Master field closing in on 100 spots

By Doug FergusonMarch 29, 2010, 12:43 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Louis Oosthuizen and K.J. Choi can add Augusta National to their travel itinerary.

They were among five players who have moved into the top 50 in the world ranking and earned a spot in the Masters, which could have its largest field in 44 years.

Oosthuizen, the 27-year-old South African who lost a 54-hole lead a week ago in Morocco, won his first European Tour event Sunday at the Andalucia Open in Spain. He earned enough points to move into the top 50.

Choi closed with a 1-over 73 and was tied for 17th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational when the final round was suspended by weather. Choi, who moved up to No. 48 with his runner-up finish a week ago at Innisbrook, will stay in the top 50.

Augusta National takes the top 50 players in the world ranking to be published Monday. The only other way to qualify now is for someone not already eligible to win the Houston Open next week.

The other three players to qualify for the Masters through the world ranking are Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Alvaro Quiros of Spain and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.

The invitations will not be official until the Arnold Palmer Invitational ends.

With the addition of five players, the field is expected to be at least 98 players. That does not include two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, whose manager said last week he was suffering from rheumatism and would not play this year.

It would be the largest field since 103 players competed in the 1966 Masters.

Of the four majors, the Masters has the smallest field. Only three times since it began in 1934 has the field topped 100 players, with the largest coming in 1962 when 109 players competed.

It will be the fourth consecutive year that international players outnumber Americans at the Masters.

Schwartzel began the year at No. 65, then won back-to-back weeks in South Africa and secured his spot among the top 50 when he was the runner-up to Ernie Els at a World Golf Championship in Doral two weeks ago.

“I’m very excited,” Schwartzel said. “I’ve never been there so I don’t know what to expect.”

He was equally thrilled for Oosthuizen, with whom he competed as a junior. Oosthuizen was at No. 60 in the world until winning by three shots. Depending on the final few holes of Bay Hill, he will be about No. 45 in the world.

“Actually when I was on the golf course, I was more interested in him,” said Schwartzel, who shot a 76 on Sunday.

The biggest move came from Choi, who was at No. 75 until his runner-up finish last week moved him to No. 47. Once he made the cut at Bay Hill, he only needed to finish at least 45th in the tournament.

“My first goal this year was to win,” Choi said. “But anytime you go to Augusta National, it’s good.”

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'Get in the squad car!': Fan ejected for heckling Garcia

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 11:46 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Early Wednesday morning at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about fan behavior in recent weeks.

Although Monahan stressed that anything that impacts play inside the ropes would not be tolerated, he did address an incident like what happened a few weeks ago when a fan yelled for Justin Thomas’ ball to “get in the bunker.”

“That’s part of what our players have to accept,” Monahan said. “In any sport, you go to an away game in any other sport and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

That theory was put to the test later on Wednesday when Sergio Garcia found himself in a similar situation on the 12th hole at Austin Country Club and the fan was removed from the course.

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“The guy obviously was shouting not very nice things at me. So I pointed him out to my [police] officer and then he decided to get him out of the course because he was being disrespectful not only to me but to everyone around,” said Garcia following his Day 2 match, a 2-up victory over Dylan Frittelli.

“Crowds in our game have gotten bigger. So obviously it's not just golf crowds that you get now. And sometimes unfortunately you get one or two guys that are probably having too much fun and a little bit too much liquid and unfortunately it happens.”

Last weekend at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy suggested the Tour should consider limiting alcohol sales on the course and he was again asked about fan behavior on Thursday.

“What is too much? If they are not shouting in your backswing then it's OK? It all depends,” McIlroy said. “I made my comments last week on St. Patrick's Day when everyone was just a few too many deep. I don't know, I'm all for people coming out here, having a good time. I think what happened to Justin Thomas at the Honda, that went over the line.”

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.