'Never seen it like this': Augusta a beast on Day 1

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2017, 12:00 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – This is Masters No. 32 and competitive round No. 119 for Fred Couples.

Over the years, he has seen plenty of good days here. When the sun is warm, the conditions benign. When the ball flies forever. When the roars rattle the pines.

But this was not one of those days. Not even close.

“It was hard. It was windy. I’ve never seen it like this,” Couples said.

Never seen it like this?

He shot 76 in the opening round in 2000, when the wind howled and the greens were even firmer.

He ran up three consecutive scores of 76 or worse in 2007, when the winning score was over par for the first time in more than a half century.

Sure, those days tested his mettle too, but apparently they were nothing like Thursday at the Masters, when the high temperature barely crept above 60 degrees and the wind gusted to 40 mph and another former Masters champion called the conditions “borderline” and only 11 of 93 players (including the unconscious Charley Hoffman, who shot 65) ended the day in red numbers.


Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage


Couples used all of his guile to shoot 73 and sighed afterward: “I couldn’t have really shot much of a different score.”

“And Freddie was brilliant,” Paul Casey said.

These conditions were taxing for every player in the field – the Round 1 scoring average was 74.98, the highest since 2007 (76.19) – but especially so for Couples, 57.

When the wind whips like this, he can’t hit his trusty hybrid clubs, because they balloon into the air. And he can’t come out of any shots, because if his patented cut shot starts right, in a stiff left-to-right breeze, it “goes forever” in the wrong direction.

“It was really a semi-nice day for Augusta,” Couples said, looking up at the partly cloudy skies. “But to come and play in this at 2 p.m. is going to be brutal.”

Play was painfully slow, and yet no one complained about the pace. Every player took his time, waited until a gust subsided, and then pulled the trigger, hoping for a lucky guess.

Brandt Snedeker took nearly five minutes to hit his tee shot on the devilish 12th.

“Anyone else want to hit this shot?” he said.

Thomas Pieters said ill-timed gusts make players “look stupid,” like he did on 12. He hit 8-iron, plenty of club, and didn’t even reach dry land, his tee shot splashing down in Rae’s Creek and leading to a double.

“Sometimes you have to back off five times,” Pieters said after an eventful 72 that included six birdies, two doubles and two bogeys. “I know that might give you a penalty shot or a warning, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s what you’ve got to do.”

And there always seems to be more uncertainty at Augusta, where mistakes are magnified and the punishment for a miscalculation can be severe.  

“The tough part here is that a lot of it is shielded,” Jordan Spieth said. “So trusting how much wind is up there, when obviously if you’re five yards off on this golf course you could be in a very, very bad location. That’s the toughest part.”  

The par-5 15th doled out plenty of punishment.

Historically, it’s the easiest hole on the course, a 530-yard par 5 that plays downhill. But a stiff wind back into the players’ face made it unwise to even try and reach the green in two shots, leaving an awkward third shot from a downhill, sidehill lie.

Spieth had 98 yards. He used a wedge that imparted too much spin and sucked his ball back off the front of the green, into the creek. He moved about 20 yards closer, clubbed down, and knocked his fifth shot over the back of the green, leaving a nasty, downhiller that is nearly impossible to get close. He chipped on and three-putted for a quadruple bogey-9.

“I was stuck in the 15-is-a-birdie-hole mentality,” he said, “and it bit me a little bit.”

But Spieth wasn’t the only player to encounter trouble there. Only 14 birdies were made on the par 5, and its 5.215 average (with seven doubles or worse) was the highest in tournament history.

“You can play some tennis there,” Casey said. “You’ve just got no margin for error.”

With the hole tucked on the left edge, players would have liked to hug the trees down the right side to gain the best angle of attack into the green. On a calm day, that’s a simple task. When it’s blowing 30, not so much.

“You can’t get the angles you normally would,” Casey said.

Kevin Kisner hit driver and a 3-iron to lay up – normally, that’s what he chooses to reach the green in two shots. He stood at the top of the hill and watched in disbelief as Adam Scott hit a 4-iron for his second shot.

“He said it went 15 yards backward at the peak of its flight,” Scott said. “He watched it go back toward me.”   

And the fun was just beginning, as players then hit what is normally a little wedge shot into a sliver of green.

“You’re trying to hit these small targets, and the wind’s going from 15 to 20 to 40” mph, Kisner said. “It’s just incredible trying to hit those numbers. It felt like British Open gusts.”

The bad news, of course, is that Friday’s forecast calls for similar conditions, if only slightly warmer.  

Keeping scores respectable Thursday – two of the three rounds in the 80s were shot by amateurs – was the receptiveness of the greens after an inch and a half of overnight rain. But with plentiful sun, a strong wind and Augusta’s SubAir system, it’s firming up quickly.

“Personally,” Couples said, “I don’t want it to be like this for four days, if I’m here four days.”

And neither do his wind-burned peers. 

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.