The Masters has become a Euro tournament again. The weather certainly felt like it during the first two days of competition, with high gusts and cold temperatures making Augusta National feel like it was placed in Scotland, not Georgia. As for the leader board, there were three Europeans in the top five and five among the top 10: Sergio Garcia (1), Justin Rose (2), Thomas Pieters (T-4), Paul Casey (6) and Rory McIlroy (T-7). Last year there were seven Euros in Danny Willett, Lee Westwood, Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Soren Kjeldsen, McIlroy and Rose. To me it’s reminiscent of the pre-Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson era, when Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle won the green jacket. In the end, it even sounded like a European Ryder Cup, with the patrons chanting “Ole, Ole, Ole” to celebrate Garcia’s victory.
PGA champion Jimmy Walker continues to gut it out after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. “I’ve been feeling sick since Thanksgiving, and I’m still not feeling better,” Walker told me. “I just thought I was getting old.” Among his symptoms, the 38-year-old Walker has had no energy, suffers from muscle aches and an inability to sleep. Considering how he felt, and that he was sick in Houston the week before, Walker finished a respectable T-18. Other than vitamins to boost his immune system, there is no medication to relieve his symptoms. Walker believes he could have picked it up during his trip to Australia last November for the World Cup. He’s also taking precautions to make sure his two young children don’t get the virus. “I’m doing all I can,” Walker said. “It’s not real fun.”
The roars for Fred Couples at Augusta again. At 57, the charismatic 1992 Masters champion was attempting to pull off what Jack Nicklaus accomplished in 1998. That was the year Nicklaus finished T-6 at age 58. After missing last year’s tournament—the first time he didn’t play since blowing out his back in 1994—Couples finished in a tie for 20th. That was his sixth top-20 since turning 50 in 2010. He also holds the best 72-hole score shot by a player 50 and older, shooting 279 when he finished solo sixth in 2000. To commemorate the week, Couples’ friends had 1992 pins made to recognize the 25th anniversary of his Masters win. “Freddie is loved everywhere, especially here,” said 22-year-old playing partner Jon Rahm noted after their pairing on Saturday. “He’s like an idol, right?” Among the members of his entourage staying in the house and “crushing” pizza every night was long-time instructor Paul Marchand. Couples’ former caddie, Joe LaCava, was also among the patrons following Freddie. “It’s a fun, great tournament,” he said. “I enjoy it, and I’ll be back next year.”