Scott wins Masters, energizes entire continent

By Rex HoggardApril 15, 2013, 2:23 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It is Monday in Melbourne, but all of Oz awoke to an unofficial, impromptu holiday.

Australia’s long Masters nightmare ended on a rainy Sunday. On a day ready-made for a duck, Adam Scott outlasted Angel “El Pato” (The Duck) Cabrera to end the “Aussie Duck,” the cricket term that means zero, which was the grand sum of green jackets collected before Sunday’s wet and wild finish.

If there was any doubt as to the significance of Scott’s victory, consider Craig Heatley’s emotional introduction of the champion to the media following his playoff title bout.

“When I heard the roar down on (No. 10), a second later I heard about 30 million people in Australia and New Zealand all cheering,” said Heatley, an Augusta National member and native of . . . wait for it, New Zealand.

With near flawless ball-striking and clutch putting Scott completed the Anchoring Slam – following in the footsteps of Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) – and just in time as the USGA and R&A seem poised to rule on long putters before the end of the spring.

'Morning Drive': Norman discusses Scott's win and impact on Australia

Photos: Scott through the years

77th Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

On Sunday, however, it wasn’t about Scott’s broom-handle putter that converted a 20-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole to move him to 9 under and force overtime and finally the walk-off in near darkness, a 12-footer for birdie at the second extra hole (No. 10) to secure his nation some peace of mind.

This one was for Oz. This one was for Greg Norman, the symbol of Australian fruitlessness at the Masters and Scott’s mentor. In 2011, with Scott struggling with his swing and psyche, Norman took a flyer and made him a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup.

On Sunday Scott repaid Norman in full.

“Greg as the captain had a lot of faith in me and made me a pick,” said Scott, who closed with matching 69s on the weekend. “There is no hiding in a Presidents Cup and I used that as a real motivator and a way to make myself believe I was a great player again. It was a really big boost for me.”

Even a crushing defeat last year at the Open Championship, when he closed with four consecutive bogeys to lose by one stroke, did little to rattle Scott’s newfound confidence and when he began the day one stroke off the lead he knew redemption was at hand.

Scott began his final round with a bogey at the first and was flawless the rest of the way, pulling into a tie for the lead when fellow Aussie Jason Day bogeyed the 16th hole and pulling away with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to finish at 9 under and force extra holes for the second consecutive year at Augusta National.

If Scott’s victory was historically significant in Australia, it also proved to be something of a myth buster at Augusta National. He finished tied for 39th for the week in putting, although he did have just two three-putts, but first in greens in regulation.

Turns out the “Putting Contest” is a second-shot test.

Statistics aside, for Scott the most important thing was what his victory meant back home.

“I’m a proud Australian and I hope this sits well out home,” Scott said. “We’re a proud sporting country and we like to think we’re the best at everything. . . . Part of this is for (Norman) because he’s given me so much inspiration and belief.”

Norman is the epicenter of the nation’s passion and pain when it comes to the year’s first major. The Shark is a three-time bridesmaid at the Masters, including his 1996 meltdown after leading by six strokes through 54 holes only to post a closing-nine 40.

The weight of a nation has buckled more than one Aussie since, including Day, who stormed into the lead with a birdie-eagle start on Sunday. The 2011 runner-up at Augusta National pulled two strokes clear with a birdie at the 15th hole but finished with bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 and alone in third place.

“There was an enormous amount of pressure on my shoulders but I played pretty good today,” Day said. “People don’t understand what kind of pressure there is.”

Tiger Woods could relate.

The four-time champion came up one bad bounce and a bad drop short, literally, and finished four shots back, nearly within the margin of error that added up to a triple-bogey-8 on the 15th during Friday’s second round.

Woods received a Masters mulligan on Saturday, via the club’s curious decision to forgo the prescribed disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard after he took an incorrect drop on the 15th, but not his fifth green jacket.

Woods has now played 15 majors since his last Grand Slam victory, the same number that now taunts him in his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Slam haul.

He used to win majors with his C-game; now he seems to struggle closing the deal when it counts with his A-game, which is what he appeared to have entering this week.

Woods had three signature victories at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill and, more importantly, was leading the Tour in putting heading down Magnolia Lane. At no time over the past five years have the stars been so perfectly aligned to wrest himself off his Grand Slam schnied, yet major No. 15 continues to elude him.

“You can do 'what ifs' in every tournament you lose,” said Woods, who closed with a 70 and finished at 5 under. “It’s just the way it goes; I played this week the way I played all year.”

By contrast, Cabrera’s week was every bit an anomaly. The Argentine hadn’t posted a top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event since the 2011 McGladrey Classic and there was nothing to suggest he was trending in the right direction, other than the fact that this was a major.

Cabrera pulled away from the field with a birdie at No. 7 and matched Scott with an approach to 3 feet for birdie at the 18th hole. He was equally solid in the playoff, nearly chipping in for birdie at the first extra frame and narrowly missing a 15-footer at the second OT hole for birdie.

“That’s golf. Golf gives and takes,” Cabrera said.

It’s a lesson Scott learned last year in England.

Following Scott’s meltdown at Royal Lytham he received a not entirely unexpected phone call from Norman. If anyone knew how to deal with heartache, it was the Shark.

“I said to him, ‘You played better golf than anyone for 69 holes and take that as a positive,’” Norman said late Sunday on Golf Channel. “He knew minor fluctuations can create a major disaster. But he knew he had the capability to go on and win major championships.”

That he started with the one that means the most to Australia, and Norman, only made it that much more profound.

By the time Scott slipped his arms into the green jacket that had eluded his nation for so long the rain finally let up. So did the cloud that had been looming over Australian golf.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”