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5 things we learned Saturday at the Masters

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With the field reduced to 54, the question on most interested minds was, which Augusta National Golf Club would feature on Saturday? Would it be the frugal layout that gave fits to competitors on day one, or would the generous version from day two make a return appearance? If you asked Hideki Matsuyama, it was the latter. Pose the same question to Adam Scott or Cameron Champ, and the answer would differ markedly.

On Saturday, there was a bit of movement from the chasers, and a sense of protect what you have from the leaders. We learned a few things about the tournament, the course, and the competitors on day three, and we’re happy to share them with you here.

1. Billy Horschel backs down from nothing

Literally and figuratively. The Florida man ripped a 5-iron into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole, but rather than take a penalty drop, Horschel doffed his shoes and socks, rolled up his Saturday whites, and waded on in. Well, sort of. First, he slid down the slope, and then he waded in. His recovery was clean and left him with a run at birdie. Despite the new splotch of Augusta green on his trousers, Horschel made bogey at the 14th, but closed with three birdies over his final five holes, to finish at 4 over. Horschel won’t win the tournament this year, but we’ll remember his plus-fours for quite some time.

2. Hideki pulled a Justin

No sense in waiting until point number five, to discuss the round of the day. Hideki Matsuyama has often been mentioned with Jumbo Ozaki, Ryo Ishikawa, Isao Aoki, and Shingo Katayama as a prime Japanese candidate to break that country’s male major championship winless streak. Matsuyama began day three at 4 under, three shots behind leader Justin Rose. Matsuyama drew on two memories on Saturday to move rapidly up the leader board on the inward half. His low amateur prize of 2011 reminded him of his previous success at Augusta National. More recently, countrywoman Tsubasa Kajitani raised the champion’s trophy last week at the same course, after winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Matsuyama began his march toward the top spot with a birdie at the seventh hole. Despite his length, he was unable to make four at either of the front nine par-5 holes. On the inward half, Matsuyama posted birdies at 11, 12, 16 and 17, and put the icing on the 65 cake with eagle at the 15th. Thanks to his 65, Matsuyama will play in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schauffele, who closed quickly as well. Will he bring a major title of his own to the Pacific island nation? This time tomorrow, we will know.

3. Xander and Conners post 68s to move into top six

If you took Corey Conners front nine, and paired it with Xander Schauffele’s back nine, you’d have a Hideki. Conners began play at 2 under par, and moved to minus six after the day’s fourth birdie on the 9th hole. The young Canadian dropped back with bogey at 10 and 14 but rebounded quickly with birdies at 15 and 17 to return to six-under. It might be premature to cast Conners as a dark horse for Sunday, but should his penchant for dropping birdies check in on day four, a Maple Leaf might don a green jacket for the second time in the storied event’s history.

Xander Schauffele finds himself exactly where he wants to be. The California native backs down from no competition, and thanks to a strong inward half, he arranged a final-group pairing with Matsuyama. Schauffele began the day at 3 under and improved by one shot by the end of the first nine. The 2017 Tour Championship winner feasted on the long holes coming home with birdie at 13 and an eagle of his own at 15.

4. Zalatoris and Rose stay in contention

The hardest task in championship golf is to build a lead into a bigger lead. Tiger Woods spoiled many of us with his ability to do that. The second-most difficult thing to achieve is to preserve your position, with all the distractions and pressure. Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris began day three at 7 and 6 under par, respectively. Rose began the day with determination, making birdie at the first two holes. He gave those shots back at four and five, and played a bit of back-and-forth over the next 13 holes. He ended the day at even-par 72, to remain in the chase at 7 under. Was it disappointing? For a player of Rose’s stature and record, yes. Can he bookend his Thursday 65 with another on Sunday? Probably not.

Will Zalatoris came into the final pairing on Saturday in a decidedly different position from Rose. Zalatoris made his name on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 and has made the jump to the PGA Tour with unexpected success. The young Texan began the day at 6 under and improved by one stroke by day’s end. Zalatoris had four birdies against three bogeys and once again avoided the big number that derails so many dreams. The former Wake Forest golfer will tee off with Conners in the third-last pairing on Sunday. Being a bit out of the limelight might serve him well, and don’t be surprised if he becomes the first Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller to wear green on Sunday.

5. And the winner will be…

If you haven’t realized it by now, we don’t pick winners well. We tapped Brian Harman after round two, and the Georgia Bulldog shot 2 over par on day three. We have abandoned the lefty, and are going with a player we haven’t mentioned yet. He’s tall, dark, and Australian, and the word on all the tours is that Marc Leishman is so much better than his record indicates. We think that the real Marc Leishman stands tall on Sunday and moves past Matsuyama and all the rest to become the first Aussie since Adam Scott to win the title.

