Welcome to another addition of The Grind where we’re more torn than ever about Tiger Woods’ chances to win the Masters. On one hand, Woods returns to Augusta National with that Tour Championship win under his belt. On the other, he’s 43, has a fused back, and hasn’t come close to winning since unless you count THE MATCH. So how did I resolve these conflicting feelings? By getting them off my chest—literally—with the first (and probably last) edition of Podcast Karaoke! Please have a look and listen at "(Tiger's) Chances." And also, please be kind.
Hopefully, I can avoid a restraining order from Tiger and a lawsuit from Five for Fighting. Anyway, before we head to Augusta National, here’s what else has us singing, I mean, talking. Just talking from here on out. I promise.
Corey Conners: The 27-year-old Canadian may have earned the most improbable Masters invite of all time by winning the Valero Texas Open as a Monday qualifier to nab the final spot in the field at Augusta National. Making this story even crazier is the fact Conners needed to make a 30-footer for birdie just to get into a six-for-one playoff on Monday, which he won to get into the field at TPC San Antonio. Incredible. And fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes was there to greet him with a celebratory beer (Do they have Molson in Texas?) as soon as he finished:
That’s what friends are for. And wives. . .
Malory Conners: NBC may have shown Conners’ better half as much as they showed him during the final round. And it was highly entertaining. Malory’s expressions—a mix of excitement and shock—were priceless as she needed an adult beverage of her own to get through the wild afternoon that included her husband making 10(!) birdies to overcome four consecutive bogeys at one point.
Afterward, Corey and Malory relived her reactions:
She’s going to love caddying for Corey in the Par 3 Contest.
Jennifer Kupcho: The Wake Forest senior delivered an instant-classic performance by going five under over her final six holes to capture the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Then we found out it was even better than we thought. Kupcho overcame a migraine that blurred her vision on holes 8-11. After that went away, she parred the dangerous 12th before eagling No. 13 to start her torrid finish to top Arkansas’ Maria Fassi.
I’d like to say I was completely unbiased as the final round unfolded, but. . . go Deacs! Seriously, that was the most impressive display by a Wake Forest athlete under pressure since, well, Kupcho won the NCAA championship last year.
This kid’s swing: Look at this extension!
This girl’s putting stroke:
And this dude’s short game:
Actually, I’ll keep my own short game.
They I don’t call me myself “Mr. 60” around the office for nothing. But I went to the range on Sunday for the first time, and good lord, was my full swing ugly. Anyway, congrats to all of this year’s Drive, Chip and Putt winners. When I grow up, I hope I can play golf half as good as these kids.
Jordan Spieth’s weekends: For a fifth time in nine stroke-play events this season, Spieth entered the weekend at seven under or better. And for the fifth time, he tumbled off the leader board over the weekend. The latest was particularly bizarre as Spieth shot himself into Saturday’s final group and then shot himself out of the tournament with a front-nine 42 only to fire a 31 on the back. The glimpses are certainly there, but it’s troubling they’re pretty much all happening on Thursday and Friday.
Harsh critics of the ANWA: I specify harsh, because I think it’s OK to be critical of a few aspects regarding the inaugural event. The timing—the week of the ANA Inspiration—wasn’t great, the practice round in the middle of the tournament and only one competitive round for 30 players was bizarre, and the comparisons to other accomplishments by pioneering women were over the top.
However, it got people talking and watching. And if you think it’s not going to inspire girls around the world to pick up golf clubs, you’re nuts. I'm also selling the fact Alessia Nobilo was the lone loser of an 11-for-10 playoff to get into that final round. That is rough.
Arie Irawan’s death: Tragic, shocking news hit the golf world on Sunday after the 28-year-old PGA Tour China star was found dead in his hotel room. The Malaysian golfer had been competing at the Sanya Championship, where he had missed the cut two days earlier. The tour cancelled the final round of the event. Our thoughts go out to Irawan’s family and friends.
HELLO, FRIENDS! It’s the freaking Masters! Am I crazy, or does it feel like it’s harder to pick a winner than ever before? So before you hit send on those Masters pool entries, have a look at our Masters ranking and a listen to our Masters preview podcast. For the record, I’m thinking of plunking down money on Jon Rahm (16/1), Hideki Matsuyama (30/1), Xander Schauffele (40/1), Marc Leishman (50/1), and Patrick Cantlay (60/1). Still up in the air on Tiger at 12/1. Did I mention I’m torn about his chances? Oh right, I did. . .
Random tournament fact: Jim Nantz was in the 16th tower for his Masters debut in 1986. And he was really, really nervous.
Also, nothing is more majestic than Jim Nantz saying something Masters-related.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Chances Tiger references "(Tiger's) Chances" in his victory speech: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
— (Actual Vegas) chances of Tiger winning: 14-to-1 odds (I think my doubt moved the line)
— If I get a migraine in the media center, I won't be able to battle through like Jennifer Kupcho: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi giving each other a fist bump on the 12th hole at Augusta National in the midst of a dramatic final round:
Nicely put, Brandel. If they make posters of that (they should), I’m buying one for my 1-year-old daughter.
VIRAL VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK
Justin Thomas did some serious Masters prep. . . by playing Frogger:
Just slightly different than Tiger Woods, who had his backyard green running at a 15 on the stimpmeter and Phil Mickelson, who made sure to let everyone know his green is running at a 16 with this putt trick shot:
Tiger and Phil engaged in a good old fashioned
pissing stimping contest. Love it.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (TOURNAMENT DIVISION)
Check out this crazy Si Woo Kim bunker shot:
I’d love to hear Bryson DeChambeau explain that one.
THIS WEEK IN GREG NORMAN BEING GREG NORMAN
First, an important (shirtless) message from the two-time major champ. No, seriously.
Nicely said, Greg. And in addition to reeling in all that garbage, look at the giant shark caught by The Shark:
Talk about staying on brand.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
Stephen Curry will be producing and hosting a mini-golf show on ABC called “Holey Moley.” For real. This is not an April Fools’ Day joke. I swear.
Wait, Rob Riggle is involved? I’m in!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“That's the kind of player she is. She’ll do that when she has to. That's one of the things I admire and respect most about her. She's not afraid of going for it. She's not afraid to be great, and that's what makes her great. I'm extremely happy that she got that win.” —Maria Fassi on Jennifer Kupcho. Watch out, LPGA.
THIS AND THAT
Congrats to Jin Young Ko for winning her first LPGA major at the ANA Inspiration. I thought Lydia had the title of best Ko wrapped up for the next couple decades, but I was wrong. . . .Tiger Woods three-putted No. 1 during a practice round at Augusta National last week and still shot a 65. Wish I’d known about that before I wrote all those lyrics. He’s back. . . . A Florida man was arrested after police found five bottles of Fireball in his golf cart. I haven’t touched the stuff since my bachelor party nearly four years ago. Best decision of my life. . . . And finally, I saw this little guy in the driveway and later in the yard over the weekend:
That snake might have been a full two-feet long. Absolutely terrifying.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Should I sell my house and move now?
How many Masters chocolate chip cookies will I eat this week?
How many calories can you burn playing ping-pong?