If you joined our wildly entertaining chat (thanks to Cover It Live for the great software), you know how I feel. Great event, one for the ages and, well...
I am sure there is no body of professional games players who so cheerfully know so little of the rules of their game as do professional golfers.
If you joined our wildly entertaining chat (thanks to Cover It Live for the great software), you know how I feel. Great event, one for the ages and, well...
We start around 11 am PT, 2 ET.
I've been doing these clippings for a few years now and Masters Saturday typically produces less content due to different deadlines and low Sunday web viewership. That, combined with a peculiar day that saw some great early scores followed by the leaders not doing much, has left us with a little less to chew on heading into Sunday's finale.
Still, there was plenty of good stuff even if writing about the golf course appears to be forbidden!
(Reminder: The live chat here starts at 11 PT/2 ET right after the thrilling conclusion of the 1975 Masters. Weiskopf holds a one shot lead over Nicklaus and sits four clear of Miller.)
It was a roar that defines the Masters, so loud it startled even Tiger Woods.
Rory McIlroy, who already dazzled the crowd with a shot through the pines to the back of the 17th green, raised the putter in his left hand as the birdie putt turned toward the hole, then slammed his right fist when the ball disappeared into the cup.
The cheer was so clamorous that Woods, who had settled over his shot in the 18th fairway, had to back away. After all these years of crushing the hopes of so many others, the four-time Masters champ finally felt what it was like on the other end.
That moment — and right now, this Masters — belongs to McIlroy.
You don’t get a stampede around Augusta National, it’s much too civil a place for that. Yet, as Rory McIlroy continued his quest for a maiden Major title by retaining his lead after the third round, there were significant moves made by the young and the old to make the 21-year-old Ulsterman cast a glance or two over his shoulder heading into the final day.
The fist pump said it all. Rory McIlroy has the opportunity to join the legends today when he takes a four-shot lead into the last round of The Masters. Europe's 12-year wait for a Green Jacket looks set to reach a quite glorious conclusion this evening.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland moved one step closer to ushering in a new era in golf on Saturday at the Masters, shrugging off the immense pressure of playing with the tournament lead, distancing himself by four strokes from his closest pursuers and closing in on his first major championship.
If history tells us anything it is that the course of a Masters tournament can change with the swiftness of a blink. But when the final round of the 75th version of Bobby Jones's annual invitational begins on Sunday, Rory McIlroy will surely never have imagined a more tantalising chance of winning his first major championship.
An ESPN.com highlight video is here and if you are looking to alter your level of consciousness, Andy North is analyzing the highlights.
Brian Keogh reports that Padraig Harrington sees Rory on the cusp of golfing immortality, with a particularly bold prediction.
Sensing that a victory by his Ryder Cup team mate would open the floodgates to multiple major wins, Harrington said: “I don’t see why he can’t win. And if he does win, there will be another name thrown in [to the debate] about the guy who is going to win the most majors in a career. So, it’s a big step for him at the weekend in that sense.
McIlroy is staying in a rented home near the course with three boyhood pals from his home course in Holywood, Northern Ireland, and it seems to be a nice pressure valve for him, Schwartzel said.
"Yeah, I've seen him every night and we have had some good meat at the ISM house," Schwartzel said of the management firm. "Maybe that's the key. He has a couple of mates out there and looks like he's just cruising."
For a bunch of rambunctious boys in their early 20s, it sounds like they have mostly stayed out of trouble, excepting the neighborhood lady who yelled at them for throwing a football in the street.
"We'll probably go back, get some dinner and hang out," said Ricky McCormick, 21, one of the three amigos staying with McIlroy. "He's just really relaxed."
When the menu for the night was posed, one of McIlroy's pals cracked, "Asparagus."
Hey, it's Masters week, and at least they picked the right color.
Christine Brennan on Graeme McDowell joining Rory's entourage Saturday.
One of McIlroy's best friends, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, missed the cut here and joined McIlroy's gallery Saturday.
"Actually he just texted me and told me he loves me. I don't know what that means. I don't know if that's him or the beer talking," McIlroy said, laughing.
"No, it's great to see him out there and I appreciate his support. He's going to know how I'm feeling. He's a major champion and he got it done last year at Pebble (Beach). Hopefully I can emulate that feeling and get a major myself."
On seven occasions, those trailing by four or more entering the final round of the Masters have rallied to win, most notable among them Nick Faldo in 1996. Leader Greg Norman was up six on Faldo entering the final round and lost by five.
I mean, what's not to like? McIlroy, the product of staunchly working-class parents who worked a multitude of jobs to give their only son every chance of making it in golf, is immensely amiable and approachable and, despite the riches that have come his way so early in life, refreshingly modest. He knows that, despite his precocious physical talents, his all-round game remains a work in progress.
Chris Gay on Rory's eye-opening stats, none more impressive than 80% of his greens hit in regulation and no three putts.
The Four Backers
Four golfers are four back and each offers reason to think they could hang around and make things interesting Sunday.
Sean Martin on Charl Schwartzel and the strength of his game, as shaped by his father.
George Schwartzel helped his son build a simple, technically-sound golf swing that is lacking in quirks. He remains his son’s only teacher.
“When your dad’s as good as that, you tend to get the basics right very early,” said Schwartzel’s manager, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler. “His basics are great. He’s got a very pure golf swing.”
Charl seeks advice from his father only when he’s home in South Africa. His father doesn’t travel outside their home country often, and they don’t use email to trade tips and video. Schwartzel likes it that way.
“I don’t make it complicated,” he said. “It’s difficult enough as it is.”
Jeff Babineau on Angel Cabrera's shocking return to the leaderboard after a missed cut last week and a four month hiatus to aid an injured wrist.
