Scott wins Masters, energizes entire continent

By Rex HoggardApril 15, 2013, 2:23 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It is Monday in Melbourne, but all of Oz awoke to an unofficial, impromptu holiday.

Australia’s long Masters nightmare ended on a rainy Sunday. On a day ready-made for a duck, Adam Scott outlasted Angel “El Pato” (The Duck) Cabrera to end the “Aussie Duck,” the cricket term that means zero, which was the grand sum of green jackets collected before Sunday’s wet and wild finish.

If there was any doubt as to the significance of Scott’s victory, consider Craig Heatley’s emotional introduction of the champion to the media following his playoff title bout.

“When I heard the roar down on (No. 10), a second later I heard about 30 million people in Australia and New Zealand all cheering,” said Heatley, an Augusta National member and native of . . . wait for it, New Zealand.

With near flawless ball-striking and clutch putting Scott completed the Anchoring Slam – following in the footsteps of Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) – and just in time as the USGA and R&A seem poised to rule on long putters before the end of the spring.


'Morning Drive': Norman discusses Scott's win and impact on Australia

Photos: Scott through the years

77th Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos


On Sunday, however, it wasn’t about Scott’s broom-handle putter that converted a 20-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole to move him to 9 under and force overtime and finally the walk-off in near darkness, a 12-footer for birdie at the second extra hole (No. 10) to secure his nation some peace of mind.

This one was for Oz. This one was for Greg Norman, the symbol of Australian fruitlessness at the Masters and Scott’s mentor. In 2011, with Scott struggling with his swing and psyche, Norman took a flyer and made him a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup.

On Sunday Scott repaid Norman in full.

“Greg as the captain had a lot of faith in me and made me a pick,” said Scott, who closed with matching 69s on the weekend. “There is no hiding in a Presidents Cup and I used that as a real motivator and a way to make myself believe I was a great player again. It was a really big boost for me.”

Even a crushing defeat last year at the Open Championship, when he closed with four consecutive bogeys to lose by one stroke, did little to rattle Scott’s newfound confidence and when he began the day one stroke off the lead he knew redemption was at hand.

Scott began his final round with a bogey at the first and was flawless the rest of the way, pulling into a tie for the lead when fellow Aussie Jason Day bogeyed the 16th hole and pulling away with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to finish at 9 under and force extra holes for the second consecutive year at Augusta National.

If Scott’s victory was historically significant in Australia, it also proved to be something of a myth buster at Augusta National. He finished tied for 39th for the week in putting, although he did have just two three-putts, but first in greens in regulation.

Turns out the “Putting Contest” is a second-shot test.

Statistics aside, for Scott the most important thing was what his victory meant back home.

“I’m a proud Australian and I hope this sits well out home,” Scott said. “We’re a proud sporting country and we like to think we’re the best at everything. . . . Part of this is for (Norman) because he’s given me so much inspiration and belief.”

Norman is the epicenter of the nation’s passion and pain when it comes to the year’s first major. The Shark is a three-time bridesmaid at the Masters, including his 1996 meltdown after leading by six strokes through 54 holes only to post a closing-nine 40.

The weight of a nation has buckled more than one Aussie since, including Day, who stormed into the lead with a birdie-eagle start on Sunday. The 2011 runner-up at Augusta National pulled two strokes clear with a birdie at the 15th hole but finished with bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 and alone in third place.

“There was an enormous amount of pressure on my shoulders but I played pretty good today,” Day said. “People don’t understand what kind of pressure there is.”

Tiger Woods could relate.

The four-time champion came up one bad bounce and a bad drop short, literally, and finished four shots back, nearly within the margin of error that added up to a triple-bogey-8 on the 15th during Friday’s second round.

Woods received a Masters mulligan on Saturday, via the club’s curious decision to forgo the prescribed disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard after he took an incorrect drop on the 15th, but not his fifth green jacket.

Woods has now played 15 majors since his last Grand Slam victory, the same number that now taunts him in his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Slam haul.

He used to win majors with his C-game; now he seems to struggle closing the deal when it counts with his A-game, which is what he appeared to have entering this week.

Woods had three signature victories at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill and, more importantly, was leading the Tour in putting heading down Magnolia Lane. At no time over the past five years have the stars been so perfectly aligned to wrest himself off his Grand Slam schnied, yet major No. 15 continues to elude him.

“You can do 'what ifs' in every tournament you lose,” said Woods, who closed with a 70 and finished at 5 under. “It’s just the way it goes; I played this week the way I played all year.”

By contrast, Cabrera’s week was every bit an anomaly. The Argentine hadn’t posted a top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event since the 2011 McGladrey Classic and there was nothing to suggest he was trending in the right direction, other than the fact that this was a major.

Cabrera pulled away from the field with a birdie at No. 7 and matched Scott with an approach to 3 feet for birdie at the 18th hole. He was equally solid in the playoff, nearly chipping in for birdie at the first extra frame and narrowly missing a 15-footer at the second OT hole for birdie.

“That’s golf. Golf gives and takes,” Cabrera said.

It’s a lesson Scott learned last year in England.

Following Scott’s meltdown at Royal Lytham he received a not entirely unexpected phone call from Norman. If anyone knew how to deal with heartache, it was the Shark.

“I said to him, ‘You played better golf than anyone for 69 holes and take that as a positive,’” Norman said late Sunday on Golf Channel. “He knew minor fluctuations can create a major disaster. But he knew he had the capability to go on and win major championships.”

That he started with the one that means the most to Australia, and Norman, only made it that much more profound.

By the time Scott slipped his arms into the green jacket that had eluded his nation for so long the rain finally let up. So did the cloud that had been looming over Australian golf.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern of architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.