By Matthew RudyWater Wonderland
By Alex Myers
Believe it or not, there's another PGA Tour event this week. The Masters has come and gone, but the tour moves on. This week, it stops at one of players' favorite courses: Harbour Town GL. Another jacket is up for grabs, but it's plaid instead of green. In other words, the Masters may be tougher to win than the RBC Heritage, but winners in Hilton Head always have a trickier time matching their shirts to their new sport coat. Here are our thoughts on who will face that dilemma come Sunday:
Starters -- (A-List): Luke Donald. Other than last week's missed cut at Augusta National, Donald has been in the top 25 in all four stroke-play starts in 2014. It's hard not to see that streak continuing at an event where he's finished in the top three four of the past five years.
(B-List): Zach Johnson. Another guy who missed the cut at the Masters, Johnson doesn't have as strong of a record at Harbour Town as Donald, although he did finish runner-up in 2012. We're more banking on the fact ZJ won't have two bad weeks in a row.
(B-List): Jim Furyk. The Grinder has been in the top 20 in four of his last five starts, including a T-14 at Augusta National. Furyk has a win and two runner-ups at Harbour Town.
(C-List): Harris English. A missed cut at the Masters was his the first of the season for a man who trails only Matt Kuchar in top 10s on the PGA Tour this season.
Bench/Backups: Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Stewart Cink, and Kevin Na.
Knockout/One-and-done pick: Jim Furyk. We're going with our lone starter who played the weekend at Augusta National last week. Furyk has quietly (and slowly) played some solid golf this year. We hope he's wearing something on Sunday that looks good with plaid -- preferably, something different than what's shown above. . .
Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Adam Scott (Masters), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- winner!).
By John Strege
Stories of interest you might have missed...
A blubbering Bubba is a given anytime Bubba Watson wins a tournament. A serial weeper, Watson broke down as soon as he holed his final putt at Augusta National on Sunday (see photo below). Why, a headline on this story by Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press asked, do we cry tears of joy? Branswell sought an answer from a professor of clinical psychology, a crying expert.
The roars at Augusta National, though largely missing on an anti-climactic back nine on Sunday, are magical. “You can hear the cheers and groans at Augusta like no other place,” Ben Crenshaw said. John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal investigates the reasons why.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson virtually has guaranteed Tiger Woods a spot on the team. The question is why, given Woods’ Ryder Cup record and the fact he’s likely to miss much of the season in the run-up to the Ryder Cup? Good question, too, and it was posed by James Corrigan of the Telegraph.
Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the teams are beginning to take form, even five months before the matches begin at Scotland’s Gleneagles. Martin Dempster of the Scotsman provides an early analysis.
Once again, Miguel Angel Jimenez captivated us with his performance, stretching routine, lifestyle. Now 50, he finished fourth in the Masters. Here, in an older story that resurfaced on its website in the wake of Jimenez’ performance, is a Cigar Aficionado account of that lifestyle.
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(Photo by Getty Images)
Far be it for me to tell the Lords of Augusta how to improve their already incredible patron experience and overall uncluttered broadcast presentation. There are only three things that have to change at Augusta National: the 11th, 15th and 17th holes.
When the greens are as marble-staircase fast as they were this year, the players are on the defensive enough. No amount of skill and technology can free them up enough to play those three holes as aggressively as we'd like. Yes, Bubba Watson did attack the 15th with his ridiculous length off the tee, and thankfully, wasn't penalized. But too many other players were not able to be aggressive and let's face it, we like our Masters bunched and dramatic on the final nine Sunday with the sense that a daring shot will be rewarded.
Each of the three holes mentioned here plays a role in the back nine's ebb-and-flow, but have all too often come to be real rally killers in the modern era. Fixing them would be simple. Because since 1999, the holes have been defaced by tree plantings in dreadful contrast to the vision of club co-founder Bobby Jones. And as I recalled last week when brushing up on some Jones writings for my upcoming feature in Golf World reviewing the 2014 Masters, the legendary golfer would be horrified to see what's become of these three holes.
So without further ado, three easy ways to fix the Masters.
11th: It just doesn't take a rocket scientist, brain surgeon or even a rocket surgeon to see that the swarm planted down the right side has made this hole difficult in a strange way. The patron experience is positively awful and the sight of golfers blowing drives way right and finding an opening in a mysterious gap that's been there from day one makes this an easy fix. Cue the tree spade and plant these trees out of play, as they don't deserve to die just because someone didn't read their Bobby Jones.
15th: The new length of this hole is just right, but the loss of fairway mounds and the addition of right side trees has taken the life out of this pivotal hole. No eagles Sunday? Blasphemy. The new Sunday hole location used the last two years is bringing the boring back of the green into play too much.
17th: In the upcoming feature story, I go into greater detail on the complicated issues facing the club in trying to replace Ike's Tree and make this hole interesting. In a nutshell, the advice we give in Golf World goes like this: plant a youngish tree where Ike stood so we can watch it grow. Deforest to open up the right side angle and overall freedom to whap a drive. Oh, and find a better Sunday hole location than the one this year that did not yield a single birdie.
Chairman Payne, this one's on me.
By Alex Myers
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we're not at all surprised Bubba Watson went to a Waffle House after winning a second green jacket. Have you ever been to Augusta? There's one on every corner! Also, if you feel like eating breakfast at 1:30 in the morning, can you really be that picky? In any event, we've got a full helping of stuff to talk about. Let's dig in.
