Punch Shot: Who will win 2014 Masters?

Can Jordan Spieth make history Sunday as the youngest champion at the Masters? Can Matt Kuchar take the next step in his career and win a major? Will Bubba Watson add a second green jacket to his closet? GolfChannel.com's writers weigh in with their picks to win the 2014 Masters.

BY REX HOGGARD

With apologies to Jordan Spieth’s youthful energy, Rickie Fowler’s panache and Matt Kuchar’s consistency, the 78th Masters will be claimed by the player who has already won a blinking contest with Augusta National’s intense Sunday glare – Bubba Watson.

For all his quirkiness and unorthodox swing mechanics, Watson proved in 2012 that he harbors the intangible trait to shoulder the most pressure-packed situations. Bubba is, at his core and for all the right reasons, a showoff, and there is no better way to dominate center stage than a Sunday shootout at Augusta.

He wasn’t at his best on Saturday.

Watson's third-round 74 opened the door for at least a dozen would-be contenders, but he did what champions do and made two crucial par saves on 17 and 18 to secure a spot in the final pairing.

Watson’s length and ability to move the ball in mind-bending ways get most of the attention. But on Sunday, Bubba will separate the wheat from the chaff with his putter – just like he did in 2012.

Watson has just two three-putts in 54 holes.

But most importantly, Watson will win because he’s done it before. And at Augusta National, experience is king.


BY JAY COFFIN

Jordan Spieth is the story everyone wants to see, but Matt Kuchar is the man who will make history Sunday at Augusta National.

A major victory is the next logical progression for Kuchar, a man who has won a PGA Tour playoff event, The Players and a World Golf Championship. A major, this major, is within grasp.

Kuchar, 35, has long had a love affair with Augusta National. He played here often while attending Georgia Tech, and he made the cut in the Masters twice as an amateur in 1998-99, collecting low-amateur honors in ’98. His recent play has been stellar, too, as he tied for third place in 2012 and tied for eighth place last year.

Despite throwing away the Houston Open last week to Matt Jones, Kuchar has been playing nicely the past month. He tied for 13th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, tied for fourth at the Valero Texas Open and lost to Jones in a playoff last week in Houston.

This is Kuchar’s time. He’s paid his dues. The Masters will be his ultimate payoff.


BY JOE POSNANSKI

Winner: Jordan Spieth.

When the week began, The Augusta Chronicle asked a bunch of writers to pick a winner. I was the only one to pick Jordan Spieth. I don’t say this to brag (well, I do say it PARTLY to brag), but I say this because I think a lot of people WANTED to pick Jordan Spieth but said to themselves; "Nah. He’s just 20. It’s his first Masters. The history is too daunting.”

Thing is, the kid is unaffected by history. He’s unaffected by everything. He’s 20 going on 42, playing balls to the middle of the green, putting the lightning-fast greens like he was born on them and hitting magical shots around the green like only he knows how the trick is done.

While the Masters leaderboard on Saturday bounced around like those ping pong balls in the lottery bowl, Spieth just plowed through, a rock-steady 70, and it’s clear that the old rules just don’t apply. The Spieth coronation happens Sunday.


BY JASON SOBEL

Jordan Spieth is going to win the 2014 Masters Tournament.

Read those words again, because they’re historic.

On Sunday, the 20-year-old Spieth is going to earn his way into one of golf’s most exclusive clubs – and he’s going to do it well before anyone believed possible. Anyone but him, that is.

He’s going to become the youngest major champion in over a century, the youngest in Masters history and the first tournament rookie to win in his first start in 35 years.

Consider it ironic that all of these things are about to happen for Spieth because of his maturity level. He might be 20, but he acts like a 30-year-old, and he plays with the experience of a 40-year-old.

Don't miss a minute of this one. With no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson on the weekend, this Masters needed a boost. It’s about to receive a tremendous one in the form of an emerging superstar champion.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).