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Five things we learned on Day 3 of the 2017 Masters

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We’ve all had a refresher course on how The Masters doesn’t truly begin until the back nine on Sunday. That doesn’t mean that Saturday falls from importance. To the contrary, more than a handful of golfers seized the opportunity to separate a bit from the field and insert themselves into the Sunday conversation.

Curious? Let’s see what we learned on Day 3 of the 81st Masters.

Odds are that a fresh Masters champion will emerge

Just barely, though. Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel each played their way into contention on Day 3. Winners of three of the past six playings, each of that trio went into the 60s to move within three strokes of the lead. On the other hand, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia occupy the top three spots on the leaderboard. Rose has the most success in events of this stature, with a U.S. Open and an Olympic gold medal on his resume. Also in the hunt are Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore. Moore was quite decorated as an amateur but little more than a journeyman pro until his 2016 Ryder Cup heroics. Hoffman had the opportunity to play alongside eventual champion Jordan Spieth in 2015, doubtless gleaning wisdom from the opportunity.

When you don’t know what you don’t know

Your name is Rory McIlroy, or Thomas Pieters, or Jon Rahm. The last two can be forgiven their missteps. They are novice Masters contestants and their urgent rises and falls can be attributed to a scant understanding and appreciation of the vagaries and nuances of the greens, the winds, the patron reactions and other elements of this singular event. Pieters twice reached 4-under par this week, and twice dropped 3-4 strokes on the inward half. Rahm inched to 2-under on multiple occasions, but was never able to sustain that number, much less go deeper. We will find out next year what they’ve learned from Masters 1.0.

McIlroy is a much more perplexing study. With the departure of Dustin Johnson on Thursday, the Ulsterman became the favorite to win in the eyes of many. Rory reached red figures at the third hole on Saturday, but gave two back with a double bogey at the 7th. He fought back to even par, but unless a Sunday 63 sits quietly in his bag, 2017 will pass without a career grand slam for the media-heir apparent to Tiger’s crown.

Does Westwood have a career round in him?

No one wants to be the next coming of Monty, a Brit with superior skills but an inability to close out a major title. Westwood has been close in many, and he has also been quite distant (as he was last fall at the Ryder Cup, when his putting was symptomatic of St. Vitus’ dance.) On this third day, Westwood signed for 68 and moved to red figures, five shots behind the lead. It’s almost too much to hope that the European stalwart might summon his best and emerge from a crowded and talented field. It will take a round deep into the 60s to offer any chance at immortality. It has happened before, for lesser golfers, so perhaps it’s finally Lee’s time.

There’s much to be said for mellow

Fred Couples has been the master of mellow for his entire career. While it only earned him one major title, he certainly won his share of tour events. For yet another year, the Washington state native played himself into contention. He went for the gusto at “The Locker” (holes Nos. 15 and 16, if you haven’t heard) but the pairing of double bogey with bogey dropped him from 2-under to 1-over and out of contention.

A fellow mellow aspirant is first-time participant William McGirt, who earned his invitation with a win at the 2016 Memorial. He promised to enjoy the walks around the course and to soak up as much of the Masters experience as possible. As late as the 16th hole on Saturday, McGirt stood 2-under, but closing bogeys at Nos. 17 and 18 dropped him back. Still, he’ll have one more walk around the nursery on Sunday, and you can bet he’ll be relaxed.

Sunday pairings and some closing thoughts

Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia will go off last, preceded immediately by Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, with Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman in the antepenultimate duo. Those matches could not set up any better for the six. Rose and Garcia have been European Ryder Cup teammates for over a decade. Fowler and Spieth represent much of the present and future of American golf, and Moore and Hoffman are two guys who should have no real shot at being here, but here is exactly where they are.

So here’s the prediction: one of those pairings will feature a shootout for the ages. It will resemble the Stenson-Mickelson duel of Open Championship 2016… and may even surpass it. Rarely are so many golfers so well matched. Masters Sunday should surpass even these highlights!

