The mystique of the 2014 Masters

By Doug FergusonApril 9, 2014, 9:25 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A quick stroll across the manicured landscape of Augusta National afforded a glimpse of why this Masters is so hard to figure out.

On the putting green in a quiet moment of practice was 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, one of a record 24 newcomers who has every reason to believe he can win. On the golf course for the final day of practice was Webb Simpson, a former U.S. Open champion and one of 21 players who have captured the last 24 majors.

And under the oak tree outside the clubhouse was Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 50-year-old Spaniard trying to make sense of it all.

He recalled his first Masters in 1995, when Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal shared secrets to Augusta National, such as keeping the ball in the right spots on the green and ''to realize here that the target is not the hole.''

''The more you play, the more you like, no?'' Jimenez said as he leaned against his golf bag, looking relaxed as ever behind his aviator sunglasses.

But as he considered the rookies – Spieth and Patrick Reed, Harris English and Jimmy Walker – he dismissed the notion that experience was required for a green jacket.

''There are 24 guys here for the first time,'' he said. ''But there's a reason they are here, no?''


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Nowhere to be found, of course, was Tiger Woods.

Out of golf until the summer because of back surgery, out of the Masters for the first time in his career, the show goes on.

''Well, we miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world,'' Masters chairman Billy Payne said. ''He is always a threat to make a run and do well and win here at Augusta National. ... Nevertheless, this is the Masters. This is what we hope is the best tournament in the world, one of the greatest sporting events. And I think we will have a very impressive audience and have another great champion to crown this year.''

The course closed for practice Wednesday afternoon, and a stream of fans made their way over to the Par 3 Tournament, where occasional cheers broke the silence. It was a precursor of what was sure to follow over the next four days at a major that rarely fails to deliver drama.

Even without Woods.

''It's probably the most anticipated week of the year,'' Rory McIlroy said. ''It's been eight months since we've had a major. It's Augusta. ... There's a lot of guys that seem like once they drive up Magnolia Lane here, something lights up inside them.''

That could be Phil Mickelson, who last year won the British Open at age 42 and now has a chance to join Woods and Arnold Palmer with a fourth green jacket. It could be Adam Scott, trying to join Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back winners.

Considering how this year has gone, it could be anybody.

Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and former Masters champion Zach Johnson are the only players from the top 10 who have won anywhere in the world. Only one of the last seven winners on the PGA Tour was ranked in the top 75.

''I think if you're outside the top 50 in the world this week, you've got a great chance,'' U.S. Open champion Justin Rose said with a laugh.

Rose, however, falls on the side of experience – knowing where to miss, knowing where you can't afford to miss, where the hole locations tend to be on the contoured greens and using the slope to get the ball close.

''Always you can have the unknowns,'' he said. ''But I would say 15 guys are pretty strong favorites.''

Woods has become a polarizing figure in golf, especially at the Masters. Since he last won a green jacket in 2005, only once has Woods finished out of the top six. That's what made him so compelling at Augusta. He always seems to be there.

And that's why this Masters seems to lack definition.

No one is dominating golf at the moment. Walker has the most PGA Tour wins (three) this season, but this is his first Masters. Scott had a chance to go to No. 1 in the world three weeks ago at Bay Hill, but he lost a three-shot lead in the final round to Matt Every, who had never won in his career.

Never has there been this much chatter about Masters rookies. Then again, there has never been this many. And they're not bashful about their chances.

''Doesn't matter if you've played here once or if you've played here 50 times,'' Reed said. ''When it comes down to it, it's just going to be that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy.''

So maybe it's not that hard to figure out, after all.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.