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5 things we learned on Thursday at The Masters

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The first round of the 2018 Masters tournament played out under sunny skies, and the return of Tiger Woods to Augusta National was on every patron and viewer’s mind. The first-round script usually calls for the resurgence of an aging, former champion; a stellar showing by a few first-timers, and a statement by one or two favorites. And all of those happened today.

Here’s what we learned from an exciting Day 1.

1) The National giveth and taketh away

In 2017, an unlikely eagle provided the catalyst for Sergio Garcia’s comeback and ultimate victory. In 2018, four consecutive water balls brought the Spaniard to 10-over par on the day. His 13 on the hole was the highest ever recorded by a competitor, and brought him to a score of 81. Barring a low 60s score on Friday, Garcia’s weekend work will be restricted to putting the green jacket on the 2018 champion’s shoulders.

2) Holding the lead is a difficult proposition, no matter the round

At 5:00, six golfers were tied at 3-under par. Four of them came to the 18th tee at 4-under, only to walk off the final green with bogey. One of those fellows was Tony Finau, who gave the golf world a fright during the par three contest by dislocating his ankle during a hole-in-one celebration. A la Dustin Johnson and the Wednesday sockscapade of 2017, Finau wasn’t certain he’d be able to play this morning. He did, and ended up at 4-under par, tied for second place with Matt Kuchar after 18 holes. Not far behind are Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy (69), and Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson (70).

And the leader? Well, Jordan Spieth had birdied 5 consecutive holes (13-17) when he came to to the 18th tee box and hit wood. Not a wood, not a metal wood, but a tree. He had to pitch out to the beginning of the fairway, leaving 250 yards to the green for his third shot. The unflappable Texan (and 2015 Masters champion) smashed his ball greenside, then pitched brilliantly to a few inches to save bogey, and finish at 66 on the day.

3) An amateur made headlines, at just the right time

Doug Ghim was unable to preserve a late lead in last summer’s U.S. Amateur final match. He received an invitation to the Masters based on his runner-up finish, and ensured that he would not leave Augusta without some memorabilia. Ghim made two eagles on the inward nine, for which he will receive four crystal highball glasses. Perhaps now spellcheck everywhere will leave his last name alone, and refrain from adjusting it to GHIN.

4) Let’s talk about Spieth some more

As mentioned above, the 2015 champion and two-time runner-up was the talk of the town on Thursday. His numbers card read like this: 1 eagle, 7 birdies, 3 bogeys and 7 pars. The Texan reached 2-under at the third green, but gave two strokes back over the next four holes. On the 8th, the uphill par 5, a fortuitous carom off the left greenside mounds brought his ball to rest, some 15 feet from eagle. Spieth converted, and returned to red figures. The brilliant birdie run through the back nine was almost undone by his wretched drive at the last, but Spieth played a great pitch back into play, then two more wonderful shots to only lose one stroke in the process.

5) Oh, right, Tiger Woods played today

When a chap signs for 73, and that chap happens to be a four-time champion at Augusta, that plus-one doesn’t usually deserve much media attention. If someone had said back in 2005, “Tiger won’t win a single one of the next dozen Masters,” we’d have questioned the person’s capacity for rational thought. As that did come to pass, including two consecutive years (2016 and 2017) when Woods didn’t even participate in the tournament, today’s plus-one does deserve attention. As Woods himself explained, his sloppy play on the par-five holes accounted for his score. Even-par is sloppy for the game’s greatest player, when 2-under on those holes would have brought him into red figures. Does Woods really have a chance at a 5th green jacket? If he signs for a 66 tomorrow, we might just be convinced.

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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.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Clancy

    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    “Tiger won’t win a single one of the next dozen Masters,”

    I said it in 2007, and I said it again each and every year since then when the “Will Tiger…” stories come to light. He’s done. Sure, he might win a tourney here or there again, but he’ll never win another Major. Mark my words.

  2. Wysluxury

    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Who do you think will win 2018 The Masters tournament?