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. ooffa

    Apr 9, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    They need to change the venue. Tired of watching it at the same course every year.

  2. Prime21

    Apr 9, 2017 at 7:31 am

    How is any pairing going to “resemble” Stenson/Mickelson? Considering it was arguably the greatest Sunday ever played by a pairing in major championship history, don’t you feel like your reaching just a tad? Just curious why media members in general always want to compare/contrast instead of just letting it be judged on its own merit? But, I know if it is going to be mentioned in the same breath as Stenson/Mickelson, it’s going to be a birdie fest & nobody will take their eyes off of the tv today. Happy Masters Sunday to all!

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 9, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Prime21,

      Excellent question and kudos for following up with solid support. Here’s my rejoinder: we’re at the water cooler and I’m on a bit of a brag. I’m not an investigative reporter, and the world’s security will never depend on the words I write. You fire back at me “Dude, no way. And why you all about making comparisons and contrasts?” And I respond with:

      Not all media members do this, just some of us;
      If I’m correct, you will hold me in higher regard as a soothsayer (or a lucky SOB, one or the other);
      I have a hunch, and it’s a big one, that rarely do you get two pairing, let alone three, where the golfers are supremely comfortable together. I even forgot the UNLV connection with Moore-Hoffman.

      And that’s the way it is. I’m Walter Cronkite.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 9, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Other than that, Mr. Montgomerie, how did you like the play?

  4. St.

    Apr 9, 2017 at 3:44 am

    The course set up doesn’t have enough rough, and the bunkers are too perfect and all are getting out far too easily with pretty shots. Trees and pine straw, yes, but not enough rough to catch everybody off guard and cut their distances. Too easy to hit out of the pine straw and too easy to hit out of the rough and sand. There was no need to really ruin the course by changing some of the holes’ shapes by adding odd trees and jut-out pine straw areas – why don’t they just grow the rough 2 more inches in all areas and force the players to hack it out? That’ll put so much more premium on driving accuracy, they will all think twice about bombing and gouging it, hoping the ball would run out into the pine straw (and on so many occasions, the rough doesn’t catch it because it’s non-existant). Instead of just lengthening some holes, they could just as easily have tightened the holes by bringing the rough in. It’s such a strange tournament now, seeing some of them hit driver & 5/6 iron on holes like 15.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 9, 2017 at 6:21 am

      And make it like every other wretched, punitive, monotonous, hack-out course that used to host a US Open? Put more premium on driving accuracy, like Winged Foot in 1974 and 2006? Yay. You need a trip to the great links courses stat. Augusta has more in common with them than American rough houses, despite the waterworks of RTJ Senior.

    • BB

      Apr 9, 2017 at 6:29 am

      There are only 10 guys under par. Doesn’t sound like the course is a pushover.

      • Ronald Montesano

        Apr 9, 2017 at 7:58 am

        BB,

        You nailed it. Not a pushover, very walkable for the patrons, given the hills. The Masters is equal parts tournament, patron event, viewer event. Big-picture thinking is required here. I used to love years when eagles landed on all the par fives, but I’m quite happy with this year’s event, too.

      • S Hitter

        Apr 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

        Errrr, i think the weather from the first two days has something to do with the scores? And it’s a big putting contest, and the greens are playing especially tricky as well, with the weather affecting the ball, as we saw on the first two days where some of the balls were seen to be oscillating and in danger of rolling away.
        But, to be fair, seeing the ball bounce from the fairway through the “rough” into the pine straw on more than enough occasions makes you wonder why they even have any short rough at all

  5. ND Hickman

    Apr 9, 2017 at 3:33 am

    Monty. British – yes. English – no.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 9, 2017 at 6:22 am

      Unbelievable. How did I make that mistake? As if I could forget the repeated references to his upbringing along the hardscrabble alleys of Royal Troon! Thanks for the catch. We will amend it.

