woods posted on his website Tuesday April 1st, that he had undergone back surgery and would miss next week’s Masters Tournament. This was following weeks of he and his PR team telling the press that his bulging disc in his back was treatable and would not require surgery. So you know Tiger is about to go under the knife if he says he’s not going to?

Turns out it was not a joke and the biggest draw, the #1 player in the world, will miss out on an opportunity to snag another major championship in his quest to catch and/or overtake Jack Nicklaus in the all time record books.

Tiger is not the only injured big-name player. Phil Mickelson has a torn oblique muscle and was at one time questionable for the Masters. Phil is playing this week at the Valero Texas Open in preparation for the Masters, so barring further injury we expect to see Phil in action at Augusta.

Hunter Mahan withdrew from Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill a couple of weeks ago, citing back pain. Mahan is arguably one of the best current players without a major win. Will the back bother him at Augusta next week?

Finally one of the top favorites for the Masters is Jason Day. Day has not seen much action coming into Masters week because of a thumb injury. Day is a powerful player and a nagging thumb injury could result in a power loss and decreased accuracy. It will be interesting to see if he can get himself in contention on Sunday at the Masters like he has the last few years.

Lost in much of this discussion are the healthy players to watch for like Rory McIlory, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, and Lee Westwood.

Weekend Wrap

Valero Texas Open
AT&T Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

It was quite a strange week at the Valero Texas Open. The biggest name in the field Phil Mickelson was an unexpected and welcomed participant in the field. A solid 2nd round helped Mickelson make the cut after a very poor first round 77.

Mickelson would not finish the tournament however, due to a torn oblique muscle. Now it is in question whether or not Phil will be ready for the Masters.

During the final round of play, two players were tied for the lead. Matt Kuchar and relative unknown Steven Bowditch. Down the stretch Bowditch, an Australian player, built up a two shot cushion. That two shot cushion allowed him the luxury of making a conservative bogey on the final hole to secure the one shot victory.

“I’m over the moon. I really can’t believe it,” said Bowditch following the win. Bowditch will collect a winner’s check for $1.1 million and will be booking his travel arrangements for the Masters. Not bad for a golfer ranked 339th in the world entering the event.

Kia Classic
Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

How Swede it is. Swedish LPGA golfer Anna Nordqvist won the Kia Classic on Sunday. Coming into the final round two shots behind leaders Lizette Salas and Cristie Kerr, Nordqvist fired a final round 67 to take the lead for good.

Nordqvist had been through a five year winless drought until last month’s LPGA Thailand. Now with the Kia Classic win, she has won twice in four starts.

Eurasia Cup
Glenmarie Golf & Country Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It was all smiles for Team Europe for the first two days of the inaugural Eurasia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The European Team was not able to hold onto the lead Sunday though, as the Asian Team recorded a massive comeback to tie this team event at at 10-10 draw. The Asian Trailed 7-3 coming into the final round, scoring seven points to the European Team’s three points.

Weekend Wrap

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando, Fla.

Adam Scott was the talk of Orlando with his opening round 62, tying the course record. At one point in the tournament Scott had an eight shot lead and looked unbeatable. Then talk moved to the fact that if he won the tournament he would overtake Tiger Woods as the #1 ranked golfer in the world.

We all know golf too well to look too far into the future, don’t we?

Over the weekend the magic Scott had disappeared and he started a slow leak of shots to the field. By the time Scott reached the midway point of the final round he found himself tied for the lead with Matt Every.

Every, a former competitor on Golf Channel’s Big Break series, ended up taking a two shot lead into the tough final hole at Bay Hill. Despite making bogey, Every won by one shot at PGA Tour event which was the first he’d ever attended as a child.

Doors have opened now for Every, the first and biggest being an invite to his first Masters, in a couple of weeks.

Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic presented by C Spire
Fallen Oak Golf Course, Saucier, Miss.

Champions Tour rookie Jeff Maggert must have known it was his day on the 17th hole at Fallen Oak Sunday. He was trying to lag a massive 50 foot putt with a large break, just to give himself a chance at a two-putt.

Maggert would not two putt, nor would he three putt. The 50 footer dropped. “The ball found the hole,” said Maggert.

That break was key in the Champions Tour rookie’s win over Billy Andrade. The victory came on his Champions Tour debut.

JTBC Founders Cup
Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Ariz.

39 year old Karrie Webb is showing no signs of slowing down on the LPGA Tour. After recording a course record 63 and taking the lead at Wildfire Golf Club in the final round of the JTBC Founder’s Cup, she waited around for an hour and a half to see if anyone could catch her.

Web’s victory featured overcoming a six shot deficit via 10 birdies to only one bogey.

Weekend Wrap

IMG_0575PGA Tour
Valspar Championship
Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club Copperhead Course
Palm Harbor, Florida

If at first you don’t win, try try again. I did not write “succeed” because on the PGA Tour there are many millionaires who have never “won.”

John Senden had been winless on tour in eight straight years, but the 42 year old Australian rallied late in the tournament to claim a one shot win, and punch his ticket to Augusta and the Masters Tournament next month.

“It feels good to do it again after seven years. Lot of good things to come.”

Another storyline this week at Innisbrook is slow play involving notorious slow player Kevin Na. Robert Garrigus was paired with Na in the final round. Garrigus’s caddie claimed that playing with Na upset his player’s rhythm and cost him the tournament, which he had had a commanding lead in shortly before.

Slow play is a discussion for another day.

Champions Tour
Toshiba Classic
Newport Beach Country Club
Newport Beach, California

PGA Tour and Champions Tour favorite Fred Couples carded his 10th win on the senior circuit this past weekend at the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. In a classic case of “drive for show and putt for dough,” Couples’s great putting made up for driving which Couples called, “driving it all over the lot.”

Three players tied for 2nd place, Steve Pate, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. Montgomerie’s tournament was highlighted by a fantastic final round 62.

Weekend Wrap

IMG_0575PGA Tour/European Tour
WGC Cadillac Championship
Trump National Doral
Doral, Florida

Name this player: He wore black pants and a red shirt on Sunday at the WGC Cadillac Championship. He had the lead going into the last 18 holes, and with a gritty performance held onto the lead to take home the first place trophy.

Tiger Woods? Not this week.

That player would be none other than Patrick Reed.

“You know, it would be cool to wear black and red coming down on Sunday. Just happens to be that we both (he and Tiger Woods) wear it on Sunday now.” ~Patrick Reed
Following the win Reed was quoted as saying he should be ranked in the top five in the world, rather than roughly 20th, where he will end up after this week.
Speaking of the top five in the world… Woods, coming off a withdrawal the previous week, fired a 3rd round 66 to bring himself into contention. But that bad back flared up again on a bunker shot in the final round on the sixth hole. Woods would record and birdie-less final round, the first time that has happened in his entire PGA Tour career.

Puerto Rico Open
Trump International Golf Club
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

“I wasn’t vomiting or anything, but there were a couple of times where I felt nauseous out on the course.” Sounds familiar. That’s what Chesson Hadley had to say after he closed out the victory on in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.

Hadley made birdie on the final two holes to seal the victory, two shots ahead of Danny Lee. This win marks the first win for a rookie on the PGA Tour since Jordan Spieth in July of 2013.

Other notables in the field included John Daly, who made the cut and tied for 49th place. David Duval missed the cut with two consecutive 73’s on Thursday and Friday.