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Ask me after 36 holes. Anyone can have a great or poor first day. We’ll see if the “right/wrong side of the draw” has impact. Tomorrow’s weather for the 3rd round will impact the event tremendously.

  3. Man

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:39 am

    That’s what you get for abandoning the company that finally helped you all this time to win a major, Sergio!

  4. Chris

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Sergios shots were fine, I think the set-up of the course is just plain stupid

    • Keith

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Have to be able to control your spin. Surprised he didn’t get a little closer with the drops to hit more of a 3/4 shot with less spin.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Did anyone else see the ball that hung up between 15 green and the water? We saw it 4 times as Sergio’s balls passed it by. Those are the vagaries of the conditioning.

    • DaveJ

      Apr 6, 2018 at 11:22 am

      They were good swings for sure, but he did a poor job of controlling the spin. I wonder if the ball he uses now spins more than his previous ball did. Sounds good on paper until you back 5 up into the drink. He’ll learn from it. I predict he throws a low number out there this afternoon and flirts with the cut.

  5. Bryan

    Apr 6, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Tiger shot -2 70 in the first round of 1997. 40-30

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USGA, R&A finalize limits on green-reading materials

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The review period is over the USGA and R&A’s new interpretation of Rule 4.3 as it pertains to green-reading materials is finalized.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the governing bodies have agreed to limit the size and scale of putting green maps. However, one of the most contentious elements of the original proposal, which would have allowed only depictions of slope greater than four percent, isn’t included in the final decision.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance. “We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game.”

Per the official USGA release, yardage books may not include

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”).
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 ¼ inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays nine or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting-green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand-drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or his or her caddie.
  • The final interpretation also clearly defines that any use of electronic or digital putting-green maps must comply with the same limits.

The release also indicates the USGA and R&A will continue evaluating the use of green-reading materials.

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Tour Rundown: Pepperell wins the British masters, Leishman wins in Malaysia, Langer wins again

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October, and the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear. U2

Perhaps it’s due to its status as my birth month, or something larger and deeper. October is a raw month, as April was cruel for Eliot. It is raw in its golf, too. Of the four events played this week, only one took place in the USA. Touring professionals left the summer of majors behind, to journey globally, in search of answers and questions. They went to Malaysia, England and Korea (and let’s not forget, North Carolina.) Names both familiar and emerging claimed trophies, and the game marched on. Here’s a Sunday rundown of all things tour, mid-October.

CIMB in Malaysia in Leishman’s hands

Marc Leishman’s brilliance with golf cudgels is know well to his touring brethren. To the golfing public, which measures fame in little more than major victories, he is an enigma. And here was Leishman, on Sunday at Kuala Lumpur, schooling playing partner Gary Woodland and the rest of the field with a brilliant 65. There were lower scores, but just barely (a pair of 64s.) Leishman had 62 earlier in the week, but was a wee bit overlooked, as Woodland had 61 the same day. On Sunday, there was no mistaking the two. Leishman rushed from the gate with birdies on hole 2 through 5, scarcely glancing rearward at the trailers. He summited 26 strokes beneath par, equalling the tournament record and placing him five clear of the runners-up. Woodland tried to keep pace, but fell off the rails midway through the inward half. 3 bogeys in 5 holes did him in, dropping him back to a tie for 5th at -20. 2nd spot on the podium belonged to the american trio of Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Chesson Hadley and Bronson Burgoon (both USA). The victory compelled Leishman to 2nd spot on the young FedEx Cup list for 2018-19.