      • S Hitter

        Apr 9, 2017 at 10:16 am

        You represent ugly Yanks very well though

  6. AussieAussieAussie

    Apr 9, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Month as English and Patrick Reed is Canadian!!! Jeez guys!

  7. Daniel

    Apr 9, 2017 at 1:44 am

    If you ever meet monty, please tell him he is an “englishman” and watch his reaction ????. Those scotts don’t take too kindly to this kind of “insult”

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 9, 2017 at 6:24 am

      I feel like I’ve read this somewhere else. I don’t think that commenters read other comments before commenting. For the thriceth time, I shall ameliorate this antebellum despication.

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Tiger changes driver-weight settings, shoots even-par 70 at Honda Classic

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After missing the cut by four strokes at the 2018 Genesis Open last week, Tiger Woods is back at it again this week at the Honda Classic; it’s the first time he’s played in back-to-back PGA Tour events since 2015.

Opting for something other than driver off the tee much of the day, Woods made one double bogey, one bogey, and three birdies en route to an even-par 70.

It’s no secret that Woods has been struggling off the tee of late, especially with the driver. He’s hitting just 35 percent of fairways on the year, and he has already made one driver shaft change (going from a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX to a Matrix Ozik TP6HDe ahead of the Genesis Open). According to photos on Thursday, it appears Woods has also changed the weight settings in his TaylorMade M3 for a bit more forgiveness and fade-bias (as pictured above). At the Genesis Open and the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods had the M3 driver weights in the forward position, which moves CG (center of gravity) forward and tends to lower spin.

On Thursday, however, Woods hit a slew of long irons and fairway woods off the tee instead of drivers at the 7,100-yard par-70 PGA National… an approach that seemed to work. Well, he hit just 50 percent of the fairways on the day, but that means he’s trending upward.

One of the shots Woods hit with the driver was so far right it was literally laughable… but he managed to make par anyway.

Actually, his double-bogey 7 on the par-5 third hole (his 12th of the day) came after hitting the fairway; he was fumbling on and around the green after hitting his third into a greenside bunker. That blunder aside, three birdies and an even-par round at the always-difficult PGA National leaves Woods currently in T19, obviously well inside the cutline.

Do you think Woods will make the cut? Do you think he can contend to win the tournament?

See the clubs Tiger Woods has in his bag this week at the 2018 Honda Classic.

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

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The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

Check out our photos from the 2018 Honda Classic below!

Wednesday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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USGA, R&A to roll out new World Handicap System in 2020

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A new handicap system is here, or rather, it will be once the USGA and R&A begin to fully implement the World Handicap System in 2020.

The new system focuses on achieving three main objectives: 1) encouraging as many golfers as possible to maintain a handicap, 2) enabling golfers of different abilities, genders, and nationalities to compete fairly, and 3) determining the score a golfer is reasonably capable of shooting at any particular course anywhere in the world.

Currently there are six handicapping systems worldwide, owing to the existence of six handicapping authorities: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.

Under the new program, the USGA and R&A will oversee the World Handicap System and the governing bodies will be in charge of local administration.

The USGA presents the WHS as a better system that simplifies the existing structures. Not surprisingly, the organization believes the WHS will compel more golfers to maintain a handicap.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis sees the new system marching arm-in-arm with the revisions to (and simplification of) the Rules of Golf.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play.”

Key features of the WHS include:

  • Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.
  • A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”
  • A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.
  • An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”
  • A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.
  • Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.
  • A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only).
  • A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and R&A conducted quantitative research in 15 countries around the world. 76 percent of the 52,000 respondents voiced their support for a World Handicap System, 22 percent were willing to consider its benefits, and only 2 percent were opposed.

The research also helped model the tenets of the WHS, but, as mentioned, don’t tear up your GHIN cards just yet: We’ve only just begun the two-year transition period prior to the implementation.

To provide feedback to the USGA on the new World Handicap System, golfers can email the USGA at whsfeedback@usga.org, or see usga.org/whs for more info.

Additionally, the USGA created this FAQ.

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