A look at the takeaways from the 2014 Masters

By Doug FergusonApril 15, 2014, 9:14 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The moment doesn't get much bigger than this – a 20-foot putt on the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National for the win.

Too bad this wasn't the Masters.

This was a week earlier at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth were merely spectators. The stage belonged to Patrick Welch of Providence, R.I, and he made the final putt on the 18th green to win the 14-15 age division for boys.

One week later, Watson had a birdie putt from about 15 feet. He could have four-putted and still won his second Masters. He two-putted for par.

To be clear, this was a masterful performance.

On a golf course so firm and fast that only 19 players shot in the 60s, Watson did it three times. He joined a distinguished list of players to win the Masters twice in three years – Horton Smith, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But this Masters will be known more as a bore than for its roars.

The final group produced only one birdie on the back nine, and that was Watson's two-putt on the par-5 13th hole after a sand wedge he could hit no closer than 25 feet. There were only three eagles on the back nine the entire day, all on the 13th hole, none by anyone who had a chance to win.

Before attention shifts to Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open that starts in 58 days, here are some final musings from the 78th Masters:


THE TIGER FACTOR: Professional golf faced its first big test last week – a Masters without Woods for the first time in 20 years – and failed to break par.

CBS pulled in an overnight rating of 7.8, down 24 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest overnight rating since 2004 when Phil Mickelson won his first Masters on Easter Sunday, when ratings typically are lower.

That's no surprise. The Masters is the best TV in golf. Woods is the biggest star.

But the time is coming when Woods and Mickelson (who missed the cut for the first time in 17 years) will no longer be active. Golf is better when there is a dominant player, and golf has had the world's most famous athlete for nearly two decades.

Would having a 20-year-old Jordan Spieth in a green jacket have helped? Possibly. One reason the ratings were not better is that Spieth was never closer than three shots over the final hour. The last time the Masters limped to the finish was when Trevor Immelman built a big lead in 2008.

In the absence of a star, sport needs a good rivalry. Golf has neither at the moment.


SIGNATURE MOMENT: The defining shot for Watson might have been his drive on the 13th hole.

During a surprise visit to Golf Channel on Tuesday morning, Watson said he once reached the par 5 in two with a pitching wedge when he played college golf at Georgia. This time, he came out of his shoes with a big fade that started further left than he wanted, clipped a tree and still came back to earth 366 yards away.

''His drive on 13, I'll never forget,'' Spieth said.

Even though Watson followed with a most ordinary sand wedge to 25 feet and left the eagle putt woefully short, it was a psychological blow. With that kind of power, Watson wasn't losing a three-shot over the final five holes unless he gave it away. And he didn't.


FLOWERING CRAB APPLE: That's the name of the par-3 fourth hole, and it was poison to a couple of players. Spieth made No. 4 memorable for holing his bunker shot in the final round for birdie. Go back to Saturday to find Brandt Snedeker coming off back-to-back birdies to reach 2-under par. He hit into the bunker, blasted out to about 5 feet, and then five-putted from there for triple bogey.

Matt Kuchar chipped in from behind the third green to briefly share the lead on Sunday. He hit a reasonable tee shot, about 60 feet away, and four-putted for double bogey. He made only one birdie the rest of the way.


NEXT YEAR: The top 12 are invited back to the Masters next year (it used to be top 16 until last year).

For the last five years, someone who finished one shot out of the top 12 or top 16 failed to get back to Augusta the following April - David Toms, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes, Scott Verplank and Aaron Baddeley. In the final year of his exemption from winning the 2009 British Open, Stewart Cink closed with a bogey-free 68. He finished one shot out of the top 12.

Cink has work to do to get back to Augusta.

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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.