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5 things we learned on Saturday at The 2018 Masters

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If ever there was a moving day at The Masters, this was it! Paul Casey and marker Jeff Knox set the tone by moving around the course in 3.5 hours, in the day’s first pairing. With rain delays always on their minds, the field seemed to play with greater urgency, even when recovering from trouble. By day’s end, the leader was the same guy who led after 36, but the field had circled the wagons to ensure a Sunday to remember. Let’s assess the 5 things we learned on Saturday at the Masters.

1) Captain America might add green to his color palette

For a guy who has bled red, white and blue to rally the troops, on multiple occasions for Team USA, Patrick Reed has a shabby record in major events. On Sunday, he’ll have his finest opportunity to put that reputation away for all time. Reed made one (see below) then two (see above) eagles on Saturday afternoon to grab a three-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy, his Sunday playing partner. As if either needed additional motivation, the two faced off in one of the great mano a mano duels in Ryder Cup history, at Hazeltine in 2016. Let’s raise a glass to a reprise on Sunday at Augusta.

See the clubs Reed has in his bag this week

2) Rory McIlroy v.2018 is different from v.2011

We all remember v.2011, curly hair and boyish, nearly hitting a ball into one of the guest cabins left of the 10th fairway. This Rory, 7 years older, wiser, more mature, is ready to win, to complete the grand slam. He’s even a bit luckier, but the luck of the Northern Irish can only impact one shot per hole (see below)! The OW Rory recovers from trees, pine straw, azaleas, you name it. On Sunday, he’ll need to blend patience and urgency to perfection, to finally capture the event so many predicted for him, so much earlier in his career.

3) Can El Vasco control his emotions one day more?

If there is a Rory v.2011 in 2K18, his name is Jon Rahm and he is the greatest Basque hope since Chema, Jose Maria Olazabal. Rahm would love to join JM as an Augusta champion. Saturday saw Rahm birdie his first two holes, eagle the 8th, then add three more chirps on the back nine for a bogey-free 65 (Fowler and McIlroy also posted that number.) If Rahm can play another round without blemish on Sunday, it will be hard to keep the green jacket off his broad shoulders. Zorte On!

4) Is it Finally Fowler?

In 2014, Fowler finished in the top five of all four major tournaments, winning none of them. He tied for 5th at last year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championships. It’s safe to say that Dick Fowler, P.I. is about done with coming close. He has a Players Championship and would love to set the menu for next year’s champions’ dinner. If you’ve not paid attention, Fowler may exhibit the greatest combination of putting confidence and putting skill on tour. This pairing will serve him well in round 4. Will Rickie show up in all-orange as usual on Sunday, repping his OK State Cowboys? Would he serve chicken, rice and broccoli at next year’s dinner? Who knows? Fowler is due, and his 1-eagle-5-birdie-0-bogey (sound familiar) performance on Saturday might be the catalyst for his first major title as a professional.

5) Only one guy in the elite eight has a green jacket

We know that Henrik Stenson (5th place at -7) has an Open Championship on his resume, but only the left-hander at 6-under (T6) of the top 8 has a green jacket. Let’s say that Bubba Watson goes out and shoots 64 tomorrow, to get to 14-under par. Will it be enough? Doubtful. Too many great golfers, and one of them has to reach 15-under by day’s end…right? OK, let’s try this prediction: either Bubba Watson wins his third Masters OR we have a first-time winner. Yup, we’ll bet the house on that one.

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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.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 8, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I already provided you with evidence on your prior article. Be a NY snowflake and block me if you wish. If you can handle the truth, then perhaps I’m better off not reading your bias junk.

    Can’t help you if you are not willing to have an honest discussion.

  2. Caroline

    Apr 8, 2018 at 1:39 am

    Great Masters, a handful of hopefuls tomorrow…still the saddest part of the week is that John Daly in the parking lot of Hooters pitching his wears…there is a man that should have won the Masters 20 years ago but could not get out of his own way.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 5:38 am

      I watched Daly play the NCAA Championship as a freshman at Arkansas, in 1986 at Bermuda Run CC in Advance, NC. Silly long, unbelievable talent. He was a joy to watch, but we suffered with him along the way. He seems happy, doing what he does: plays Champions Tour, hangs out, sells stuff. Godspeed.

  3. AndyK

    Apr 7, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I’ll be surprised if Rory doesn’t win.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 5:41 am

      I’ll be surprised by whoever wins!! There is no one that I would call the favorite: with the exception of Bubba (as mentioned above) none has any personal experience with winning at The Nursery. Rahm is the only, early-20s in the top 8, so all have calloused souls. I think it will go to a playoff.

  4. Man

    Apr 7, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    What did we learn from this article?
    Nothing. It’s garbage. I thought it was going to something we didn’t know about some inside information or some history about Day 3 in comparison, but no, it’s just some garbage about some heresay and everything we already know or are thinking about.
    Sheesh

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 5:43 am

      I know what I learned: no matter how well I THINK I’ve put something together, it’s not enough. I’ll keep trying, Man, and hopefully, we’ll win you over one day. Thanks for commenting.

    • Bob Parson Jr.

      Apr 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Well said, that’s why you are the Man!

  5. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Rory McIlroy is going to clean the gutters at the Butler Cabin with Patrick “The Cheat” Reed.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 5:46 am

      I don’t think that that word means what you think it does. You’ve associated Reed with cheating, but you’ve failed to offer up any support for the nickname. If people call me “the stick,” it suggests I’m a really good golfer, or very thin. Have you got anything, or do I have to block you?

      • Bob Parson Jr.

        Apr 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

        I already provided you with evidence on your prior article. Be a NY snowflake and block me if you wish. If you can handle the truth, then perhaps I’m better of not reading your bias junk.

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Tour News

It’s the Ardmore! Woods begins Quicken Loans National with TaylorMade putter in the bag

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If you had a bet going with your buddies that there was no way Tiger Woods would depart from his beloved 13 major-winning Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS this week, you lose.

Woods started the first round of the Quicken Loans National with the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 he has been practicing all week with at TPC Potomac.

Adam Schupak spotted Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, on the way to the first tee for Woods’ 1:20 ET start time with the camo TaylorMade putter cover in the bag (not surprisingly, the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 was beneath the cover).

Woods has struggled with the putter this season, as we’re all well aware, particularly since the Memorial. No. 89 on Tour in strokes gained: putting, the 14-time major champion knew he had to do something.

“I’m trying to find something that I can feel again, like the swing of the putter, getting my body in the right positions and seeing the lines again,” Woods said. “You know, it’s just one of those things, once I start to get the ball rolling on my lines, then I’ll be back to putting like I was. I just have not been rolling it on my lines. And then on top of that, when they don’t roll on lines, then I have a hard time seeing my lines and it’s a vicious cycle. And I’m just trying to get out of that cycle.”

Woods reportedly tried a number of TaylorMade putters in the Bahamas last week, arriving (as far as we know) at the Quicken Loans National with just the Ardmore and his Newport to choose between.

He has made his choice for the first round. We’ll see how it pans out and whether Woods remains a mallet man all week.

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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

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

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