His lone positive result in six events this season: a tie for seventh at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open last month, when a majority of the world’s top players were in Miami competing at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
But he has kept plugging along, working diligently on his game with mentor Charlie Epps and trying his best to to shake off the rust. On Saturday, he drove the ball well and his power came in quite handy, helping set up short-iron approaches that led to birdies on four holes and helping him overpower the Augusta’s vulnerable par 5s by getting home on two and in a greenside bunker at a third.
“I didn’t play for about four months, so I’m just getting my groove,” he said. “I’m just practicing a lot.”
Day drew a chuckle in the interview room Saturday evening when he noted the youth movement in men's golf, that "it seems every year they are getting younger." Like McIlroy, Day was drawn to golf as a boy when Woods began to dominate the game in the late-1990s.
"When Tiger came along, he pretty much changed the game," Day said. "Everyone turned into athletes. We are not fat slobs anymore. He has pretty much changed the game for the good. It just shows how good the coaching is, the science behind the game, and how confident some of these young guys are coming up now."
Bob Harig on Adam Scott, the other Australian hope vaulting himself into the picture with a long-putter aided 67.
Scott, who has 14 worldwide victories but has never been much of a factor in majors, tied for the day's best round with a 5-under-par 67 despite bogeys on two of the last three holes. That put him in a tie for sixth, five strokes back. Ogilvy, who won the 2006 U.S. Open, is another stroke back, tied for ninth.
All of them, no doubt, have a green jacket on their minds for personal reasons.
"Thinking about the Aussie duck thing would happen after I won," Ogilvy said. "'Oh, I'm the first Australian.' That's probably not what I'm going to be thinking about when I'm out on the golf course. But obviously it would be a really nice thing for Australia for it to happen, for sure."
Geoff Ogilvy was next, limping out in 39 strokes but rallying on the second nine to salvage a 73 and a tie for ninth place.
Jason Day, however, may be Australia’s best hope on Sunday. Following birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 5 the 23-year-old edged into a Grand Slam lead for the first time in his young career.
On Thursday, Day noted he wanted the Masters masses to yell his name like that of playing companion McIlroy. For much of his front nine they wouldn’t stop.
“We’re walking up (No. 6) and he looks at the leaderboard and says, ‘Holy crap, I’m leading.’” Day’s caddie Col Swatton said.
Holy crap, indeed.
Walking up the second fairway the strap on Day’s staff bag broke, leaving his caddie Col Swatton just one option – carry the 50-pound bag like a suitcase. Day, however, was not affected by the malfunction, birding the second and third hole to take the lead over playing companion Rory McIlroy.
“Jason turned around and asked, ‘What are you doing?’” Swatton said.“He was like, ‘Man that must be heavy, but I’ve got to keep going. I’m playing really good.’”
Billy Byler on amateur Hideki Matsuyama's ridiculously good 68.
Matsuyama plans to return Monday to Tohoku Fukushi University, where he's a freshman. Matsuyama said his college, in Sendai, Japan, was damaged by the March 11 earthquake, but he didn't know the exact situation.
He will learn more next week. And he will take with him a grand experience.
"I'm very glad to be able to play at this beautiful a place. That's one of my impression," he said. "And I thought the greens are very hard."
Tiger, it seems, is trapped in his own version of Groundhog Day right now: He shows a glimmer of hope; follows that with a disappointing performance and then is asked questions to which he has no answers -- other than coach speak. "I'm hitting beautiful putts," he said, sounding like he was trying to convince himself of something observation doesn't seem to support.
To all those who say Woods won't win a major this year -- or win anything this year -- it might be time to tap the delete button on those predictions. Woods is nearer a breakthrough than anyone realized.
I say this with a straight face. I say it despite knowing that Woods was eight strokes worse on Saturday than he was on Friday, when he shot 66.
But the swings look less mechanical than they had from Bay Hill or Doral. For huge chunks of the first three days of this tournament, Woods appeared to be playing golf, rather than giving himself on-course lessons.
This is the course he knows best. And in the last six years, he's finished no lower than sixth. So a Sunday run to Top Five Land is a probability, not a possibility.
Just when you think his swing is on the verge of being second nature, he hits a block flare as he did on No. 4, short and right, similar to the one he rinsed in a first-round loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Or he pulls a drive like the one on 17 that, of all things, hit the Eisenhower tree.
I didn’t even know the Eisenhower tree was in play for Woods. Short hitters, yes. Woods, no. But he hit it Saturday and the ball fell straight down, onto the pine straw, from where he had to squat and make a flat swing en route to a scrambling par.
When did he start imitating an old president as a golfer? Is the Eisenhower tree even in Steve Williams’ yardage book?
A year ago, Phil Knight, the Nike king, was walking the hills here, as part of Tiger's support team, like Tiger needs a support team. A year ago, Saturday Night Live was killing him in a skit. A year ago, he had his own Nike spots. Now he's a supporting player in group ads. A year ago, he was trying to save his marriage. What a difference a year makes. Now he's looking for his putting stroke.
When Woods misses putts, and on Saturday he missed every type known to suffering golfus humanicus, he agonizes like a slain lord but the crowd lets out such a tepid moan that, sometimes, you barely hear it.
This isn’t judgment. It is just reportage.
The Other Americans
The ugly Americans. Some of their scores, anyway. The highest U.S. player is Bo Van Pelt in eighth place, the first time in history no American was in the top five going into the last round of the Masters.
And on Phil Mickelson, at -3 after a final round 71:
"I struggled getting the right speed, which historically I've been able to read these greens very well," he said. "And I feel like I know the breaks on most of the putts but I just have struggled getting it going.
"It was there for the taking … The greens are more receptive than they have ever been."
