Storylines, contenders plentiful Sunday at Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2013, 12:29 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Turns out the show does go on – for Tiger Woods and the Masters.

In one of the most bizarre rules snafus since Roberto De Vicenzo miscalculated himself into Masters lore, Woods was issued a two-stroke penalty and given metaphorical free relief all before the leaders reached the first tee on Saturday.

Woods, who was penalized for taking an incorrect drop after ricocheting his approach at the par-5 15th hole into the water, began his day with the rules committee at 8 a.m. ET. Nearly six hours later, he teed off despite having signed for an incorrect score thanks to a caveat in the rules.

If, as Nike Golf reasoned after Woods won last month at Bay Hill and regained the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, “winning takes care of everything,” Augusta National proved equally adept as a conversation changer thanks to a collection of classic contenders.

Brandt Snedeker, the hottest player on the planet before the PGA Tour moved east and he was slowed by a muscle injury, and Angel Cabrera, who has also been no stranger to injuries and inconsistent play in recent years, enter the most famous final round in golf tied for the lead at 7 under.

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Both have been in similar situations before – Snedeker in 2008 when he went off in Sunday’s final group, closed with a 77 and tied for third; and Cabrera, who was tied for second – and in the final pairing – going into the last lap in 2011, but faded with a 71.

Both will be trailed by demons into the final round, not to mention a deep leaderboard that includes Woods, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Adam Scott all within four strokes of the lead.

In fact, for those with a sense of history, if not a rooting interest, Sunday is shaping up to be historic for Australia. The Aussie duck – duck being a cricket term meaning zero, which is how many green jackets have been won by a player from Oz – may finally, and mercifully, be lifted.

Not since the days of Greg Norman has Australia had numbers like this. Scott, one back after a third-round 69, is alone in third followed by Day, who held a share of the lead for much of the day before finishing with consecutive bogeys and falling to 5 under along with fellow countryman Marc Leishman.

“We were talking about it this morning,” said Day’s caddie/swing coach Col Swatton. “Obviously, Aussies feel a little more pressure, but there always has to be a first time.”

For Cabrera it would be a surprising second time. In 2012, the ’09 Masters champion missed as many cuts (nine) as he made and didn’t post a single top-10 finish. He seemed to turn things around late last year, winning the Argentine Open in December, but had shown little form in the U.S. this season.

That was until this week.

“Last June he knew he wasn’t doing things the right way,” said Charlie Epps, the Argentine’s swing coach. “It’s all mental. Sometimes you get in ruts, life is hard and it’s not fun, but he did what he had to do and he did it well.”

Those odds would suggest the green jacket is headed back to the Southern Hemisphere – or maybe just the South.

Snedeker ramped up for this week’s event just downstate at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort and has played the Georgia gem, either as a competitor or guest, hundreds of times. That he is also one of the game’s top putters is also worth style points in these parts.

“I spent 32 years getting ready for tomorrow,” said Snedeker, who was nearly flawless in his Saturday 69.

Through the first month of the season he was almost as perfect, finishing third, second, second and first in four of his first five events. But after his victory at Pebble Beach he went on the DL with a strained intercostal muscle and missed consecutive cuts when he returned.

That the highlight of his Masters career is his Sunday swoon in 2008 promises to also be a talking point, but five years removed from that emotional Sunday the five-time Tour winner and reigning FedEx Cup champion didn’t sound like a man haunted by Masters memories.

“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008. No idea,” Snedeker said. “I have a complete and clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow.”

So does Woods, although he hasn’t done it in eight years.

They say the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday. For Woods it almost ended just past Amen Corner on Friday.

Officials initially deemed Woods’ drop on No. 15 during the second round within the rules. It wasn’t until he signed his scorecard and spoke with the media that they realized he’d dropped a few feet from where he took the original shot, which is a violation.

When the dust and speculation settled, Woods received a two-stroke penalty and the Masters took a mulligan, using Rule 33-7 to keep Woods from being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

“(The rule) is to protect the player when the committee changes its mind,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of the tournament’s rules committee. “The committee makes mistakes some times. I think he’s entitled to protection.”

Woods made the most of the ruling, carding a 2-under 70 that included birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 15. For the fifth time in the last seven years since he collected green jacket No. 4, Woods begins the final day within the top 10. Or, put another way, he’s exactly where he wants to be.

“As we all know, if you are within six shots on the back nine on Sunday you’ve got a chance,” said Woods, who has won all 14 of his majors with at least a share of the lead going into the last 18 holes. “I’m right there with a good shot to win the tournament.”

And it seems that after a brief detour early Saturday, Augusta National is right on schedule.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.

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“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.”