Personalized preview to the 78th Masters

By Jason SobelApril 9, 2014, 5:31 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – I’m done. I literally can’t preview this week’s Masters Tournament any more. I’ve written about four-time champion Tiger Woods lying in a comfortable position at home. I’ve written about three-time champion Phil Mickelson dying to get into a comfortable position on the leaderboard. I’ve written about aging veterans and bright-eyed first-timers. I’ve written about trees that are alive and trees that are dead and what the grass looks like where the dead trees used to be. I’ve made predictions, then made predictions about my predictions. And if I have to do this any longer, I’m going to start making predictions about those, too.

Now It’s your turn. I’m tapping out. Time to leave the confines of the press room for a leisurely stroll across golf’s coolest campus. But I’ll leave this final preview column in your capable hands. As my editor often advises: Don’t screw it up.

This year’s Masters is bound to be one of the most __________ (exciting/boring/Tiger’s not playing, so I refuse to acknowledge its existence) editions of the tournament in recent years. It will begin with honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player on Thursday morning at exactly __________ (7:40 a.m. ET/whenever they damn feel like it).

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Expect the golf course to be playing __________ (extra long, because of the early-week rain/fast and firm, because it’s dried out by now/harder than advanced trigonometry, because it’s Augusta National). And don’t be surprised if __________ (Angel Cabrera/Fred Couples/my EA Sports avatar) is in contention early, because he always plays well here.

But there are also 24 __________ (rookies/first-timers/nobodies) competing this week. This is because of the __________ (parity/randomness/freakin’ snoozefest) that has occurred on the PGA Tour so far. I mean, even an __________ (unheralded/unassuming/unknown … like, seriously, I’ve never heard of him) guy like __________ (Joost Luiten/Stephen Gallacher/Sergio Garcia) could potentially __________ (win/contend/ruin my Sunday).

More than likely, though, the final round will be all about the __________ (big names/players who have won before/guys they won’t stop showing on TV, even though they’re way out of contention). Among the players who can overtake Woods for No. 1 in the world this week are __________ (Adam Scott/Henrik Stenson/Jason Day/TIGER IS THE GOAT AND NOBODY WILL EVER OVERTAKE HIM EVER AND IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ME YOU’RE A HATER!!!).

The oddsmakers’ favorite is Rory McIlroy, who was __________ (leading/having a heart attack) going into the back nine three years ago, when he promptly hit a tee shot __________ (left of the trees/left of the cabins/left of Georgia). After a down year in 2013, he appears ready to challenge again because __________ (he’s comfortable with his Nike equipment/he’s secure in his love life/he’s ridiculously good at golf). If he wins this week that will give him three __________ (legs of the career Grand Slam/more majors than Sergio).

Hopefully, the defending champion, Scott, will be in contention again, because he’s so __________ (classy/talented/good-looking that even my wife won’t mind watching all weekend). I heard he served __________ (Moreton Bay Bugs/ants or something/Fosters, mate!) for his Champion’s Dinner, which must have made __________ (Arnie squirm/Jack laugh/Gary insist on knowing the caloric intake).

As for another past champion, Phil Mickelson has a chance to win his fourth title this week, which would tie __________ (Arnold Palmer/Tiger Woods/Greg Norman during his nightly REM sleep). Funny story: During a Tuesday practice round, he lost a $1 wager to a patron when he __________ (couldn’t get up and down from the second cut/picked the Cubs to win the World Series). If he wins again this week, let’s hope in this celebration he actually __________ (jumps a little higher/jumps a little/jumps).

Let’s also hope this week’s tournament isn’t marred by __________ (rules controversies/rules hilarities) like last year. As you probably remember, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang was given a penalty for being __________ (too slow/too young/too close to John Paramor) and Woods was given a reprieve from an incorrect drop because Augusta officials __________ (invoked Rule 33-7/wanted ratings).

Times have certainly changed here over the years. Augusta National now has __________ (female members/wireless Internet/a few attendees who will yell “Baba Booey” before getting yanked off the course). But some things remain the same. We’ll always refer to spectators here as __________ (patrons/lucky stiffs) and instead of tickets they’re called __________ (badges/eBay bonanzas).

It will all come to a culmination on Sunday, when the player with the lowest score will be given __________ (a green jacket/a lifetime membership into golf’s most exclusive club/a reason to finally call his high school girlfriend and gloat). We don’t know who that player will be, but he’ll undoubtedly be __________ (emotional/relieved/on Letterman the next night).

One thing we do know? Once again, this week will be a tradition unlike __________ (any other/the first three months of this boring season/the one where we watch Tiger win majors).

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.”


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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.

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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

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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.”

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

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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.

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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

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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).