He'd be at McIlroy's throat if he hadn't decided Saturday afternoon, for the first time all week, to try more than he could do. Near enough the eighth green to go for the par-5 in two, Couples "tried to hit some low, hooking wood up there, and I can barely hit a straight wood shot, let alone try that." He pulled it left into junk, after which ensued "a comedy of errors." He hit his third over the green, his fourth short, and three-putted from there for a double. Birdies from 15 feet at the 15th and eight feet at the 16th brought him back to even for the day.
And finally...one more reminder, at 11 PT/2 ET the Live Chat kicks off and the person who correctly guesses Jim Nantz's pun in honor of the champion wins a plant from the Butler Cabin Botanical Conservatory!
Saturday's coverage (US, ET) times:
11:45 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Amen Corner live video coverage
12:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Featured Group 1 live video coverage Featured Group 1 live video coverage
12:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Hole Nos. 15 and 16 live video coverage
2:00 p.m. Masters Radio live audio
3:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Live Coverage on CBS
3:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Masters In-Depth live video coverage highlights
And a reminder, Sunday I'll be hosting a live chat for the entire telecast some come join the fun.
With almost too-good-to-be-true leaderboard after 36-holes, sensational play and the likelihood of a thrilling finish, we've learned something very crucial about the renovated Augusta National: it's best if the course is just slightly soft with healthy rye grass overseed.
Sure, that would make Bobby Jones furious, but with the reduction in fairway width combined with modern green speeds for contours barely able to remain playable, the first two rounds have shown that a softer, slightly slower golf course just works better. The only thing that could bungle this event is an over-the-top weekend setup designed to rein in scores, but I don't think that'll happen for two reasons:
But again, after what they've done to the width of the place and where green speeds are relative to the contours, a little softness is a good thing for Augusta National.
History beckons at Augusta National for Rory McIlroy and so does the most fraught weekend of his young life. The 21-year-old Irishman will begin the third round of the 2011 Masters with a two-shot advantage but he will be pursued by a phalanx of the best talents in the modern game.
The second round of the Masters on Friday might have begun as another chapter in Rory McIlroy’s American coming-out party, but it closed with an event more familiar to the Augusta National grounds as Tiger Woods made another sudden and memorable charge up the leader board.
Rory McIlroy and Jason Day made the Masters look like child's play over two days, trading flawless rounds that gave them hope of becoming the youngest player in a green jacket since Tiger Woods.
They still face a long weekend at Augusta National and now, a once daunting figure.
Woods came roaring back to life late Friday afternoon with a 31 on the back nine that featured a daring shot off the pine straw and an 8-iron he carved around the trees on the final hole for his ninth birdie of the day, and his best round at the Masters in six years.
The kids didn't back up in the second round of the 75th Masters on Friday.Neither did 51-year-old Fred Couples.
And a vintage Tiger Woods reappeared on an electrifying, humid day at Augusta National Golf Club as roars echoed through the mighty pine trees and a slew of red numbers, lined up to the right of some of the game's biggest and brightest names, drenched the white scoreboards peppering the course.
Rory McIlroy stepped on to the first tee at Augusta National and thrillingly answered the question that lay at the heart of the second round of the Masters.
Would he stumble badly on day two, as he did at the Open at St Andrews last July? On that occasion, he followed an opening 63 with a horrible 80. What would happen this time, following the 65 on day one that led to paeans being sung in his honour? Well, how does a three under par 69 to lead by two strokes at the halfway stage sound?
It is a demand we make of mortals later in the cycle. For those who threaten to reset the parameters of what they do, who flirt with another dimension, the question comes with the territory. Can you do it Rory? Are you good enough to walk through the gates of nirvana to claim the biggest prize in golf?
McIlroy takes a two-shot lead into the Masters weekend. The peleton forming behind is gaining marquee riders. Tiger Woods went to six under par with three to play. Lee Westwood, too, is a gathering storm, spearing an eagle at the 15th to go five under.
How you know when your time has come? Yesterday, as a gentle breeze brushed through the towering cathedral pines at Augusta National Golf Club to whistle destiny’s call to a son of Ulster, Rory McIlroy – determined not to get ahead of himself – sought to orchestrate his own fate. Invariably, it meant hitting one fine shot after another. Putting the pieces together, bit by bit.
And, as this 75th edition of the US Masters provided us with a cast of characters that mixed the old guard with a new breed, it was McIlroy – all of 21 years of age and seeking to become the youngest winner since Tiger Woods made his breakthrough back in 1997 – who assumed the principal role in the quest for the Green Jacket.
The Three Muskateers
One of the cutest pairings in Masters history turned into one of the most efficient as the Musketeers — 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, 22-year-old Rickie Fowler and 23-year-old Jason Day — played together and combined for a 36-hole total of 23 under par. If the Masters were a three-man team event, they'd be running away with it.
"Being around good golf helps," said Fowler. "I was just trying to keep up with those guys. I thought we'd have a great time, and we went out and did that."
Despite 14 major titles , Woods has as much to prove this weekend as anyone. The young guns he inspired with his 1997 Masters win at age 21 were just 7, 8 and 9 when he romped to a 12-shot victory.
Despite their ages, McIlroy, Day and Fowler have all experienced weekend pressure at majors and/or the Ryder Cup, but never with Woods in the mix.
McIlroy hit 10 out of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation in for a 69. He has not three-putted once and has dropped only one stroke in 36 holes. “It would have been nice to be bogey-free, but I'm happy with where I'm at, and my game feels really good,” he said.
Jeff Babineau talks to Padraig Harrington about his neck and Rory:
“You’re always ready when you’re going to win,” Harrington said. “Yeah, I don’t see why he can’t win. If he does, there will be another name thrown in to that list of players who can win the most majors. He loves being there. At age 21, he should view this as a great opportunity.”
Then, thinking about the possibility of a 21-year-old winning at Augusta, Harrington added, “He could play here for the next 50 years.”