Bubba Watson: The unofficial Waffle House spokesman is on top of the golf world yet again after a brilliant Sunday performance. Bubba's booming drives stole the show, but key birdie putts on Nos. 4, 6 and 9 were what really won him a second green jacket. He really threw us all off his scent with that WD at Bay Hill last month after a first-round 83, didn't he? Sneaky! Now, Watson is the clear front-runner for PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Jordan Spieth: Sure, he came apart after the seventh hole, but the guy is 20 years old! Spieth's runner-up in his first trip to Augusta National was the latest evidence that he could be golf's next great superstar and a lock to win a bunch of majors. Then again, we said the same thing about a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia following the 1999 PGA Championship. . . But back to the positives! Spieth almost just won the Masters at 20. Most people his age still don't even know what they want to be when they grow up.
Old guys: Six guys over 50 made the cut. Six! There were probably more seniors playing at Augusta National over the weekend than there were at your local muny. Miguel Angel Jimenez finished fourth, Bernhard Langer backdoored a T-8 and Fred Couples had his usual Sunday fade, but not after he got within two shots of the lead during the final round. It seems like it's just a matter of time before Jack Nicklaus' record for winning the Masters at 46 is shattered.
Team PUMA: A week after Lexi Thompson won her first major, Jonas Blixt and Rickie Fowler contended at the Masters. For Blixt, the T-2 was the Swede's second straight top five at a major. And Fowler continued to show his work with Butch Harmon is paying off, matching his career-best finish in a major with a T-5. From partying at the pool with Lolo Jones to coming close to winning a green jacket, it's been quite a couple weeks for Rickie.
Big names not named Bubba: We knew this year's Masters would miss Tiger Woods, but guys like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Sergio Garcia joined him on the couch for the weekend with poor play. Even Adam Scott disappeared on the weekend after a promising start. All of their struggles added up to a 24 percent decline in TV ratings from last year. Of course, it didn't help that the Par 3 Contest was more exciting. . .
Back-nine drama: Thanks, Bubba. You turned the last hour of the Masters into a yawnfest. Actually, the blame goes to those in contention. The usual back-nine roars at Augusta were almost nonexistent as no one mustered a charge. The biggest roar came from Bubba's big drive on No. 13. As incredible as that was (Is that the greatest drive EVER?), it wasn't the same as someone rolling in an eagle on that hole.
Matt Kuchar: Speaking of guys not making a back-nine run, we have to single out Kuchar not getting it done for a third consecutive week. That's a Grind record no one wants to have! We really thought this was his week to win a first major, especially after he jumped into a tie for the lead on the third hole on Sunday, but Kuchar faltered once again down the stretch. If it's possible to have a bad T-5 at a major, this would qualify.
Caroline Wozniacki's pink hair: What in the. . .
Wozniacki deserves praise for draining a long putt in the Par 3 contest, but her hair was scary. Fortunately, by Sunday, she was back to being a blonde. Ahh, that's better.
The PGA Tour heads up the road to Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage. To make things more exciting, the course's famed lighthouse is in play this year. OK, not really.
Random tournament fact: Nick Faldo, 56, will come down from the broadcast booth and tee it up. Faldo won the first of his three non-major PGA Tour events there in 1984.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Jordan Spieth regrets leaving college early: 1 million-to-1 odds.
-- Bubba Watson will buy his own Waffle House: 2-to-1 odds
-- Bernhard Langer, 56, could break me into two pieces: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Who is this enchanting and bold blonde who ran across Augusta National's 10th green on Saturday? Can we get Dick Fowler, P.I., to investigate? If you want to see 14 almost identical photos to this (you know you do), go to the Augusta Chronicle's website. Taking off your sandals at Augusta National? That's basically the same thing as streaking at Augusta National.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Highlights of the 2013 Masters complete with actual commentary and with mini-golf obstacles transposed over the footage? This is one of the greatest videos ever made.
Please, Masters, don't take it down. PLEASE!
THIS AND THAT
Tiger Woods isn't looking good for the U.S. Open, according to friend Notah Begay. Not surprising if you listened to any doctor when Woods first announced he'd had back surgery. . . . Michael Phelps announced he's coming out of retirement to swim competitively again. At 28, he still has plenty of time to retire again and focus on his celebrity golf career. . . . Billy Horschel hit the ball well enough to contend at the Masters, but his putting was awful. Maybe one of the winning kids of the Drive, Chip, and Putt Contest can give him a few pointers before next year. . . . Jason Dufner became the first golfer to be sponsored by a television network when he played at Augusta National wearing a shirt with the Fox Business logo (above). Unfortunately, that was the only Masters history Dufner made last week.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
How much golf did Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson watch over the weekend?
Is Jordan Spieth really only 20? Is Bernhard Langer really 56?!
Why aren't there any Waffle Houses in Connecticut?
By Alex Myers
On Friday of the Masters, the most impressive golf shot may have come from someone not in the field at Augusta National.
That day John Daly tweeted a video of him hitting a golf ball that was teed up in a woman's mouth. "Don't try this at home! #MastersWeek #TeeitHigh #GripitandRipIt" Daly wrote -- after trying it himself, of course. Here's the clip:
This is nothing new for Daly. Last year, he hit a golf ball out of a guy's mouth in a dark Nashville parking lot while wearing sandals. At least, it looks like this time Daly pulled off the trick on a golf course, during the day, and with him actually wearing golf shoes.
Still, you'd have to be pretty daring to let Daly try this, especially now. We assume this brave/crazy woman doesn't know he failed to break 90 in a PGA Tour event last month.