By Brant Brice
The 2012 Masters had the possibly the biggest story lines leading up to a major in history and maybe in all of golf. It included the resurgence of Tiger Woods, Phil looking like he was ready to add to his green jacket collection, Rory’s desire to make up for his 2011 choke at Augusta National and world No. 1 Luke Donald proving everyone wrong about little guys and long courses.
But since Bubba amazed us all with what could be the greatest golf shot in Masters history, my interest has been a bit under the weather and the adrenaline rush from the finish numbed me a bit since it ended. Am I the only one who has been a bit underwhelmed this last couple of weeks?
For a guy who can’t get enough golf on TV, I have watched maybe 20 holes over the last few weeks and have been wondering why. Is it because of the quality of the fields after majors or was it the emotional release I experienced as a result of the Masters finish?
I think it’s a combination of both: In typical fashion, many of the top card holders will rest a week or two prior to and subsequent to major championships. This practice, especially after the majors, spreads the field very thin in those events where there is a large number of conditional and sponsor’s exempt players competing, many of whom are seemingly older competitors, the middle of the pack PGA Tour and well known Nationwide members.
The perennial top-20 players like Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott and the Zach Johnsons of the world win many of these post-Masters tournaments. They have a better than normal chance to pick off a win where within a full field they may have finished second or third. For me not very compelling; a DVR fast-forward fest.
I have to come clean; I didn’t think Bubba had a chance coming down the stretch. He continually amazes us with his impossible shot shapes, incredible distance and deft touch around the greens. He is nearly impossible to dislike in that he isn’t afraid to show how he feels both anger and joy. His self admitted A.D.D. and sometimes lack of focus shows up in his consistency throughout a tournament. I don’t like to pick sides but Bubba is one of the guys I root for every week not only for his golf but for his character and faith.
So after nearly two useless weeks at work prior to the Masters taking in any and everything golf, followed by the entire week of the tournament, I was a balloon ready to explode with anticipation on Sunday with a couple holes to go and one of my guys with a chance. I sat impatiently watching the drama unfold.
After he sank the winning putt, I replayed Bubba Watson’s hook shot on the playoff hole from the straw over and over again and expected a different outcome every time I watched it. I couldn’t believe he could bend a pitching wedge that much from that distance, 155 yards uphill and almost a 90 degree hook. He could be the only guy on tour capable of that shot with one exception in Phil Mickelson since he is also a lefty. Right handed golfers would have struggled to cut a ball with that high of a loft from that spot. Simply amazing!
Strangely, when he made the putt to win I realized I had been holding my breath and exhaled noticeably. I felt the release from three weeks of anticipation followed by absolute joy in my heart for Bubba. My only regret is that I wasn’t there to see it firsthand. What an amazing finish!
So after searching for the reason I have to admit I’m afraid I will be disappointed from here on out. When I woke up on Monday it was like I had a hangover. I felt a little empty for I knew no matter how many tournaments I watch from here till my last; I may never see a fairy tale ending quite like the 2012 Masters for it was truly a finish unlike any other!
Click here to read more from Brant on his blog: Golfensive thoughts and other shallow observations. You can follow Brice on Twitter @BrantBrice
Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!
Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.
The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine
I believe one of the big differences between good amateurs and those who are not-so-good—and between the top professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—lies in the consistency of their pre-shot routine. I read an interesting account on this subject after the final round of the 1990 Masters when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Greg Norman. I know that was 30 years ago, but the lesson is just as relevant today.
This particular analyst timed the pre-shot routines of both players during the first three rounds and found that on the final day that Norman got quicker and quicker through his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.
Anytime you watch professional golf—or the better players at your club—you’ll see precision and consistency in the way they approach all of their shots. There is a lesson there for all of us—so, here are my ideas of how the pre-shot routine should work.
The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land, and roll. It is certainly realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches, and putts, as they are all very different challenges. As you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.
On any shot, I believe the best starting point is from behind the ball, seeing in your “mind’s eye” the film clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight path it will take, and on greenside shots, just how it will roll out. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and take as many practice swings as it takes to “feel” the swing that will produce that visualized shot path for you.
Your actual pre-shot routine can start when you see that shot clearly and begin your approach the ball to set up. From that “trigger point,” you should work hard to do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.
This is something that you can and should work on at the range. When you are out there “banging balls,” don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot.
So, guys and ladies, there’s my $.02 on the pre shot routine. What do you have to add?
Ways to Win: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters
They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.
Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.
V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.
If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.
All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.
Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.
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