Karl MacGinty says that Fred Couples is certainly high on Rory's chances:
And as Holywood youngster Rory McIlroy raced to double-figures under par by playing the first nine holes of his second round in three-under yesterday, Couples candidly admitted: “He was my pick at the start of the week.
“I love the way Rory plays and he certainly has the game for Augusta National. Looking at that scoreboard right now, he looks as if he’s going to be very hard to beat.”
Day conceded that his lack of experience in the majors could work against him over the weekend but said he would not change his aggressive approach and the fact he would paired with McIlroy again was comforting.
"I'm not going to back down because I've got lack of experience," said Day, bidding to become the first Australian to wear the winner's green jacket.
"I'm just going to go out there and try and stick to my game plan and not worry about the score. Like Rory said before, you have to play the course, you're not playing the leaderboard."
Maybe so, but Woods has not known success since late 2009, the last time he won a tournament on any tour. He has rarely been part of the conversation as he has adjusted to another golf swing. It didn't hurt that he needed just 26 putts, another part of his game showing signs of life.
Talk of completing his comeback is premature, however, and he knows it.
"I'm three back. So I played myself back in the championship," Woods said. "We have still got 36 more holes. We have a long way to go."
Added Foley: "You're going to start seeing him playing shots that he hasn't hit in a long time. He's already put the pieces together. Now he's going to go play golf, and it will be fun to watch what happens from here."
And you could sense a sense of peace. After he flared a drive 35 yards right of the fairway on 11, so far right he had a clear shot on the other side of the pines, Woods noticed a man wearing the same style shirt as his.
“Nice shirt,” Woods cracked, drawing gallery laughter.
As for his current position, Woods refused to get carried away. More than once, he said this: “There’s a long way to go.”
Robert Lusetich reminds us of the competitive friction between Woods and young Rory.
Several times, McIlroy has repeated that Woods “isn’t as dominant as he used to be.”
Before last year’s Ryder Cup, Woods was asked about McIlroy’s comment that he’d like to draw his name in the singles.
“Me too,” Woods said.
They don’t dislike one another, but they’re both competitors.
And in this game they’re playing, there can only be one winner.
The Has-Been Long Bombers
Cameron Morfit on yesterday's news, the Woodland, Quiros, Vegas group. Quiros still has his sense of humor. It helps to be in the third to last group Saturday.
He even smiled about the group’s atrocious play on the par-3 12th hole. In between clubs from 156 yards, Woodland lost an 8-iron right and into the water, took a drop, hit his third into the back bunker, barely nudged his fourth out of the sand and onto the back fringe, and chipped in for 5. Quiros hit into the same bunker off the tee, left his second shot in the sand, got his third out and two-putted: 5. Vegas, who missed long and left, chipped way past the hole and two-putted for a 4. The three players took a total of 14 shots, five over par, on one hole.
“No, nobody said a word,” Quiros said when he was asked if anyone cracked a joke on the 13th tee. “But you can see Gary Woodland’s face and my face, too; it wasn’t the proper moment to say a joke.”
"It's no problem for me hitting over 300 yards, but there are guys who flight it 320," Woods said. "I thought Dustin was long, and I've played a number of times with him, but Dustin, he's got nothing on Gary. When Gary steps on it ... it's like, 'Whoa, are you kidding me?' His ball is flat, when you think it should be coming down it, it just continues to fly."
Woods was most impressed by one shot on the 16th hole at Bay Hill when Woodland's drive failed to carry the lip of a bunker 335 yards from the tee.
"He's all bent out of shape that he couldn't carry it and he said, 'I've lost the ability to carry 340 now,'" Woods said. "Like, sorry, I had never seen that shot. That's the new game. That's what I've said all along, these guys who have played other sports, these guys are both really good basketball players and they both have been able to dunk, and they both have been able to play hoop. And then they decide to play golf instead. So it's neat to see these guys transition into our sport with their power."
Nick Masuda quotes K.J. Choi, in third after a 2-under 70, as saying his move to more hybrids replacing his 6-iron on down is typical of his personality.
“I think my personality is that I want to try – whatever is in my mind, I have to get it out. I have to try it and test it out. That’s just the type of person I am,” said Choi. “I think the worst thing you can do to yourself is wanting to do something, but not having the courage to do it. And I don’t want to be the type of person that regrets not testing something out when I feel that it’s right.”
Masuda also with this note on Y.E. Yang's shoulder, which could hurt his chances:
For the second straight day, a poor drive on No. 17 left Yang scrambling to avoid falling further down the leaderboard. Asked if his three-putt on the par-3 16th hole affected him moving onto the 17th tee, Yang wasn't ready to go that far.
"I don't think it affected me psychologically," said Yang. "I have had stiffness in my left shoulder that makes it tough toward the end of the round."
Breakfast of Champions? As a rule, Y.E. Yang is a continental breakfast man, having his pre-round repasts at the clubhouse before heading out to the course. "Muffin or a bagel," he said. "No eggs and no meat." But the South Korean tweeted before his second round of the 2011 Masters that he had a rice curry instead.
"Fortunately, my whole family is here this week, and a few friends, too," he says. "My wife brought over a lot of Korean food and cooked for us. We are a big family, and I eat quite a lot. So, we ran out of Korean food yesterday. My wife had to improvise as a result and made some curry with some rice, sort of an Eastern-Oriental type of breakfast."
The Other Aussie
Jim McCabe, in a notes column, on Geoff Ogilvy's second straight 69 that included a double bogey at the par-5 second hole.
On the scorecard, the secret would be the birdies at six and seven and the bogey-free 33 coming home, but truthfully, the tall and lanky Aussie owes it to a personal comfort zone.
“I’ve worked out the golf-life balance,” Ogilvy said.
