Getty Images

Spieth, Fowler provide drama in memorable Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 9, 2018, 12:33 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth’s 8-footer for par at the 72nd hole had just slipped past the hole. As he glanced over his shoulder to climb the hill to Augusta National’s clubhouse his eyes widened.

The player who famously avoids leaderboard gawking was getting his first glance, his first look all day, at that iconic board adjacent to the 18th hole.

“The first time I saw the leaderboard was after I tapped in on 18. Honest to God,” stressed Spieth, whose closing 64 tied for the lowest final round in Masters history. “I could have been in the lead by two and I could have been down four. And neither one would have surprised me. I didn't look once today.”

He missed an epic show.

In Spieth’s defense, he did start the final round at the Masters a full nine shots behind Patrick Reed and correctly figured that even if he was able to conjure some magic around the old plant nursery there was a murderer’s row of would-be champions he’d have to leapfrog on his way to his second green jacket.

“With eight people ahead of me starting the day, to get that much help and shoot a fantastic round was nearly impossible,” Spieth shrugged. “But I almost pulled off the impossible. I had no idea.”

Between Spieth and Rickie Fowler – who set out on Sunday in slightly better position, just five strokes off the pace – they produced an impossibly memorable final round that, with a monsoon of respect to eventual champion Reed, would otherwise have gone down as one of the tournament’s more uneventful finishes.

Reed won with a gritty closing round of 71, but this Masters will be remembered as a frenzied buzzer beater for the American thanks to Spieth and Reed providing an intoxicating mix of inspiration and intrigue.

It’s the secret sauce that makes the Masters different from other majors. Identify the week’s best – sure, all the majors accomplish that to varying degrees – but the magic is to bring together the game’s best, add a dash of hole locations that encourage aggressive play with electrifying results and finish it off with a steady diet of mounting pressure.

Spieth got things started with five birdies through his first nine holes before vanquishing some demons at the 12th hole, where he’s lost at least two Masters already in his young career, with a 22-footer for birdie to move to 14 under and within two shots of Reed.

Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

Not that Spieth had any idea where he stood.

“To play a disciplined shot, probably the most pressure-packed shot I've ever hit [at No. 12], the Sunday pin at Augusta and I know what I've done, and my history there, to stand in that kind of pressure and hit the shot to the safe zone, to knock that putt in was massive,” Spieth said.

He would convert back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 and again at Nos. 15 and 16, the latter to tie for the lead at 14 under and send a low, distinctive roar across the property and all the way to the 11th tee, where Reed was about to hit a wayward drive that would add more intrigue to the proceedings.

Compared with Spieth, Fowler’s heroics were more of the traditional variety after playing the opening loop in 1 under par. The man many consider the best player without a major rolled in 9-footers at 12 and 13 and a 49-foot winding Hail Mary at the 15th hole to move to within two strokes of the lead.

The theater built to a predictable crescendo, with Fowler hitting his approach to 7 feet at the final hole just as Reed stepped to the 18th tee 465 yards back down the hill. From center stage with the world and Reed watching, Fowler calmly rolled in the type of birdie putt that wins major championships.

Unlike Spieth, Fowler didn’t need to glance back up at the leaderboard to check his status. His birdie at the last left him at 14 under, one stroke back and officially on hold while Reed decided the outcome.

“I didn't look at the scoreboards a whole lot today, but I wanted to kind of check in and see where things were at around the turn,” said Fowler, who closed with a 67 to complete a 12-under-par weekend surge. “I saw Jordan was off and running today. To see that was kind of a kick in the butt.”

The assorted charges and cheers that echoed through the pines also served to put Reed on notice. Poised to become the first player to post all four rounds in the 60s after the first three days, the would-be champion struggled early.

Reed bogeyed the first and sixth holes to turn in even par and pushed his drive into the trees right of the 11th fairway on his way to bogey. His lead, which was three shots over Rory McIlroy to begin the day, had been trimmed to a single stroke.

“I knew someone else was going to go post a number early. Did I think they were going to post that type of number [Spieth’s 64]? No,” said Reed, who would birdie the 15th hole and play the rest of his round in even par for a one-stroke victory over Fowler.

“But just to see kind of how he was playing and see every time I looked at a board, they always threw up a number and it seemed to always get closer and closer to me; it was kind of nerve wracking. I was kind of glad he ran out of holes.”

After one of the most memorable finishes in Masters history, he may have been the only one who wanted this magical day to end.

Getty Images

M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

Getty Images

Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

Getty Images

Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

Getty Images

Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.