Tiger and Others Stalking DiMarco in Augusta
DiMarco overcame a shaky start to record a 3-under-par 69. The 32-year-old Masters rookie stands at 10-under-par entering the final 36 holes in Augusta, Ga., two shots clear of his nearest competitors.
Thursday, DiMarco wore green in tribute to his Masters debut. Friday, he wore red; and once again it proved appropriate because there are plenty of sharks in the water.
Chris DiMarco talks about his second round lead
The top two ranked players in the world, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, are tied for second at 8-under. Five others are just three back, including former World No. 1 David Duval and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (70).
Woods birdied three of his final four holes in the second round for a 6-under-par 66. Tiger carded eight birdies and two bogeys on the day to finish with a 36-hole total of 8-under 136.
Tigers first two rounds of 70-66 are identical to his opening two rounds in his championship year of 1997.
Its not a bad thing, Woods said of the correlation between the two years. I did alright that year. Hopefully, Ill do it again.
Woods, Duval, Mickelson and others talk about Rd.2
However, four years ago, Woods led the event by three shots entering the weekend. This time, hes trailing by two.
DiMarco, who shot 65 to lead by one as the day began, overcame a bogey at the 1st to card a front-nine 1-under-par 35. He made the turn at 8-under, and picked up two more shots with birdies at the 12th and 15th holes.
DiMarco concluded his round with a pair of clutch par saves over his final two holes. At the par-4 17th, he got up and down from the greenside bunker. He then hit his tee shot on the par-4 18th into the left fairway bunker, the same one Sandy Lyle played from and made birdie to win the 1988 Masters.
Unlike the Englishman, DiMarco clipped the lip of the bunker and came up well short of the green. However, he pitched to 10 feet and converted the par save.
That putt on 18 was big. It was huge for my confidence, he said. You can pinch me if you want. It feels like a dream.
DiMarcos excitement is heightened by the fact that hell play the third round alongside Woods.
What a story, playing with the best player in the world on the best course in the world, DiMarco said.
Once again, there were plenty of red numbers on the leaderboard.
Duval and Toshi Izawa, who lost in a six-man playoff in this years Nissan Open, each shot 66 to climbed to 7-under-par for the tournament.
Mark Calcavecchia did the same to move into a tie for ninth at 6-under. Also on that number is two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. The 35-year-old Spaniard carded a 4-under-par 68 in an effort to add another title to the ones he captured in 1994 and 1999.
I have a lot of good memories around this course, said Olazabal. That makes it even more special.
Duval has several lasting memories at Augusta; hes finished in the top-6 each of the past three years. However, hes still yet to collect that elusive first major.
Friday, Duval bogeyed the par-5 15th for the second round in a row, but he regrouped with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes to shoot a back-nine 32.
I think I know how to win around here as well as anyone. Granted I havent done itbut Im looking forward to doing it this weekend, said Duval, who is playing competitively for the first time in five weeks due to tendinitis in his right wrist.
Mickelson is also anxious to get the major monkey off his back. The left-hander recorded a 3-under-par 69, but it wasnt without peaks and valleys.
Mickelson bogeyed the par-5 2nd, only to birdie four holes on the front nine to make the turn at 8-under for the tournament.
Following another bogey at the 10th, Mickelson hit his tee shot on the par-3 12th onto the front of the green, where it trickled down into Raes Creek. He eventually notched a double bogey 5.
However, in typical Mickelson fashion, he birdied three of his next four holes to finish the day at 8-under.
Defending champion Vijay Singh is still in contention to become the first player since Nick Faldo in 1990 to successfully defend his title. Singh shot a second-round 71 to enter the weekend six off the lead at 4-under-par.
Not everyone left the course satisfied on Friday. Greg Norman endured another Masters mishap by shooting a 10-over-par 82 in the second round. The three-time Masters runner-up, who began the day at 1-under, recorded 10 bogeys, including eight in a ten-hole stretch.
Norman entered the event with high expectations, and even higher semblance. Fifteen years ago, a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus defeated Norman for his sixth Green Jacket.
Therefore, it only seemed appropriate that at age 46, Norman would contend in 2001. Such was not the case. The Shark posted only one eagle and one birdie over 36 holes.
One word ' ugly, said Norman in describing his performance. Nothing you can do; just move onto next week.
Norman, Nicklaus and Garcia talk about missing the cut
Most everyone else will focus on the present; where Woods may not yet be leading, but is commanding most the attention.
Tigers march to winning his fourth consecutive major began with four birdies over his first eight holes. Despite a bogey at the 9th, Woods birdied both par-5s on the back nine to move to 7-under for the tournament.
A second bogey occurred at the par-3 16th, but once again Woods rallied by sinking a pair of birdie putts over each of his final two holes.
I felt like anything in the 60s was going to be great, said Woods, who took 28 putts in the second round. The golf course is only going to get tougher over the weekend.
In 1997, Woods ran way with the event over the weekend with rounds of 65-69. He finished the event at 18-under-par, 12 strokes clear of his nearest competitor.
In the four years since, Woods has added four more majors to his resume and 40 more pounds to his frame.
But if youre wondering ' and the Masters committee may be ' Tigers jacket size is still the same.
News, Notes and Numbers
*47 players made the cut, which fell at 1-over-par 145. It tied the lowest cutline in Masters history (1979, 1992, 1995).
*None of the five amateurs in the field made the cut. James Driscoll started the day at 4-under, but shot 78 to miss the cut by one shot. The 23-year-old was even par through 16 holes in his second round, but double bogeyed the 17th to finish the event at 2-over.