Having outplayed playing competitor Phil Mickelson (70-72 – 142) for two days, Ogilvy is just four off of Rory McIlroy’s lead, his best-ever standing through 36 holes in this major. But Ogilvy isn’t looking too far ahead, and that includes putting any thought into the chance to become the first Aussie to win the Masters.
“That’s probably not what I’m going to be thinking about when I’m out on the golf course,” Ogilvy said.
Dave Shedloski on the bizarre situation involving Matt Kuchar's ball disappearing in the bank on 12, followed by the post round pre-scorecard signing video review of where his caddy touched the grass, even though he'd already been given the green light to do so by TWO on site officials.
Kuchar and Bennett were whisked to Masters Tournament headquarters before Kuchar signed his card to determine if a two-shot penalty should be assessed. After more than 20 minutes of videotape review and discussion, it was decided that Bennett was merely trying to help identify the ball, not test the ground or improve the lie if Kuchar might choose to hit it.
"I was pretty confident with two rules officials there," Kuchar said later. "My caddie and I may not know all the rules, but we know what to do and not do in a hazard."
Rex Hoggard also reports on another incident in which Ryan Moore was cleared.
Mark Lamport-Stokes shares some advice Charl Schwartzel received from Jack Nicklaus about playing Augusta.
Asked what sort of advice he had gathered from the 18-times major champion, Schwartzel replied: "He told me that some flags we used to go for were ones he never went for.
"But conditions also change those sorts of things. On (hole) 12, he said he never went outside of the bunkers. Always aim it at the bunkers and if it's long, you're never going into the bush so that was his line.
"That was a particular hole that always sticks with me so that is always my line."
Doug Ferguson talks to Amy Mickelson about her appearance walking with Phil.
"We love this place," she said. "This place has been a part of some of the most special days of our lives. And it feels normal to be back, which is even better. I'm trying not focus on how I feel because I still have some ups and downs. But when I look back to year ago and see how far I've come, it's just tremendous."
As for her man, he drove the ball better but the short game let him down, blogs Randall Mell.
After deciding against putting two drivers in his bag Thursday, Mickelson did just that on Friday. He put the longer-shafter driver back in his bag and said he relied on it heavily. After hitting just four fairways in the first round, Mickelson hit nine on Friday. He needed 33 putts on Friday, four more than Thursday.
Bill Fields on 51-year-old Fred Couples at -5 following at 68 Friday.
"It's not out of the realm of possibility," Watson said of Couples' chances. "It can work... Freddie know the golf course very well. It's just ... Jack [Nicklaus] said it right, he said this a young man's golf course as far as nerves and putting on the greens. Length has its advantage, though. That makes some of the par 5s into par 4s. Freddie's got the advantage."
When Couples won at Augusta in 1992, he turned back 49-year-old Raymond Floyd, about which Couples quipped Friday, "I'm glad I won. I'm glad he's not the oldest winner of this thing."
What if Couples could pull off the improbable over the weekend?
"I'd be gone," Couples said. "It'd be the biggest upset in golf history."
Bob Harig quotes Joe LaCava about what makes his boss so good at Augusta.
"He's still got plenty of length. He can step on it if he wants to. And he's got a good attitude. I think you have to have an easy- going attitude around here."
Couples made a run at the Northern Trust Open title earlier this year at Riviera, another of his favorite tournaments and courses, actually holding the lead early in the final round before tying for seventh.
A four-time winner last year on the Champions Tour, he's played just two 50-and-over events this season, his best finish a tie for fifth at the Toshiba Classic.
"He's a great lag putter which you have to be here," LaCava said. "He can hit it high and soft which is big on these greens."
In his media watch column, John Strege notes these comments from Curtis Strange about the prospects of a Couples win.
Strange on Fred Couples again contending, at 51: "That doesn't surprise me at all. Jack Nicklaus won at 46. That's like 56 now. The players are in better condition. The equipment is a whole lot better than it was in '86. I think the senior tour has helped. They stay in the game. They stay competitive. They stay sharp. And Freddie Couples has done just that."
That was a generic answer to a specific question, this one about Couples. Is Couples, with an ailing back that prohibits him even from practicing, in better condition at 51 than Nicklaus was at 46? Does Couples play and practice, given the constraints of a chronically ailing back, more at 51 than Nicklaus did at 46? The answers are probably no and no.
Michael Buteau points out that Couples and Ryan Moore--with Ecco and True Linkswear shoes respectively--are the only players to have gone to "street" style shoes despite the trend Couples ignited last year.
Many professional golfers, who swing their clubs as fast as 125 mph, have been reluctant to switch to spikeless shoes for fear of losing traction while hitting shots. Other players are also under contractual obligations, limiting their choice.
“Guys are wearing what they’re told to wear,” Moore, who is tied for 14th after an opening-round 70, said in an interview. “You don’t get to choose as much as people think.”
Ian Woosnam, battling a rheamatic disease, may have played his last Masters according to this unbylined BBC item.
As he waited to take his tee shot on the eighth, Woosnam was forced to sit down and on a small portable seat he carries that helps to alleviate his back spasms.
"The seat is not a bad thing to have because it does not weigh anything, especially yesterday when it was five-and-a-half hours to get round," he added.
"I think we were almost five hours today - it's too slow really."
Dave Kindred says Ben Crenshaw is thinking of ending his Masters playing days.
Crenshaw's 77 on Friday, after his first-round 78, wasn't good enough to make the cut. At age 59, he may decide his playing time is done here. In the moments after the round, it seemed clear he could leave the work done as it has been done and have no regrets. "I've had a wonderful life just here at Augusta," he said. "My God, I spent a lot of my life here and have had a lot of great moments that are life-giving to me."
With the wind blowing his pant legs, Crenshaw made what could be his last putt as a competitor in the Masters. As the relatively straight 8-foot birdie putt hit the bottom of the cup, Crenshaw smiled and the two – player and caddie – walked up the green to the scoring hut, the 5-foot-9-inch Crenshaw with his hand on the shoulder of the 6-5 Jackson.
