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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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It’s official: Tiger Woods to start season at Farmers Insurance Open

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As expected, Tiger Woods will be in the field for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines next week. Woods made the announcement today via his social media channels.

The 43-year-old has won at the venue eight times (seven Farmers, one U.S. Open). He most recently claimed a W at the La Jolla, California, course when he won the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open. He tied for 23rd at the event last year.

We last saw the 14-time major champion in action at his Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Phil Mickelson. He hasn’t played an official PGA Tour event since winning the Tour Championship at the end of September.

Woods is also officially committed to the Genesis Open, which is run by his foundation and begins February 14 at Riviera.

Rory McIlroy also announced this week that he’ll tee it up at Torrey Pines (for the first time) amid a strong field that also includes world No. 1 Justin Rose.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about Tiger’s 2019 debut in the forums. 

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Morning 9: Why Rose signed with Honma | The incredible story of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

January 16, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Why Rose signed with Honma
John Strege talked with Justin Rose about the rationale for his shock decision to jump ship and sign with relatively unknown in the U.S., Tour presence-lacking Honma.
  • “Yet it wasn’t woods or irons that precipitated Rose’s decision to look beyond the most popular brands and opt for a brand well known in Asia but virtually a nonentity in the U.S. and European markets. It was the opportunity to choose any putter and what that represents to an elite golfer-freedom from club contracts that require a player’s entire set come from their equipment benefactor.”
  • “That was a big factor in having that flexibility,” Rose said at Honma’s official North American launch Monday at Riviera Country Club. “The putter was a huge reason why this conversation [with Honma] started. I’ve continued, fortunately, to be surprised at every step of the way with the products Honma has been able to produce.”
  • “The putter that Rose is eyeing right now is the Axis1, even less well known than Honma but a true expression of the freedom of choice he’s now focused on. Honma, too, offered Rose the ability to have input into the design of the irons, including the TW 747 Rose Prototype muscle back irons, at least some of which he will have in play on Thursday. Collaboration has become one of Rose’s motivating principles.”
2. Dou in front
After a 2018 season to forget, Zecheng “Marty” Dou is in position to start the new year on a much more positive note.
  • Dou shot a 5-under 67 in the third round of the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, turning a two-shot deficit into a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the season opener on the Web.com Tour.
  • Dou earned a PGA Tour card via the Web.com circuit in 2017, but his debut on the big stage last year didn’t go as planned. The 21-year-old missed the cut or withdrew in 19 of 23 starts, failing to register a single top-50 result.
  • Faced with a demotion for 2019, Dou has gotten off to a nearly ideal start in the Bahamas and sits at 16 under, three shots clear of John Oda, after recording seven birdies in the third round. Oda started with a two-shot lead but dropped after an even-par 72.

Full piece. 

3. LPGA gets it taste of the new rules…
Will Gray of Golf Channel...”With the LPGA Tour back in action this week, pros will play under the revised 2019 Rules for the first time.”
  • “Randall Mell writes…”The practice has always been more prevalent in LPGA than PGA Tour events, but you won’t see it in this week’s LPGA season opener, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, or any other events.”
  • “No lining up is the greatest change in all the rules,” Lewis said.
  • “Brittany Lincicome and her long-time caddie, Missy Pederson, are among tandems who will be getting used to new routines. Lincicome was among pros who used her caddie for alignment….”The lining up thing is going to be fine,” Lincicome said. “I know how to do it. I play every day of my life at home without my caddie lining me up.”

Full piece.

4. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez
Cameron Morfit on the incredible story of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez.
  • A morsel….”The first time I saw him on the driving range, I thought this guy is unbelievable,” says Mike Dwyer, a club caddie who began working for Rodríguez a week before he won his first Web.com Tour title last April. “It’s just a pure swing, it’s not technical; it’s not going to go away. It’s just so rhythmic; the timing of it is always money, it’s free-flowing. Just straight back and let it rip, all feel. And then when I saw his short game, I thought, this guy has got it all.”
  • “In one sense, Rodríguez is unremarkable. He went from the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada to PGA TOUR Latinoamerica to the Web.com Tour to the PGA TOUR. He got married, had a few kids. It’s just that his journey included dropping out of school at age 12 to help his family put food on the table. And setting out for America three years later for the same reason.”
  • “And always, to this day, feeling like an outsider….””It’s a game of rich people,” he says, describing the occasional voice of doubt in his head. “When you have nothing, you think they’re going to look at you and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ But my wife said, ‘No, you go play. It’s the golf clubs that talk. You have money, you don’t have money, the clubs don’t care.'”
5. Sanderson Farms no longer an alternate event
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”On Tuesday Sanderson Farms officials, along with the PGA Tour, announced the Jackson-based event has graduated from its alternate status-it’s been opposite the WGC-HSBC in recent years, along with the Open Championship and Ryder and Presidents Cups-to become a stand-alone competition for the 2019-’20 season.
  • “We would like to thank Joe Sanderson and Sanderson Farms for their continued commitment to Mississippi’s PGA Tour event,” said Andy Pazder, PGA Tour chief competitions and tournaments officer. “The partnership between the PGA Tour and the Sanderson Farms Championship is unique in that Joe Sanderson has been selfless with his intentions for the tournament and the State of Mississippi. Because of Joe’s vision for growing the state’s largest professional sporting event, this stand-alone date will further elevate the tournament’s stature and provide an even better experience for fans attending the Sanderson Farms Championship.”
6. Waugh on cynicism
Geoff Shackelford… “New PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh sat down with Morning Read’s Adam Schupak to discuss his vision for the PGA as a the United Nations of golf and several other topics. He may have said too much, oh, throughout most of the chat.”
  • “There’s a natural cynicism of the members about HQ. There’s this feeling that we get to drive our courtesy cars and we’re sitting down there in Florida and all this money is rolling in and, What’s in it for me? I’ve got three kids going off to school, and my lesson book is going down, and I don’t have any health care and whatever. They’re right.”
  • “Well that’s why that cynicism has been natural all these years….We have to figure that out if we want this to work. We have an army of 29,000 people who are the best army in the game to make it better. We need to figure out how to make their lives better and incent them to do the things to make that all happen. The selfish thing is, if we figure it out, we’ll have a more passionate group to get it done for us. That’s what I’m hoping, and that’s why I’m here.”
7. More from Whan on pay disparity
How important is it to you that the PGA and LPGA tour have the same prize money for this new award?
“Before being commissioner, I was a sponsor. I’ve written checks to every sport, and I get it, you pay for what that entity can deliver. And we deliver about a fourth of the eyeballs the PGA Tour does week in and week out, and that translates about to what we play for. That’s not something have to have a sponsor solve, that’s something we have to solve. But it’s really encouraging that in the last few years sponsors have come to me with some real foundational moves in the direction of payment equality. When CME came to me and said they wanted a winner’s check of $1.5 million, I wasn’t there pleading for a higher purse, they came to us. When AON said we want to pay the men and the women the same for this competition, it wasn’t a mandate from me in our agreement. So, you asked how important it is, I think the importance is that it wasn’t my idea. Companies are bringing it to me, not the other way around. We have a lot to do to solve payment inequality, and it has nothing to do with sponsors. But when sponsors say it’s what I want to do because it’s the right thing to do, then I think we’re seeing a really good shift happening.”
8. Kerr carrying on
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”Cristie Kerr appeared on Golf Channel as a guest analyst last weekend, offering insight during the Golf Central pregame show leading into the Sony Open. Kerr isn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon, but the idea of doing a little television work when she’s not playing seemed appealing.
  • Kerr, a 41-year-old mother of two, has always been one of the best quotes in the women’s game. She’s not afraid to offer an opinion and rarely delivers one of those bland, programmed responses that have become the norm.”
  • “Want a straight answer? Ask C.K….”I’m not going to put a limit on it,” said Kerr, when asked if her timeline for playing had changed now that she’s a mother of two boys.”
9. Rose’s Honma sticks
Our Johnny Wunder got a look a Justin Rose’s new Honma setup at a launch event California the other day.
Driver: Honma TW 747 460 9.5
Shaft: Honma Vizard FD-7X 45.25 @D3
3-wood: TaylorMade M4 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 80TX
5-wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 80TX
Irons: TW747V (4,5), TW747 Rose Proto (5-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper 125 S+
Wedges: Honma Custom Grind RAW (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Wedge Works (60, K-Grind)
Shafts: KBS Hi-Rev 2.0 135XS
Putter: Axis 1 Proto
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
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Paul Casey IS testing Honma irons (but he IS NOT a Honma staffer)

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It turns out, Paul Casey is not the second PGA Tour staffer (after Justin Rose) to sign with Honma.

Two weeks ago, the Englishman sent the golf equipment world was sent into a frenzy when a photo of him with an apparent Honma iron in play at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Casey took to Instagram to confirm that he did in fact have a Honma 3-iron in play. However, well, here it is from the horse’s mouth…

“Still testing these beauties. Contrary to reports I started the season with almost the exact same setup that I used during the latter half of last year. Including the Ryder Cup. The only change being a new @honmagolf 3 iron that was photographed in play at Kapalua”

“These beauties” would seem to include a full set of Rose Proto-esque irons (with “PC” stamping instead of “Rose Proto”). It seems the 3-iron was Honma’s TW-U Forged utility iron.

With respect to his setup from last season, Casey played a combo set of Mizuno MP-25 irons (3) and MP-5 irons (4-PW). TaylorMade woods, Vokey Wedges, and a Scotty Cameron putter rounded out his set, which you can see here.

Casey has been without a full bag deal since his 2016 Nike deal (although he was under contract to play TaylorMade woods in 2017).

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