Only at Augusta

By George WhiteApril 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
It will play out again Sunday at 7 or so in the evening, this scene deep in the pines which occurs once a year, every year. Youre walking up 18 and your mind is on overload, what with all the possibilities in play that could occur before the next 10 minutes are finished. Behind the green, beside the green, up and down the fairways, people are in a high state of agitation, waiting to see how ' if? - you will eventually get it done.
Deathly silence is just as likely here as seismic roars. You are battling with every fiber within you to keep your focus on what you have to do. You have to make the muscles execute, the brain to calculate. This is the 72nd hole of the Masters, my friend.
For some champions, it all is just too much. They manage to hold it together until the very end, then break down in sobs. Remember Tiger Woods winning his first in 1997? Remember an emotionally distraught Ben Crenshaw as he tapped in the winner in 1995, then doubled over in tears as caddie Carl Jackson reached out to steady him?
I let it all go, Crenshaw said. I couldnt wait any longer.
The heroic putts that have occurred in just the last 20 years could fill volumes. Remember Sandy Lyle sinking the 10-footer in 1988 to defeat Mark Calcavecchia? Ian Woosnam in 1991 making the 6-footer to turn back Jose Maria Olazabal? Mark OMearas 20-footer in 98 that sent away David Duval and Fred Couples? How about Phil Mickelson rolling in the 18-footer last year that made Ernie Els a bitterly disappointed loser?
It was an experience that we don't get in golf very often as players, Mickelson said. I would sometimes wonder what it would be like for a basketball player on the court with 15,000 people yelling, how loud it would be. And it was very loud last year.
It was an experience I'll never forget. Bones (caddie Jim Mackay) and I reminisced playing the back nine today ... It was just a very cool experience that I'll always remember, and every time I come back here, I'll always relive it.
It was the same in 2001 for Woods, who rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt when just a par would have done the trick. That victory was the fourth consecutive major ' the Tiger Slam. He was in a state of shock, then quietly went to the side of the green and pulled his cap over his face.
I was in such a zone today, said Tiger after it was over, working so hard on every shot. Then (after making the putt) I walked over to the side and I just started thinking, You know, I don't have any more shots to play. I'm done - I won the Masters.
You know, it was just a weird feeling, because when you are focused so hard on each and every shot, you kind of forget everything else. When I didn't have any more shots to play, that's when I started to realize what I had done - I won the tournament. And I started getting a little emotional, trying to pull it together. That's why I put the cap over my face, to pull it together, so that when Phil made his putt, I was able to shake his hand.
It was a feeling that Woods had never experienced before.
I've done it before - I've cried after wins. I've cried after defeats. But I've never had that feeling before I focused so hard on just that one golf shot and that's it, that I finally realized, I had no more to play. That's it. I'm done.
For some reason, my emotions started coming out and I started experiencing and reflecting on some of the shots I had hit, some of the big putts, and, I don't know, a lot of different images came by, came through my head real quick, like the leaderboard, watching David, hearing the roars, watching Phil make putts. A lot of different things went through my head at that moment.
Mike Weir won in 2003. That final hour was an extreme roller coaster, joy ' and anticipation ' coming upon him in waves.
There's just such tradition at this place, at Augusta National, said Weir. For myself, you've watched as a kid, I've watched Jack Nicklaus come through and shoot 30 on the back nine. You've seen all of the different scenarios pan out on the back nine.
When you're in that situation yourself, you hear the roars and you hear everything, everything echoes around out there, it's just a different feel. I don't know how to explain it. It's a much different feel than any other tournament there is. That's what makes it so special.
Its a rare kind of emotion, that sensation of being on the verge of winning, the feeling that you can win or lose the Masters with virtually every swipe of the club. Mickelson knows it oh-so-well now after he went on a birdie binge in the last seven holes to win last year.
There's a special feeling to be able to relive a victory walk up the back nine and to be a part of - not just to be a part of the tournament, but to have those memories of the shot that I pulled in the clutch. And to birdie five of the last seven was just a memory that I'll never forget.
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Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

“It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

“He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”