“The people were so gracious today and so sweet to Carl,” Crenshaw said. “They’re so heartfelt. They’re seeing something that’s not going to happen again. He’s a huge part of this place.”
The Lone Amateur
Ryan Herrington said it was close, but Hideki Matsuyama is the lone amateur to play on the weekend.
While guaranteeing himself the low amateur medal, Matsuyama didn't do it without some angst. Bogeys on his last two holes to finish at one over after two rounds forced him to spend a restless afternoon watching to see if leader Rory McIlroy would cause the cutline to move lower and end his week early. Thankfully for Matsuyama it never did.
Sean Martin says that Matsuyama's performance as the only amateur to make the cut validates the Asian Amateur event started by the Lords of Augusta, not that this was on Matsuyama's mind in light of world events.
Like the rest of the Japanese players at Augusta National, Matsuyama is playing in the shadow of the unthinkable tragedy in his homeland. He is a sophomore at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, one of the country’s hardest-hit cities.
Matsuyama was with his university’s golf team at a camp in Australia when the quake hit. His second year at Tohoku Fukushi was scheduled to start in April, but postponed until next month because of damage from the earthquake and tsunami.
He said the damage to Sendai is “indescribable,” which made him unsure if he should play the Masters. He decided to play, “not only for myself, but for the people who have made me who I am. Doing my best here is my obligation to them.”
Flora, Fauna, Wagering And Blinding White Spruce Pine Quartz
Rex Hoggard on the badly-defaced, double fairway 11th hole playing as the toughest on the course, and also the goofiest.
The 505-yard par 4, which was lengthened by 35 yards in 2002 and 15 yards four years later, is playing the toughest this week with a 4.415 stroke average. In fact there have only been six birdies there all week compared to 10 double bogeys or worse.
“It’s a par 5 length then it’s probably a par 5 green,” said David Toms, who hit driver 4-iron into the 11th on Friday. “It’s a tight hole, you just can’t beat it off the tee. It’s like making four birdies if you make four pars. It’s a great hole.”
Toms is halfway home to his goal this week following back-to-back pars at No. 11.
Guy Yocom looks into some of the online bets you can place and finds that not only can you bet on the Masters in America, the always intriguing head-to-head matchups popular at the Open are also available here.
The odds on the Woods vs. Graeme McDowell matchup on Friday was interesting, if only to belie the notion that Woods has fallen adrift as a "public team" -- one who drew a lot of reflexive betting action in his direction. For Friday's second round, Woods was listed at -170, McDowell +135.
A bit of Googling reveals that the legality of online sports wagering within the U.S. is up in the air. Some say yes, some say no, but all agree there has been little enforcement. And credit cards do clear at the site we looked in on.
Mike Walker explains how Augusta gets its bunkers so white.
The Spruce Pine Mining District in northwestern North Carolina is famous for its feldspar and quartz, and since the 1700s feldspar has been mined there. When they mined the feldspar for aluminum, they just discard the quartz. That's the stuff Augusta National uses for its bunkers. What we call feldspar sand is a waste byproduct of the feldspar mining process, Coleman said, and there's likely not any feldspar in it.
But just because it's a waste product doesn't mean it's junk. The quartz created by this mining process is extremely pure, which is why those bunkers really pop on your HDTV.
"That's why the bunkers are so white," Coleman said. "Spruce Pine quartz is the best in the world, and the quartz created from the feldspar mining process is so white and so pure."
Chris Evans is here for Radio Five Live. The golf fanatic had an interesting experience when he returned to the rented house he is sharing with his fellow commentators after the first day.
His colleagues were asleep when Evans came in, but were soon woken by the burglar alarm. But that was nothing compared to the recorded voice which followed.
"Freeze!" it bellowed. "The police are on their way. Do not try to escape or you will be shot..." Evans went to bed and it was left to the producer, Graham McMillan, to sort it out. He found all his men, but one wasn't in bed. "I think he was in the panic room," said McMillan.
Yesterday it was noted that Butler Cabin had gone all Pandora and it seems that Friday, perhaps after Curtis Strange nearly tripped on a jumping fern, the set saw a little less green. Or maybe the fire marshal drew the line?
**Reader Mulligan has a great eye: not only did we lose ferns, but palms disappeared in the process. Let's hope they are okay.
10:45 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.Amen Corner live video coverage
11:45 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.Hole Nos. 15 and 16 live video coverage
12:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Featured Group 1 live video coverage Featured Group 2 live video coverage
2:00 p.m. Masters Radio live audio (along with Sirius/XM)
3:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Live Coverage on ESPN
3:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Masters In-Depth live video coverage highlights
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Masters 3D live video coverage
8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.Replay of the telecast on ESPN
Is it a Home Depot plant nursery?
An homage to the plant life of Pandora from Avatar?
The club's attempt to stop global warming?
Your insights please...click on the image to enlarge at your own risk.
PS - It's great to see how much the fireplace has been cleaned up since 2008!
Typically if you want something to crash or not work, just give it to me but in the case of the Masters iPad app I've had only one crash and nothing but pure delite for my $1.99. But at least based on the reviews and other emails I've gotten, others have not been so fortunate even after an update, which I'm passing on until I have a problem.
Here are your viewing options, all Eastern times:
10:45 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Amen Corner live video coverage
11:45 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Hole Nos. 15 and 16 live video coverage
12:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Featured Group 1 live video coverage Featured Group 2 live video coverage
2:00 p.m. Masters Radio live audio (also on Sirius/XM)
3:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Live Coverage on ESPN
3:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Masters In-Depth live video coverage highlights
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Masters 3D live video coverage
8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Replay of the telecast on ESPN
Doug Ferguson sets the tone by suggesting Wednesday was so relaxed that it didn't feel like a major. There's also the wide-open nature of the affair adding to the mix.
