Majors are Supposed to be Hard Even the Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods called it the hardest Masters he had ever seen, and the numbers back him up.
 
There were twice as many bogeys as birdies, and that doesn't account for the 230 double bogeys or worse. There were only 34 rounds under par all week. Perhaps the most surreal sight at Augusta National was the large leaderboard behind the 18th hole awash in green numbers, which represent over par.
 
Zach Johnson finished at 289, matching the Masters record for the highest winning score.
 
And we're only getting started.
 
Johnson's score was the highest to win a major since Paul Lawrie shot 290 and won a playoff in the '99 British Open at Carnoustie, long considered the toughest links in the world, known in British tabloids as 'Car-nasty.'
 
That's where these guys are headed this summer.
 
In between is a trip to Oakmont. The last time the U.S. Open went there, Ernie Els shot 74 in a playoff and still won.
 
By the time they get to the PGA Championship, Southern Hills might seem like Indian Wells.
 
Majors are supposed to be hard.
 
And yes, that includes Augusta National.
 
Along with being the highest-scoring Masters in more than 50 years, it also was one of the most quiet Masters in recent memory.
 
The sound at Augusta National is as inherent as the sights. It was muted for much of the week as the world's best players hung on for dear life on a bone-dry course, in swirling wind, in weather more suited for a Green Bay Packers game in late October and on greens so firm it was difficult to get the ball close for birdie, much less par.
 
The degree of difficulty was indicative not only by the scores, but by the starting times Sunday. The last group teed off at 2:15 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual because it was taking so long to putt out.
 
Does all this mean the Masters was a disaster?
 
Hardly.
 
Augusta National is known for its explosive nature, particularly on the back nine on Sunday. It was a double eagle by Gene Sarazen on the 15th hole in 1935 that put this tournament on the map. It was a 30 on the back nine by Jack Nicklaus in 1986 that for many remains the most famous Sunday in Masters history. Phil Mickelson won his first Masters with five birdies over the final seven holes.
 
Sometimes, conditions don't allow for such fireworks.
 
That alone doesn't make the Masters any less memorable.
 
An hour before the final round, Jim Nantz and CBS Sports showed a colorized broadcast of the 1960 Masters won by Arnold Palmer. The winning score was 282. Palmer didn't birdie either of the par 5s on the back nine, but rallied to win with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie on the 18th.
 
What makes the Masters so special among the four majors is returning year after year to Augusta National. It might be longer. Sometimes it's sloppy after a week of rain. Sometimes the dogwoods and azaleas blaze a little brighter.
 
It's still the Masters.
 
Golf fans know every hole on the back nine at Augusta National, and since TV coverage was expanded in 2002, they are starting to know every hole on the front. Some years it will be easier to make birdie, some years it will be tough to make par.
 
This was the latter.
 
It would be easy to suggest that Augusta National ruined its major by adding nearly a quarter-mile of length since 2001, but that would be measuring the Masters based only on this year.
 
What happened was a perfect storm -- no measurable rain during the week, or even the weeks before the Masters; gusts up to 25 mph, swirling through the trees, as always; weather so cold on the weekend that the wind chill never got into the 50s on Saturday, and fans were kept outside the gates for an hour Sunday morning until the frost melted.
 
The last time no one broke par at the Masters was in 1966, when Nicklaus, Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer finished at even-par 288. Nicklaus won the next day in an 18-hole playoff, and he wrote about the conditions in his autobiography.
 
He said a cold, dry winter had left the fairways sparse. The club decided not to mow too short, which led to flier lies from the fairway. Compounding the problem was the rock-hard greens, which made it difficult to get any shots anywhere near the hole. And wind gusts were 30 mph.
 
'One thing was certain as we wound up practice,' Nicklaus wrote. 'There would be no record scores this year.'
 
Even with scoring so high, the Masters still had its share of flurries and failures, of eagles and double bogeys.
 
Rory Sabbatini's eagle putt on the eighth hole was from 75 feet, although it probably rolled closer to 100 feet by the time it traveled left onto the fringe, then veered right back to the hole. Woods hit 5-iron to the top shelf on the par-5 13th, then went from screaming, 'God, bite!' to slapping hands with his caddie when it stopped 3 feet from the pin.
 
Luke Donald holed a 30-yard pitch for eagle on the eighth, only to follow with a triple bogey when he chipped three times before keeping his ball on the ninth green. Padraig Harrington found water on the 15th in three of four rounds, and played the par-5 in 5 over for the week.
 
It became cliche during the week to say, 'I went to the Masters and the U.S. Open broke out.'
 
But it wasn't like that.
 
The Masters will return to Augusta National year after year. And there was one other sign that you knew this wasn't a U.S. Open.
 
Tough as it was, no one complained.
 
Related Links:
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    Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

    By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

    IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

    Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

    Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

    Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

    Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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    Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

    By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

    Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

    Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

    And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

    “The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

    Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

    Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

    Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

    “I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

    Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

    A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

    It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

    There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

    Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

    The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

    Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

    “I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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    Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

    By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

    In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

    Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

    With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    "Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

    So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

    "I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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    Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

    By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

    Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

    On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

    And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

    "I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

    "I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

    He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

    Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

    With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

    But he isn't celebrating just yet.

    "It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

    "So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."