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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.

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Tour Rundown: Valspar Classic gets some side Burns action and more

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Another five-tournament week makes a writer feel spoiled. So much to talk about this first weekend of May. The European Tour continued its three-week stay in the Canary Islands off Africa, while the PGA Tour Champions nearly turned into a sponge in Texas. The LPGA Tour went overseas to Singapore, while the Korn Ferry tour touched down in Alabama. Finally, the PGA Tour dipped its toe in Florida’s gulf coast, at the fabled Copperhead course at Innisbrook.

Take a breath and dive on into this week’s action as we offer another edition of Tour Rundown on GolfWRX.Com.

PGA Tour: Valspar Classic gets some side Burns action

Sam Burns was that stellar college standout who got hosed by the USGA. They do it every fifteen years or so. Dude was a lock for the Walker Cup squad, until he wasn’t fitted for a kit. Can’t explain it, but the kid didn’t let it get him down. On Sunday, Burns stared down major champion Keegan Bradley and claimed his first PGA Tour event at the Valspar. Burns had been oh-so-close in California, finishing one stroke shy of the Genesis Invitational playoff ‘twixt Finau and Homa, and this time around, he secured his hold on victory with gutty play.

Burns’ card wasn’t clean on Sunday. He had three bogeys, including one at the last. By then, the outcome was decided, and his winning margin was reduced from four to three. Bradley was one of those also hosed by the USGA, when the decision to disallow the anchored putter came down half a decade ago. He had struggled since his breakout years in 2011-12, and the loss of his belly putter put a nail in his tire. Bradley won again in 2018, but has not found the podium’s top spot since then.

The leaders were each three-under par on the day when they reached the final six holes. Bradley lost his ability to make birdie, and tripped over a double and a bogey coming home. Burns wasn’t perfect, but he did balance his bogies and birdies, and won by three strokes.

LPGA Tour: Women’s World Championship sails off with Hyo Joo

XiYu Lin has the best profile picture for golfers on twitter (is that a manhole cover?), and she almost snared an important professional title this weekend in Singapore. The birdie machine (6-7-7 over three rounds) stopped churning them out on Sunday (just two) and Janet from The Good Place settled in a third-place tie with Patty T and Inbee Park. Actually, that sounds like a fun talk show: Xi, PT, and Inbee. I’m going to put out some feelers and get back to you.

Oh, right, the golf. On day four in Singapore, Hannah Green surged just enough with a minus-three 69, after consecutive rounds of 66, to move ahead of our talk show/podcast/dinnertime theater trio to 16 deep and what looked like a second big win in her career (she did win the 2019 PGA Championship, before all this viral craziness.) What absolutely gutted the talented Aussie was her finish: bogey and bogey. After a ripping eagle two a the 14th, along with three more birdies, the Ozzie came in for the kill, but tripped and stumbled coming home. Although second-place money from a bank spends well, it’s titles that drive these golfers.

Back to #KoreaStrong, aka Hyo Joo Kim. Her Sunday scorecard looks for all the world like a Numbers Are Nifty tease: four pars, two birdies, par, two birdies, par, two birdies, three pars. Move the birdie at six to the fourth, and you’d have the most balanced, binary thing ever. No one was stopping the Hyo Joo Express on day four in Singapore. Her two pars at 17 and 18 must have felt like birdies 9 and 10 on the day, after Green’s derailment. The win was her first since 2016 on the LPGA Tour, and first since 2020 on any circuit.

European Tour: Tenerife Open to Burmester

If it begins with a “T” consider “DB.” Feeling the rhyme today. Dean Burmester began the week on Tenerife (aka paradise) with 63, and closed it with 62. Them’s some numbers! His win on Tenerife was his second on the European Tour, following a 2017 win at the Tshwane Open. Burmester began round four with a one-shot deficit to Kalle Samooja and Nicolai Von Dellinghausen (don’t even get me started!), but quickly swiped right toward birdies, and won going away by five.

#BirdiesForBurmester at one and two were followed by three more at five through seven. NVD had two birds and two bogies, and gave back five strokes to the South African. Samooja remained near the lead when he turned in three-under par, but his back-nine 37 submerged him in a third-place tie that he desired not at all. In contrast, NVD went out with a pair of bogies and birdies each, but came home in minus-three, including eagle at the last. His tenacity bumped him one stroke ahead of the third-place tie, into solo second.

