At the Masters Par is Merely Another Number

By Associated PressApril 7, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- They walked off Augusta National much the way they came on it, two by two, bundled against the cold. Their misery finally over, they trudged into the scorer's shack where the carnage could be tallied.
Phil Mickelson lingered longer than most. He had assigned himself some extra work to do, and the warmth of the tiny green shack next to the 18th green seemed just the place to do it.
'Just checking scores, figuring out where I'm at and where I need to go,' Mickelson said. 'I've got to get a game plan on how to shoot a round in the 60s.'
Good luck with that, Phil. That's about as easy as solving global warming.
Not that global warming was a major concern on this spring Saturday in Augusta, where record cold threatened both the azalea bushes and the sanity of players who pretty much already live on the edge mentally anyway.
There were plenty of other things to worry about, though, most of them involving some new variation of getting the proverbial square peg into a round hole.
In this case, it was getting a round golf ball into a round hole, something the 60 players who ventured out on this wintry day get paid to do every day. They're usually quite good at it, particularly this one fellow named Tiger Woods.
But on a day when the course was as easy to hate as it was lovely to look at, there were so many wrecks going on that they might have held the Daytona 500 in Amen Corner.
Just off the beautifully manicured fairways were billions of trees and oceans of water to threaten wayward balls. The greens were so hard and slick they were better suited to bowling balls than Pro VI's.
Or maybe it just seemed that way for those unfortunate enough to find out what the guys in the green jackets really had in mind when they decided that enough was enough and people had better quit messing with their golf course.
Believe it or not, they actually moved some tees up and watered the greens in a last-minute but ultimately futile effort not to make things any more embarrassing than they already were.
They held a Masters, and a U.S. Open broke out.
'It was like trying to land a golf ball on your driveway, but your driveway has mounds on them and they stick the pin near the mounds,' Rich Beem said.
Beem is a funny guy, but there was nothing funny about what unfolded before the shivering patrons of Augusta National on this afternoon. It's hard to find much humor on a day when the two co-leaders going into the round couldn't even break 80.
One by one, players collapsed, staggering to the finish in the worst day of scoring in the Masters since they went to Bentgrass greens in 1981. Things were so bad that anybody turning in a scorecard should have been handed a box of Kleenex.
Stuart Appleby had the most to cry about, though Aussies generally don't do that kind of thing. He was 1 under and leading by two shots when he came to the 17th hole, yanked a drive left and walked off the green with a triple bogey 7.
Not to worry, mate. With everyone else spitting it up around him, he'll still have a one-shot lead to sleep on, assuming the nightmares don't interfere.
'The course is just ready to slap you in the head if you do anything wrong,' Appleby said.
Woods wasn't immune, bogeying the last two holes to ruin what had been a remarkably steady round under the circumstances. Little did he know walking off the 18th green with a scowl on his face an hour ahead of the leaders that things would go so south for them that he would be playing in the final group on Sunday.
Woods was one of the lucky ones. He was one of only two players to shoot par.
Only one player broke par, and it wasn't surprising that it was Retief Goosen. When you've been struck by lightning on the golf course, slick greens are the least of your worries.
This Masters has been tough from the opening ceremonial tee shot that Arnold Palmer pulled into the left rough on Thursday, and it's been that way by design. The green jackets added yards, trees, rough and sand last year to make it more of a test for today's big hitters, and they succeeded beyond expectations.
It doesn't figure to get any better on Sunday, a day when viewers are used to watching a back nine duel of eagles and birdies. The course is so dry and hard that they could turn the sprinklers on all night and it wouldn't make a difference. And there are only so many easy pin placements to be had.
Woods, of course, will be a heavy favorite to win for the fifth time here. He's just a stroke behind, and there's no one else in the top seven who has ever won a major, much less 12 of them.
But don't count Mickelson out. He is the defending champion, and he is the only player who was concocting a game plan even while others around him were signing their scorecards.
Best of all, the late collapses mean he probably doesn't even need anything in the 60s anymore.
Now if he could just do something about global warming.
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry