Masters Really Does Begin on the Back Nine

By Associated PressApril 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The faithful came early every day, as they always do, walking quickly with their green folding chairs to stake out the prime spots in Amen Corner. It wasn't always an easy march to make because, for the better part of four days, this Masters was almost as agonizing to watch as it was to play.
 
Augusta National had morphed into a chamber of horrors, with disaster lurking at every turn. There were whispers the green jackets had gone too far this time, and that the spirit of Bobby Jones had been lost in the never-ending battle to protect the course against modern technology.
 
Everyone braced for a stumble to the finish. The winner wasn't going to be the best player in the world, merely the only one left standing on the 18th green sometime early Sunday evening.
 
Then, just when all seemed lost, a real Masters broke out on the back nine.
 
The familiar roars that had been missing all week echoed once again through the tall pines as an entire leaderboard full of players traded shots through Amen Corner and down the final holes. Eagles and birdies returned to their proper places, and all was right again in the world of golf.
 
Well, almost. Zach Johnson is your new Masters champion, and, while he seems like a nice enough guy, he's not going to be compared to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or even Retief Goosen for that matter.
 
The Masters is supposed to be won by guys who pull out the heavy metal, take dead aim at the pin and pull off shots like the one Woods hit on the 13th hole that curled back within 3 feet of the cup for his only eagle of the week.
 
Gene Sarazen began that tradition in just the second Masters in 1935, when he spanked a 4-wood 235 yards and watched it bounce into the hole for a double eagle that allowed him to tie Craig Wood and eventually beat him in a playoff.
 
Johnson wasn't going to win his green jacket with such dramatics. You can't make double eagle laying up, and Johnson did that all week on the par-5s, relying on his wedges and putter to make up the difference against the power hitters who were supposed to be the only ones with a chance to win on a bulked-up Augusta National.
 
It worked on the 13th hole, when Johnson had just 213 yards to the green and still somehow managed to resist the temptation to go over Rae's Creek with a long iron. This is a player who knows his game, and he wedged it in close for a birdie.
 
Hardly a 'shot heard 'round the world,' but good enough to take a lead Johnson would never give up.
 
All around him, though, players were attacking a back nine that played so hard the day before that the entire field barely broke 40. Anyone within 10 shots of the lead seemed suddenly emboldened to shoot at greens and pins that they trembled in fear of the previous three rounds.
 
Jerry Kelly got things going by hitting a utility club close on the par-5 13th and making an eagle that briefly got him in contention. A few groups later, Padraig Harrington followed a birdie on the par-3 12th with an eagle he could have only imagined a few days earlier.
 
It helped that the people who run the tight ship at Augusta National ordered enough water to fill the ponds on the 15th hole poured on the greens to soften them up. They also made sure the Sunday pins were in such a spot that balls could funnel to the holes.
 
The players had been careful all week not to criticize the course, afraid perhaps that their playing privileges might be revoked mid-tournament. But they finally seemed to get the message that this was not the kind of course Jones would have wanted his name attached to.
 
A back nine that bordered on unplayable the day before was there for the taking. Balls that bounced over greens on Saturday now settled softly next to the hole, and Woods was able to pull off the shot of the day when an iron to the 13th backed up some 40 feet down the hill and finished within kick-in distance.
 
'They gave us a break, which was nice,' Woods said. 'And gave us a chance to go out there and score.'
 
Woods didn't take enough advantage of that chance, but the patrons in their folding chairs got the kind of Sunday they're used to, topped off by a near hole-in-one by Justin Rose on No. 16 that made things interesting for a bit just when everyone thought it was over.
 
The ending was anticlimatic, with Woods never coming close to making birdies on the final two holes to force a tie. Even before Woods hit it into a greenside bunker on the 17th hole, Johnson was kissing his infant son and accepting the congratulations of everyone around him.
 
It was hardly Mickelson leaping for joy after getting his first major or Woods tearfully winning one for his father.
 
There might, in fact, never be a quieter or more unassuming winner than the self-described 'normal guy' from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
 
Mr. Excitement, he's not. But at least there was some excitement Sunday on the back nine, where this year the Masters really did begin.
 
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    Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

    By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

    Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

    Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

    He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

    "It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

    "I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

    Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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    Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

    By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

    After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

    ''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

    Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

    Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    ''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

    Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

    ''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

    Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

    Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

    Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

    ''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

    Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

    Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

    Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

    ''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

    Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

    The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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    Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

    By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

    "It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

    "So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

    "I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

    "So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

    "So I know it's right around the corner."

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    Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

    By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

    ''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

    Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

    Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

    Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

    ''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

    He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

    ''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

    Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

    ''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

    Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

    ''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

    Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

    ''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

    He said his game has long been unpredictable.

    ''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''