*Sergio Garcia (76) bogeyed the 18th to miss the cut by a shot. Thomas Bjorn (76) doubled the 18th to also miss the cut be a single stroke.
*Six past Masters champions made the cut, while 16 missed it. Jack Nicklaus, 61, Gary Player, 65, and Arnold Palmer, 71, all missed the cut. Nicklaus and Player each shot 71 in the first round, but shot 75 and 76, respectively, in the second round. Palmer shot 82-76.
*Chris Perry twisted his knee on the 1st hole in the second round. He carded a pair of 7s to start his day, but hobbled to a 2-over-par 74. He stands in a tie for 20th place at 2-under.
*Chris DiMarcos 10-under-par 134 score through 36 holes is a new tournament record for a first-time player. Mark Lye set the record with a 9-under-par 135 in 1984.
Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament
After Further Review: Spieth needs a break
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...
Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.
Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.
A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.
So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray
On the difference between this week and last week ...
There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.
Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.
At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard
On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...
Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.
Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.
Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell
Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup
CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.
Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.
After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.
“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”
Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.
“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”
Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.
At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.
Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.
Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.
“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”
Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.
Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.
“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”
Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.
“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”
Bubba thrives in his comfort zone
CROMWELL, Conn. – The 1:20 p.m. pairing Sunday at TPC River Highlands spanned the spectrum on the PGA Tour. In one corner stood science. Bryson DeChambeau, whose quantitative approach to golf seemingly knows no bounds, was looking to add another victory after winning a playoff earlier this month at Jack’s Place.
On the other side was art.
Bubba Watson doesn’t float golf balls in Epsom salt to identify minor imperfections. He doesn’t break out a compass to find the slightest errors in the Tour-supplied pin sheet. Even when he texts caddie Ted Scott, he prefers to use voice text rather than rely on his admittedly sub-optimal spelling.
But strolling along one of his favorite landscapes, Bubba the artist came out on top. Again.
Watson is in the midst of a resurgent season, one that already included a third victory at one of his favorite haunts in Riviera Country Club. It featured a decisive run through the bracket at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and a return to the leaderboards at Augusta National where he fell short of a third green jacket.
It only makes sense, then, that he’d build upon that burgeoning momentum at the Travelers Championship, where he earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and Sunday joined Billy Casper as the tournament’s only three-time champ with a final-round 63 to catch and pass Paul Casey.
This is a place where Watson can bomb drives by feel and carve short irons at will, and one where he officially put his stamp on the best season to date on Tour.
“His hand-eye coordination is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen,” DeChambeau said. “You’ve got me who was just struggling off the tee, and he’s just swiping shots down there. It was cool to watch. I wish I could do that. I probably could do that, but I just don’t feel like I’d be as consistent as he is.”
Consistency wasn’t an apt descriptor a year ago, as Watson went from two-time major champ to completely off the radar. His world ranking, which began last year at No. 10 and is now back up to No. 13 after he became the first three-time winner this season, fell as far as 117th before his win at Riviera in February.
Watson attributes much of the turnaround to a change in health. Never really one to tip the scales, he lost 25 pounds in a three-month span last year while battling an undisclosed health concern. After putting some of the weight back on, he’s now able to focus more of his time and energy on fine-tuning one of the Tour’s most distinctive approaches.
“Anytime any of these guys kind of get comfortable with just being them, and golf is secondary in a sense, it helps them reach their potential,” said Scott. “I think the hype and the pressure can sometimes put things out of sort. And right now he’s just very comfortable with who he is as a person, and I think in his life. It helps him relax on the golf course.”
What Watson doesn’t prefer to mention is the equipment change he made that serves as a not-so-subtle line of demarcation. The southpaw turned heads at the end of 2016 when he agreed to play a colored Volvik ball on Tour during the 2017 season, only to watch his results fall off a cliff. A return to the Titleist ball he previously used has coincided with some of the best results of his 12-year career.
“I don’t think it has had any (role) in my success,” Watson said. “My clubs weren’t going the distance that I used to. I couldn’t shape it the way I want to. Luckily for me, I know the problem, and the problem was with health and not all these other things.”
But regardless of the true source of his turnaround, Watson is back to doing what he does best. That includes carving up the handful of venues that most fit his unique eye, be they lined by thick kikuyu rough outside Los Angeles or dotted with menacing water hazards outside Hartford.
The artistic touch was on full display with his final swing of the day. Facing exactly 71 yards to a pin tucked barely over the edge of a yawning bunker on No. 18, Watson laid the face open on his 63-degree wedge and hit a cut shot that spun and checked to inside 3 feet.
“Teddy put his arm around me, like, ‘That was an amazing shot,’” Watson said. “He’s seen a lot of shots, he’s been out here for many years. So for him to realize it, and other players to text me and realize it, it was special.”
While it seemed at the time like a shot that gave Watson a glimmer of hope in his pursuit of Casey, it ultimately turned out to be the final highlight of a three-shot victory. It’s the type of shot that few, if any, of his peers can visualize, let alone execute with such exact precision with the tournament hanging in the balance.
It’s the type of shot that separates Watson – the quirky left-hander with the pink driver who openly talks about his struggles with on-course focus and abhors few things more than trying to hit a straight shot – from even the best in the game when things are firing on all cylinders.
“The skills have always been there, as you know. But he’s just more relaxed now,” Scott said. “And when these guys, obviously when they enjoy it, they can play at their best and not get too stressed.”