PGA champion Martin Kaymer is No. 1 in the world and will try to win his second straight major. He considers the favorite to be Luke Donald, who beat Kaymer in the Match Play Championship earlier this year. Then there's Westwood, who has been no worse than third in four of the last five majors. Throw in the likes of Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey, and the smallest field of any major suddenly has a long list of contenders.
Some of that is a new generation arriving. Some of that is Woods no longer standing in their way.
"In the past, a lot of guys used up a lot of energy thinking about Tiger and what he's doing. Now they're doing their own thing and thinking about what they're needing to do," Faldo said. "There's genuinely 20 guys who could win this. I'm hoping we have a dozen guys coming down the back nine Sunday with a shot."
Jared Diamond on a university study that says the Masters is the easiest of the four majors to win. Who'd a thunk it with the smallest field and about 25 AARP junk mail recipients?
Richard Rendleman, a professor of finance at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and Robert Connolly, an associate professor of finance at the University of North Carolina, recently conducted a study that ranked professional golf events by how difficult they are to win. They determined that the PGA Championship is the toughest major, followed by the U.S. Open, the British Open and the Masters. The hardest overall tournament to win was actually the Players Championship, and the easiest—among the tournaments still in existence—was the Puerto Rico Open.
Billy Byler on favorite Phil's Wednesday, that included a rare wildlife sighting. Rare because no animal could survive the chemicals? Oh I don't know.
The reigning Masters champion was the first on the course Wednesday when he teed off at 8 a.m. with 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples and Kevin Streelman. The threesome hit their usual tee shots on the eighth hole but had to pause on their walk up the fairway when a small deer bounded across their paths. According to the combined accounts from patrons and gallery guards, the deer entered the golf course from the right side of the first hole and raced across the first and ninth fairways before meeting up with Mickelson at eight.
The deer darted toward the second and third fairways and eventually ended up near the fifth and sixth holes, where it left the course.
"I've been out here 25 years, and I've never seen anything like that," gallery guard Steve Churm said to a group of patrons.
John Feinstein compares Tiger and Phil. You can probably guess who comes out on top in his eyes.
One guy drives down Magnolia Lane and feels the history of the game, gets chills and teary-eyed. The other guys sees a bunch of trees and can’t wait to get to the end of the road and get to work.
That’s always been a major difference between the two men: Mickelson savors victories and moments; Woods puts them in the rear view mirror almost as soon as they happen.
Thomas Boswell says that using this week as a barometer for Tiger's future is a bit much.
The impatience to decide whether Woods can pass Nicklaus now borders on comical. The debate about whether Woods is foolish to switch swing coaches — again — and tear down his game to its foundation at age 35 might miss the larger point.
First, Woods has time — and a great deal of it — on his side. Second, as he has made clearer than ever here this week, his radical changes are more necessity than obsession.
Karl MacGinty is predicting Padraig Harrington will be low Irishman.
Portrush man McDowell, Open-winner Louis Oosthuizen and US PGA title-holder Martin Kaymer all are gifted players but in a total of eight appearances at The Masters by this formidable European Tour trio, only once has one of them (McDowell in 2009) made the cut.
Yet the know-how Harrington has accumulated in 11 Masters and the self-belief drawn from those three Major wins, puts the Dubliner ahead of Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Luke Donald among those capable of clinching a first-ever Euro-Slam.
The luck of the Irish may be needed, but what else would you expect in the race for a green jacket?
Bernie McGuire on Sandy Lyle's advice for fellow Scot Martin Laird:
“But my advice to him is that he has to try and win the Masters at his first try, because he might never get in again. That’s the big thing about Augusta – you have to put in 100% preparation and try and win it, because you know what happens if you do succeed, you know that it is going to be for life.”
Lyle certainly knows what he is talking about. He was speaking from the ‘Former Champions’ car park, located in front of the former practice range that’s now used only by Augusta members. It was an experience he was evidentally eager to enjoy.
“It’s great we’ve now got this car park and that’s what happens when you win here,” he said. “We have seen many near winners here and they’ve just then disappeared off the planet and they’ve not qualified again and again.”
Gene Wojciechowski breaks the field down by player, uh, brands.
Mike McCallister offers a "momentum" index for you last minute pool players.
Jim McCabe files a variety of notes, ranging from the reason Graeme McDowell skipped the Par-3 (Manchester United game on), Gary Woodland getting to play with fellow Kansan Tom Watson and Tim Clark's elbow flaring up again after the Par-3.
Rex Hoggard with more on K.J. Choi's hybrid setup.
The hybrid replacements, all of which are Adams Golf models, came slowly, first the 3-iron (21 degrees), then a 4-iron (24 degrees) and finally a 5- and 6-iron (28 and 32 degrees) in the days before the season’s first major.
The plan seems to be working. On Monday, Bann said Choi hit his 185-yard approach into the 18th hole pin high and it rolled out 3 yards. It’s a shot he would have been unable to hit with a long iron. Of course cutting edge has come with its share of curious glances.
“Poor (caddie Andy Prodger), he was looking down at the bag the other day saying, ‘I have seven wood covers,’” Bann said.
David Westin profiles Carl Jackson working his 50th Masters, a record since his 35th in 1995, and who Jim Mackay says the club should name the caddie facility after.
Crenshaw said he doesn't mind that his 40th Masters appearance is being overshadowed by Jackson's feat.
"Forget me - it's him," Crenshaw said, pointing to his friend.
According to an Augusta National spokesman, the club has no plans to publicly recognize Jackson's feat, other than a piece about him on the club's Web site and an article in the 2011 Masters Journal.
That's fine with Jackson.
