Reversal of Fortune: Bubba Watson Wins 78th Masters Title

April 13th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

MastersBubba Watson returned to Augusta National this week as a changed man.  And now after winning his second Masters title he’ll be changed even more.

Watson did today what few men can do in this world: he held off the charge of youth.  Watson, 35 was paired with the 20 year old phenom Jordan Spieth who threatened to rewrite the Masters record book as the youngest winner in tournament history.  But youth was not served today as Watson’s experience and new found on course patience ruled the day as he shot a solid 69 to capture his second Masters victory.

After his first Masters win in 2012 Watson was admittedly distracted by all that came with the Masters title.  At the same time he had just adopted his son Caleb and his focus was on being a good father and husband.  As distractions go that is by far the most noble but still, it affected his game.  His play on the PGA Tour fell off and he appeared short tempered at times on the course.

But being a good parent will teach you many things and patience and understanding is part of that.  Watson found the happy balance of home and work bubba and calebrecently and his play and demeanor have showed just that.  He managed his game today and let nothing bother him but early on it looked like he may be challenged by his youthful partner.

As first it looked like Spieth would indeed set a new mark for winning The Masters.  With four birdies and a lone bogey in the first seven holes the young Texan fashioned a two shot lead over Watson.  But fate and the holes of Augusta National has something to say about Spieth’s attempt to make history.

He walked off the seventh green with a two stroke lead.  He was at 8 under, Watson at 6 under.  By the time he made the turn and walked to the tenth tee the scores were reversed and Watson held the lead. 

Watson had found his groove and birdied both the eighth and ninth holes while Spieth had lost his game and bogeyed the same holes.  In a matter of two holes the fortunes had been reversed and Watson was the player in the driver’s seat, striding the fairways with head up.  Spieth had to feel like the wind had been knocked out of him and it showed.

A two putt birdie at the thirteenth hole gave Watson a three stroke lead and the contest for the 78th Masters had becomes a victory march for Watson.  Solid pars from fourteen through the last gave him a three under 69, the low round among the leaders and his second green jacket. 

One thing hasn’t changed about Bubba Watson though: he cried like a baby as the final putt fell.  And this time he took a victory lap with his son Caleb in his arms. 

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Sunday at The Masters: Character and Characters Abound

April 13th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

MastersSunday at The Masters is one of the best days of the year and this Sunday has the potential to be a very memorable one.  The cast of characters that are poised to win the 78th Masters is full of just that, character.  Each pairing provides us with skilled golfers perched on the edge of history all carrying their own individual, fascinating story. 

1:40 pm: John Senden & Gary Woodland.  Woodland had a history making front nine yesterday (30) but stumbled on his back nine.  If he can start that way again he can easily make up his five stroke deficit.  Woodland looks like a new player since he started working with Butch Harmon and with long time, major veteran caddy, Tony Navarro on his bag he has a chance to get his first major.

John Senden stumbled on his front nine yesterday but managed to right the ship and stay in contention at one under and four strokes back.  Playing a bit back in the pack may allow Senden to post a good score without the bright lights of the final pairing beating down on him.

1:50 pm Kevin Stadler & Fred Couples.  Young Stadler has a chance to be the first son of a Masters winner to earn his own green jacket and wouldn’t that be amazing.  He would make it two broomstick putters in a row to win at Augusta.  He’s only four off the lead and at Augusta and that’s hardly anything at all.

Fred Couples may just get more cheers today than anyone on the course.  He is loved at Augusta and he loves it back.  He calls it his “favorite place in the world.”  And one more solid day of dragging that creaky back over the hills of Augusta may just have Freddy not only breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for oldest Masters winner he’ll be breaking Julius Boros’ record as oldest major winner at 48 years and 4 months at the ’68 PGA.

2:00 pm: Thomas Bjorn & Justin Rose.  Oh would it be sweet for Thomas Bjorn to win here.  The Great Dane is one of the most respected men in the game but his history in the majors has been painful. 

If the defending U.S. Open Champion can fly under the radar Rose is doing just that.  His opening round of 76 may have something to do with that.  But Rosey has been very solid since then going 70-69 to sneak up the leaderboard.  The last time he was four strokes back at a major? The ’13 U.S. Open…we all know what happened then.

2:10 pm: Lee Westwood & Jim Furyk.  Lee Westwood win a major? This perennial major runner up has his best chance in awhile and wouldn’t it be fitting for him to win here and be welcomed back for the rest of his life.  Westy needs to calm his nerves and control that short stick if he wants to wear that green jacket.

Jim Furyk steps into the Hall of Fame if he wins his second major championship today.  He certainly has been here before and that can be a good thing for the experience or bad for his recent results.  If Furyk can find his old putting magic he may just be thereat the end.

2:20pm: Miguel Angel Jimenez & Rickie Fowler.  This is going to be one fun pairing to watch.  Miguel and Rickie have more in common than meets the eye.  Even though they are separated by 25 years they both have fun on the course, play a gambling style and golf isn’t the end all for either of them.  Miguel has a chance at his first major and a good history here with three top ten finishes.  More than anything, Miguel brings his cool, individual style with him everywhere.  His demeanor is that of “devil may care” and that has earned him legions of fans.  I can only try to imagine the celebration if The Coolest Guy in Golf is slipping into that green jacket tonight.  And think about this: he is making his Champions Tour debut next week.  How about him showing up in that green jacket?

At only 25 it seems that Rickie Fowler has been around a long time.  But he wasn’t happy with his performance and when his long time mentor passed away a few years ago he lost a valuable resource.  But last year he hooked up with Butch Harmon and just recently the swing changes have taken hold and are having a very positive effect.  His 67 on Saturday has him two off the lead and he and Miguel will do well being paired with each other.  Fowler as Masters Champ would give Harmon yet another major winner but how is that Sunday Orange he wears going to look with a green jacket?  Pretty good from Rickie’s point of view.

2:30 pm Matt Kuchar & Jonas Blixt. Kuchar may be in the best form of all these contenders having had leads in his past two outings.  But at the same time he did let them slip away.  The good thing is Kuch is one back of the lead and would technically be a come from behind winner.  Kuchar at his best is a very steady player and that should help today as the pressure builds on the back nine.

Jonas Blixt is a wild card here.  Not widely known in the U.S by the masses, but still with two PGA Tour wins and a T4 finish at last year’s PGA Championship this 29 year old can flat out play.  And much like Fowler and Jordan Spieth he has no fear and will hit any shot no matter the risk.  If he putts like he did on Saturday…watch out.

2:40 pm Jordan Spieth & Bubba Watson.  Spieth continues to amaze all of us with his maturity and his golf game.  I keep expecting a stumble but he never does.  He plays with the reckless abandon of youth but possesses the maturity of an experienced veteran.  Spieth is on the verge of history here, big time history.  He would become the youngest Masters winner at 20.  And he would be the youngest, male, major winner in modern history.  Sorry historians, Johnny McDermott at the 1911 U.S. Open isn’t modern.  A Spieth win at Augusta National would cap his meteoric rise that was unfathomable a year ago.

Bubba Watson showed a crack in his armor yesterday and it started with his distance control and effected his putting.  He made it through the first two rounds without a three-putt but had two on Saturday.  He also failed to capitalize on the two back nine par fives and managed only pars.  For a long hitter like Bubba that’s a mortal sin.  But Bubba has professed a new “stress free, hyper-free” attitude and it has worked so far.  But if there is any day that will stress a golfer it is Sunday at the Masters.  He’ll need to be mentally strong today if he wants to win his second Masters. 

With Tiger on the couch and Phil long gone (thanks Lefty) we couldn’t wish for a more interesting leaderboard.  It’s filled with great stories, great characters and great golfers.  It’s Sunday at The Masters and it’s the way it should be.

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Ramblings from the Easy Chair

April 12th, 2014 No comments

by G. Rennie

THE VIKINGS HAVE LANDED: A Nordic Invasion swept over a resplendent Augusta National today as Swede Jonas Blixt and Dane Thomas Bjorn stormed into a short lived three way tie for the lead with Bubba Watson at -5. The charge came on the front side with birdies by both men on #9 while Bubba struggled with three bogeys in a four stretch on holes 4 through 7.The Masters - Round Three

Bjorn gave three shots back on his closing nine and stands T7 after 54 holes. Masters rookie Blixt, a twenty nine year old graduate from the European Tour, only gave back one shot on the backside and at -4, will tee off with Matt Kuchar in the penultimate paring tied for 3rd.

Blixt’s aggressive play cut both ways as he managed 4 birdies in his round but it also led to two water balls on the back side. After pushing his tee ball on 11 into the pine straw under the right trees he punched a low iron that caromed off the bank fronting the green like it had hit a wall. His pitch shot from the drop area 58 yards from the pin was nearly holed out with the ball skittering up to the lip then recoiling for the tap in. A helluva bogey.

His 245 yard approach from a side hill lie into 15 caught the bank and took a bath.  Bjorn hit the exact same shot moments later and while he never fully recovered Blixt rallied with birdies on 15 and 16.

First time playing wonder boy Jordan Spieth is garnering most of the ink and praise as the  possible first winner in his Masters debut since Fuzzy  back in ’79. We might get a rookie champion but it just might be Jonas Blixt.

PICKS TALLY for Links Life Golf DB’s:
At the end of play Sunday the purse will be split between the knucklehead with the highest finisher and the one with the most combined cash.
After Saturday ‘s play the standings have been shaken up:
The Greek  – Soars to the top with Jordan but he’s his only horse left in the race.
G.Rennie  -  I’m riding Spieth as well with two other runners left but they are fading.
Big Dick. – The boy has staying power.  With Kuch and Rickie both under par he’s closing strong.
Lil Skins – Comes back from the dead with The Coolest Man in Golf at -3. Stay thirsty.
Big Skins – Turns into Big Miss as his lone runner dropped four strokes today.

