A look at the takeaways from the 2014 Masters

By Doug FergusonApril 15, 2014, 9:14 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The moment doesn't get much bigger than this – a 20-foot putt on the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National for the win.

Too bad this wasn't the Masters.

This was a week earlier at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth were merely spectators. The stage belonged to Patrick Welch of Providence, R.I, and he made the final putt on the 18th green to win the 14-15 age division for boys.

One week later, Watson had a birdie putt from about 15 feet. He could have four-putted and still won his second Masters. He two-putted for par.

To be clear, this was a masterful performance.

On a golf course so firm and fast that only 19 players shot in the 60s, Watson did it three times. He joined a distinguished list of players to win the Masters twice in three years – Horton Smith, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But this Masters will be known more as a bore than for its roars.

The final group produced only one birdie on the back nine, and that was Watson's two-putt on the par-5 13th hole after a sand wedge he could hit no closer than 25 feet. There were only three eagles on the back nine the entire day, all on the 13th hole, none by anyone who had a chance to win.

Before attention shifts to Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open that starts in 58 days, here are some final musings from the 78th Masters:


THE TIGER FACTOR: Professional golf faced its first big test last week – a Masters without Woods for the first time in 20 years – and failed to break par.

CBS pulled in an overnight rating of 7.8, down 24 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest overnight rating since 2004 when Phil Mickelson won his first Masters on Easter Sunday, when ratings typically are lower.

That's no surprise. The Masters is the best TV in golf. Woods is the biggest star.

But the time is coming when Woods and Mickelson (who missed the cut for the first time in 17 years) will no longer be active. Golf is better when there is a dominant player, and golf has had the world's most famous athlete for nearly two decades.

Would having a 20-year-old Jordan Spieth in a green jacket have helped? Possibly. One reason the ratings were not better is that Spieth was never closer than three shots over the final hour. The last time the Masters limped to the finish was when Trevor Immelman built a big lead in 2008.

In the absence of a star, sport needs a good rivalry. Golf has neither at the moment.


SIGNATURE MOMENT: The defining shot for Watson might have been his drive on the 13th hole.

During a surprise visit to Golf Channel on Tuesday morning, Watson said he once reached the par 5 in two with a pitching wedge when he played college golf at Georgia. This time, he came out of his shoes with a big fade that started further left than he wanted, clipped a tree and still came back to earth 366 yards away.

''His drive on 13, I'll never forget,'' Spieth said.

Even though Watson followed with a most ordinary sand wedge to 25 feet and left the eagle putt woefully short, it was a psychological blow. With that kind of power, Watson wasn't losing a three-shot over the final five holes unless he gave it away. And he didn't.


FLOWERING CRAB APPLE: That's the name of the par-3 fourth hole, and it was poison to a couple of players. Spieth made No. 4 memorable for holing his bunker shot in the final round for birdie. Go back to Saturday to find Brandt Snedeker coming off back-to-back birdies to reach 2-under par. He hit into the bunker, blasted out to about 5 feet, and then five-putted from there for triple bogey.

Matt Kuchar chipped in from behind the third green to briefly share the lead on Sunday. He hit a reasonable tee shot, about 60 feet away, and four-putted for double bogey. He made only one birdie the rest of the way.


NEXT YEAR: The top 12 are invited back to the Masters next year (it used to be top 16 until last year).

For the last five years, someone who finished one shot out of the top 12 or top 16 failed to get back to Augusta the following April - David Toms, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes, Scott Verplank and Aaron Baddeley. In the final year of his exemption from winning the 2009 British Open, Stewart Cink closed with a bogey-free 68. He finished one shot out of the top 12.

Cink has work to do to get back to Augusta.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.