And The Winner Is

By Brian HewittApril 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
All right, lets get this out of the way right off the top: I am, along with the 899 billion other assorted pundits, insiders and fantasy golf touts, picking Tiger Woods to win this weeks Masters.
 
The first three reasons are putting, putting and putting. Tiger is the best in the world with the flat stick. And now that he has played more than a dozen Masters he knows the greens at Augusta National as well as anybody in the field.
 
Sure, Tiger three-putted four times two weeks ago at Doral where he finished two shots behind winner Geoff Ogilvy. But the greens at Doral have changed the last couple of years. The only significant alterations to the putting surfaces at the Masters this year are at holes No. 7 and 9 where tweaking has been done to provide new hole locations.
 
Woods played full practice rounds Sunday and Monday at Augusta National and nine more holes Tuesday. He will be comfortable with the nuances and the speed by the time play begins Thursday morning.
 

MIND OVER MASTERS
On the subject of Tigers ability to vet or suss out golf courses, one prominent teacher who works with several TOUR pros told me he thinks Woods is not only the golf-smartest player in the world today. But, he said, Woods May is the savviest maybe of all time.
 
And, the teacher said, Tigers very good at hiding it.
 
In other words, if and when Tiger ever sits down to write his collective memoirs on what he knows about the game, it could dwarf what Hogan and Nicklaus told us in their seminal tomes on how to play golf.
 
The pro also said its almost unfair that Tiger gets to take two weeks off in preparation before The Masters, especially considering how fast the greens at his home course in Florida, Isleworth near Orlando, are made to run in late May and early April.
 

ODDS AND ENDS
Meanwhile philosophers have, over the centuries, posited the notion that the human mind is incapable of fully grasping the concept of infinity.
 
Well, my mind is incapable of fully grasping the fact that Woods is a 6-5 favorite to win the Masters and 9/2, in some betting parlors, to win the 2008 Grand Slam.
 
These numbers are mind-numbing. So are Woods talents.
 

THREE ON A MATCH
If Woods doesnt win this week, the best guess here is that one of these three players--Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi or Geoff Ogilvy--will.
 
Mickelson has won each of the last two Masters that took place in even-numbered years. Choi has posted a top 15 or better in each of the four majors in the last four years. Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, hits it high, far and plays without fear around the greens. At Doral, where he led the field in GIR, Ogilvy got up and down on 16 of the 17 holes in which he didnt hit the green in regulation.
 
By the way, if he wins, Ogilvy will be the first Australian to conquer The Masters.
 

COMPLEX EQUATIONS
Everybody likes to talk about the difficulty of the greens at Augusta National. But its really the green complexes that make the golf course so hard.
 
Miss a green at The Masters and very often your ball will roll to a collection area from which your next shot may be tougher than the one you just hit.
 
The green complexes comprise those collection areas, the bunkers, the putting surfaces and the fringes. And Augusta Nationals set of green complexes designed by course architect Alister MacKenzie, a former military camouflage expert, are probably the best and most subtle in the world.
 

FREDDIES ALWAYS READY
If he makes it to the weekend, Fred Couples will tie Gary Players Masters record of 24 consecutive cuts.
 
Its a phenomenal accomplishment. And which of which the 48-year-old Couples is justifiably proud.
 
Even though Couples has never missed a cut at Augusta, there is a slight asterisk here. He did not play in the 1987 or the 1994 Masters. So its consecutive only in the sense that it refers to the years he has played in the tournament.
 

ANALYZE THIS
Golf Channel analysts Frank Nobilo and Brandel Chamblee know of what they speak when it comes to The Masters.
 
Nobilo was one of only five players in the field to break 70 in the final round of the infamous 1996 Masters. That was the same Masters in which Greg Norman skied to a Sunday 78 and lost to winner Nick Faldo. Nobilo finished fourth that year behind Faldo, Norman and Mickelson.
 
Chamblee is a member of a very exclusive club of pros who have played in at least one Masters that had Tiger Woods in the field and have not lost to Woods.
 
Chamblees lone Masters start was 1999. He tied for 18th with Woods, Justin Leonard, Scott McCarron and Bill Glasson.
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.