"They've got the Masters; they don't need to do anything," Jackson said. "It's not going to bother me. As the outside world has looked at me as an Augusta National caddie, I think I've represented them well. I believe I've carried myself with integrity and dignity."
Chris Gay with the Augusta Chronicle's take on Billy Payne's presser performance and notes this about the ticket policy change.
At his briefing, Payne also mentioned giving more people an opportunity to walk the grounds at Augusta National. He said tickets became available because of attrition.
"Somebody thought we would be adding just to do this," Payne said, "but we have, in fact, reduced modestly the number of tickets we sold the last five years.
"So it's just a supply of tickets that replenishes itself annually and predictably, and what you're not going to get is an exact number; but it's fair to define it as a significant number."
Alan Bastable on Billy Payne's lone Tiger question:
Payne fielded just one question about Woods, regarding the club's decision to partner with EA Sports on a video game bearing Woods's name. The chairman was evasive, saying "we continue to believe Tiger is one of the greatest golfers of all time, and we hoped and prayed that his comeback would go forward in a very positive way."
Ryan Herrington breaks down the amateurs' chances of making the cut and visiting Butler Cabin on Sunday.
Matthew Futterman talks to the Uihleins about Peter's journey to the Masters and writes:
He's also had to deal with an added burden as long as he's been playing golf—constant whispers about nepotism. On the junior golf circuit there were plenty of complaints about his privileged childhood, his high-end coaches and visits to the Titleist Performance Institute, which is considered the game's top training center. "I heard all the snickers, all the rumors," he said. "But I don't play golf to prove anybody wrong."
Still, growing up at the top of the golf world has its perks. As a child, Uihlein's family spent summers vacationing with the family of the renowned instructor Peter Kostis, a close friend of his father's who became Uihlein's first coach.
That's a perk?
Paul Mahoney on winner Luke Donald, whose game is firing on all cylinders.
Donald warmed up for the Masters by practicing last week at the Bears Club in Florida. He shot 62 and broke the course record while taking just 19 putts.
Donald has failed to improve on his 2005 Masteres debut, when he finished third while playing the last eight holes in six under par. This week he plans to channel the memory of that storming finish.
"You can still feed off it," he said. "If you have done it before you can do it again."
History, '86, Flora, Fauna
Naturally, this went missed by ESPN while it was showing Romper Room: Jack Fleck at 89 playing the Par-3. Thankfully, Jeff Babineau has the details.
With the help of Gaylord Sports player/manager Bobby Schaeffer, who served as his caddie, Fleck and his wife Carmen traveled to Augusta from their home in Fort Smith, Ark., and have been on the grounds since Monday.
When he looked at the crowd assembled at the golf course at 9 a.m. Monday, Fleck could not believe his eyes.
“Bigger,” he said. “Everything about this place is bigger.”
There's a fantastic Champions dinner video on the goofy official Masters site that won't let one send a direct link. But you can't miss it on the Highlights page. Amazing behind-the-scenes footage.
Will Durst on what's hot in the merchandise tent, and who is there to help the customers: sommeliers!
And the hats. Holy jimmy-john-jack-cracked-corn, the hats. Sixty-nine different varieties, including one sold only on Wednesday, a white Par 3 Contest hat (a second year for this edition). All 69 versions are displayed along a 50-foot wall, attended by 15 or more hat sommeliers, present and eager to assist you in choosing the appropriate chapeau. "Perhaps, for the lady, something in a pink visor?"
Bill Fields on the backstory of Jack's 1986 yellow shirt is a must read.
Stephen Goodwin believes Bobby Jones isn't getting his due as a writer and compiles a "scrapbook" of his best moments.
Michael Bamberger talks to Bruce McCall about how his New Yorker cover art came about and it turns out McCall doesn't even like golf.
About two weeks ago, the magazine's editor, David Remnick, told his art director, Francois Mouly, that he wanted something springy and golfy for the mid-April cover. Mouly called McCall. McCall, who is also a writer, got artist's block. Two days of sitting around produced nothing. He doesn't really like golf.
As a kid outside Toronto, he would caddie for his father and then wait several hours to get stiffed. Years ago, he wrote a piece for Esquire, called "The Case Against Golf," which included this ode to the olde shepherds game: "It's easy to see golf not as a game at all but as some whey-faced, nineteenth-century Presbyterian minister's fever dream of exorcism achieved through ritual and self-mortification."
Jeff Ritter on the unglamorous job of the 350 volunteer "gallery guards."
Guards receive their assignments on Monday morning, the first day of practice rounds, and they work the same hole throughout the week while rotating around the tee, fairway and green. Guards are often given the same hole year after year, although transfer requests are sometimes granted. Working alongside the same crew each Masters week creates some special bonds among the guards.
"You don't see every shot of the tournament, but what I love about it is that you get nice friendships out of it," says Steve Slaughter, a Chicago native stationed on the first hole. "You see the same people for one week out of the year, and you get to see some great golf."
Mike Snider gives the Masters iPad a rave review.
And The Masters Golf Tournament App for the iPad ($1.99) does more than merely complement the TV experience for golf fans. Video is a major stroke in what makes the app appealing. Nine live high-def video stream channels will be available for viewing, including a featured group on the back nine, tournament action at Amen Corner (holes No. 11-13) and play at holes No. 15 and 16. Post-round interviews will be streamed, too, and there will be on-demand highlights.
J.D. Cuban captures the tree going down near No. 15 while working on a photo essay on Masters fans.
And finally, the Augusta Chronicle offers a special kids-only gallery from the Par-3. I've bookmarked this one so I can relive the day over and over again.
Geoff Shackelford is a Senior Writer for Golfweek magazine, a weekly contributor to Golf Channel's Morning
Copyright © 2018, Geoff Shackelford. All rights reserved.