Hana Bank belongs to Dumbo

If In Gee Chun had her way, the golfer nicknamed Dumbo would scamper off by gobs of strokes with each tournament. Owner of an unfortunate 0-3 record in LPGA Tour playoffs, the Korean golfer wants no part of extra holes. While 3rd-round leader Charley Hull of England struggled with birdie-bogey runs, Chun birdied 4 of her first 6 holes and separated herself by 3 strokes from the field. Out in 31, she resisted the lure of a 10th-hole bogey and added 2 more birdies to reach 16-under par. Hull and company could not close the gap, and the Englishwoman settled for 2nd at -13. Chun began the week with matching 70s, to place herself inside the top 20, but not yet a threat. Her weekend was nearly flawless, as she matched 66s on Saturday and Sunday, to emerge from the multitude. The win was her first, non-major victory on the LPGA Tour, coming after triumphs at the 2015 US Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Ace, Ace, Baby propels Pepperell to British Masters title

It was a rugged, mucky affair on Sunday at Walton Heath, born of the talented hand of architect Herbert Fowler. Eddie Pepperell, who spends a fair amount of time mucking around on Twitter, was the man for the job. He began the day at -9, and ended the day at that figure. Most times, even par gets you nowhere on tour; on this particular Sunday, it got you to the top of the podium. Pepperell had four eagles on the week, including an ace on Thursday and the hole-out below for a deuce on Sunday. The winner made a massive putt for par on 14, which probably saved his round. He bogeyed 15 and 16 to let Alexander Bjork into the tournament. The Swede was unable to capitalize, bogeying 18 to offer Pepperell a 2-stroke advantage at the home hole. The Englishman finished in proper form, getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker to win by a pair.

By the way, if you want a crack at Fowler in North America, visit Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod (which he built) or Pebble Beach, whose 18th hole he extended to its current glory.

SAS Championship almost never in doubt for Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer made a single bogey in 54 holes this week. The inconceivable occurrence happened precisely at the midway point of the tournament, on the 27th hole of SAS Championship. Astronomers at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico acknowledged a slight orbital shift at that very moment, while CERN scientists reported … oh, never mind. Langer had made 8 birdies in 9, back-nine holes on Friday for 29 on the par-37 side. It was ultimately his week, although Gene Sauers kept pace for a while. The duo matched 62-67 through 36 holes, but Sunday was all Germany. Langer had 7 birdies on the day for 65, leaving him 6 strokes clear of 2nd-place Scott Parel. Sauers struggled in round three, tumbling all the way to a tie for 5th spot, after a +3 75.

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How a broken 6-iron changed Eddie Pepperell’s 2018

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When Eddie Pepperell was scrambling around local golf shop Auchterlonies in Scotland on the week of The Open Championship looking for an emergency replacement shaft for his 6-iron, he probably didn’t believe that moment would change the trajectory of his 2018. That incident, however, played a considerable role in Pepperell’s wire-to-wire victory at last week’s British Masters.

In Scotland, Pepperell had his 6-iron fitted with the KBS C-Taper shaft, and according to Mizuno’s Matt McIsaac, at The Open that week, he hit his 6-iron better than any other club over the four days on his way to a T6 finish.

Fast-forward to last week’s British Masters, and on the Monday of the event, the Englishman was to have a filming session with Mizuno where the company would demonstrate to him its shaft optimizer.  Pepperell was then taken through Mizuno’s 3-swing diagnostic process, where lo and behold they recommended the KBS C-Taper shaft to him.

Described as “very much a feel player” by McIsaac, Pepperell equipped himself that day with a new set of JPX 919 Tour irons, with KBS C Taper shafts, and then went on to win the British Masters just a few days later.

What should we glean from this story? Well according to Matt McIsaac, it’s that there is a best fit shaft out there for everyone.

“There’s a ‘best fit’ shaft for everyone – for Eddie; it was the KBS C Taper – for someone else it will be the S Taper.  Wait for the moment when you’re open to improvement, throw away your preconceptions and try the Optimizer.  It doesn’t know if you’re male, female a tour winner or a 24 hcp – just measures your move and finds the best shaft for it.”

With last week’s victory, Pepperell, who sat 133rd in the Official World Golf Rankings at the beginning of the year, is now ranked 33rd in the world and looks assured of a place at Augusta National next year for the Masters.

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