A snazzy little note to close out the Burmester report: he birdied the 1st and the 18th all four days. Both par five holes, it’s true, but that’s a heck of a way to start and finish each round. Raise a toast to this week’s winner, and look ahead to 72 more holes on Tenerife at the Canaryd Islands Championship next week, at the Golf Costa Adeje layout.

Korn Ferry Tour: RWB was bound to win at the Huntsville Championship

What happens when France, Chile, and the USA go into a playoff? Red, White and Blue is your winner, no matter how it shakes out. Billy Kennerly of the state shot 63 on Sunday, and reached 15-under 265 in regulation. A bit later, Mito Pereira of South America’s Thinland posted 66 for the same number, and France’s Paul Barjon signed for a 69 for … you guessed it, 265. All three made par at the 18th in regulation, and that was where they headed for the three-wayoff to decide the winner in sudden death.

Each had four the first time through, with Kennerly lipping out for the win, so they returned to the tee a second time. Barjon and Pereira repeated, but Kennerly was unable to match and dropped away with a bogey. For giggles, the golfers moved to the par-five tenth hole and sparks flew. Pereira made a stellar birdie … and lost to Barjon’s eagle! What makes those numbers that much more curious is that all three playoff participants had played the hole in five in regulation. Pars on a long hole certainly don’t predict low numbers in a playoff.

Barjon began the day with a three-stroke lead, but gave back most of it with a double bogey at the first. He was plus-two through nine, but came back to the clubhouse in minus-three. Brandon Wu and Cameron Young were in the mix after three rounds, but neither could break 70 on day four, and both fell away from the challenge. The KFT moves to Tennessee for the next fortnight, beginning in south Nashville, then moving east to Knoxville.

PGA Tour Champions: Insperity Invitational is Weir’s first win in 14 years

Harder to type that figure or read it? Hard to believe it had been 14 years since Mike Weir sipped champagne at the Fry’s Electronic Open. The irresistible search for distance led to injury, and Weir slipped forever into the one-major-seven-other-wins category. Last May, Weir turned 50 and embraced the PGA Tour Champions as an opportunity to contend once again. This week, he and his fellow competitors waited out a Friday rainout and played 36 holes on the weekend to decide a champion at the Insperity Invitational near Houston.

Running neck and neck all week with the pride of Canada was old nemesis John Daly. Seemingly reborn with his son’s rise in the junior ranks, Daly drained a curling putt for eagle at the 13th, to assume a two-shot lead. Moments later, Weir nearly dunked his approach for albatross at the same hole, and converted his three-feet putt for a matching eagle. Daly arrived at 18 first, found the fairway off the tee, and caught a gust of wind on his approach into the green. Helpless, he watched his ball drop shy of the putting surface, into the fronting water. His double-bogey six created the final, two-shot margin of victory for Weir, who reached the green in regulation and took two putts for the win.

 

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (04/29/21): Miura TC-201 iron set

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At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buy and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a very nice set of Miura TC-201 irons (4-pw) shafted with Shimada Tour steel.

 

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link:  Miura TC-201 irons

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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The Wedge Guy: Speed kills (your short game at least)

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Todays’ post is much shorter than usual because this topic is extremely simple but very important to a better short game.

IMHO, one of the most overused and abused pieces of golf advice is that which tells us to “accelerate through the ball.” Not that this is a bad thing—all teachers agree that the club should be on a constant acceleration from the start of the downswing to and through impact. But from my observation, the vast majority of golfers are taking the whole bottle of that advice, instead of just one or two pills.

Think of it like this. You pull up to a stoplight next to a little old lady in her 1988 Cadillac. You–being a young guy in your hot car–punch it when the light turns green and leave her in your dust. But she, who gradually pushes the accelerator and takes a full block to get back up to the 30 mph speed limit, also accelerated the entire way. That’s how I see the proper acceleration of the clubhead when you are chipping and pitching.

The short game is precision work, and when you do anything else in your life which requires precision . . . . you tend to work S- -L- -O – -W. The short game should be no different. If you throttle back your entire swing speed . . . slower backswing, slower transition, slower downswing . . . you will find that you can be much more precise in your contact and distance control.

Just a short practice session, even in your backyard, will show you what I mean. Take a few balls and see how slowly you can hit some short chips and pitches. Try to create a tempo that to you is going to feel like a turtle or snail. Slow-motion even. Practice swinging the club slower and slower and watch what happens. Then take that to the practice area at your course.

If you work on slowing down your entire tempo around the greens, you will be much more precise in your technique and results. The bonus comes from the fact that this new slower tempo will likely find its way into the rest of your game and all your shots will begin to get better.

I promise you.

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