LIKE FATHER , LIKE SON: Kevin Stadler is the spitting image of his Walrus dad and they just might have something else in common come tomorrow night  – a 56 short Green Jacket.
Young Stads is at -1 only four off the pace, tied for tenth. In addition to the genetic bequest I’m sure Craig has done a download of his cumulative knowledge of Augusta.  And top of the mind meld transfer is how to win on the biggest stage in golf.  Hooray for the fat guys.

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Hits & Misses Saturday at The Masters

April 12th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Hits

All Miguel Angel Jimenez has to do is to show up, anywhere, and he is the center of the party.  His “Coolest Guy in Golf” persona has made him a favorite among fans and players alike.  But his stretching, cigars, wine, ponytail and great sense of humor may camouflage this fact: Miguel can really play golf.  He’s miguel masters 2fifty years old, more than twice as old as many of the kids he plays with, and 40th in the World Ranking.  Just to show the world he is right in putting off his Champions Tour career to still compete with the flatbellies he shoots low round of the Masters and is ready to break Jack Nicklaus’ record for oldest Masters Champion.  Stay thirsty my friend.  As my son would say He Is The Man.

Could someone please get Jordan Spieth in an x-ray machine.  I want to see what forty year old golfer is inside that twenty year old body.  This kid is unbelievable.  His golf game is world class as he proved today with his 2 under 70 and is tied for the lead of the biggest tournament in the world… at twenty!  He just keeps getting better but the real factor that sets him apart is his maturity.  He’s an old soul…the soul of a really great golfer.

Augusta National looked absolutely gorgeous today.  But I wasn’t putting on those greens.  They weren’t very receptive and putting fast as lightning.  Just like the boys of Augusta like it.

Matt Kuchar pulled a Bubba today and strung three birdies together on the back nine to help him craft a four under 68 and climb into at tie for third and one stroke back of the lead.

Jonas Blixt is fun to watch and fun to listen to.  He bounced it around today with four birdies and three bogeys but scratched out a 71 to finish T3.

Rickie Fowler had a great day and shot a very solid 67 to move up the leaderboard and a tie for fifth.  And he gets the pleasure of playing with Jimenez tomorrow.  That is a fun pairing.

Misses

It is all over but the green jacket ceremony for Adam Scott and his reign as Masters Champion.  Scotty had a bad day and got off to a horrid start going four over par through six holes.  He could never right the ship and struggled to a 76 and fell into a tie for sixteenth.

John Senden started the day in the final group but may have felt the pressure of the spotlight at the Masters.  He struggled to a 75 but is still only four shots off the lead.

There was good news and bad news for the pre-tournament favorite today.  Rory McIlroy went out first today and shot 71 to climb out of last place into a tie for 24th.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is he was beaten by his non-scoring marker.  Jeff Knox is an Augusta member that will play alongside a pro when there are an odd number of players left in the tournament.  He shot 70 to Rory’s 71.  That’s good shooting.

Hits & Missbubba masters 3 rd

Gary Woodlawn was on fire on the front nine as he tied the course record with a 30.  He was actually seven under par through ten holes but then Amen Corner bit him.  A bogey at eleven, a double at twelve killed his momentum and he finished with a three under 69

Bubba Watson started the day with a four stroke lead and lost it.  If this was Sunday he’d be getting the Greg Norman Choke Award.  His lousy start let the entire field back in the tournament.  And he couldn’t manage to gain any of his lead back on the closing nine.  Pars on 13 and 15 for this longballer are like double bogeys.  But he did manage to hold onto a share of the lead and he’ll have his chance at his second green jacket tomorrow.

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Bubba Lets Em Back in at The Masters

April 12th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

What a Saturday at The Masters.  Things were moving so fast and furious I had to keep telling myself that this is Saturday, not Sunday at The Masters.   The third round saw plenty of players make significant moves up the leaderboard and with Bubba Watson giving up his four stroke lead and giving it up early. Several players now have a chance at the green jacket. 

Bubba’s two over 74 which included a great up and down at eighteen helped him keep his share of the lead.  Twenty year old Jordan Spieth shot two under par to climb into that tie with Bubba at five under par.  But there are thirteen players under par and each of them has a legitimate shot at this title.

The day got off to a rousing start with Gary Woodlawn tying the front nine record with a sizzling 30.  Fifty year old Miguel Angel Jimenez kept the excitement going when he shot the lowest round of the week with a 66 and tied the low round for a player over fifty.

However, all of the fine play by the contenders would have been moot if Bubba had the same game he played with the first two rounds.  He didn’t.  He bogeyed the opening hole for the first time this week but stopped the bleeding with an immediate eagle on the second.  He then wavered a bit with three bogeys in the next five holes and The 2014 Masters had become a horse race, a horse race with plenty of thoroughbreds chomping at the bit. 

masters 14 lb

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Fred Couples,”I Feel Great About Playing Here”

April 12th, 2014 No comments

Isaiah Tesori…Maybe the Best Story at The Masters

April 12th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It is easy to get caught up in all the hype of major championship golf.  These players are the best in the world earning millions of dollars, living a lifestyle that few of us can imagine.  But not everyone involved in this game is a superstar.  There are plenty of real people with real lives that earn their living in this game. 

Paul Tesori and his wife Michelle are some of those people.  Paul Tesori is the caddie for the very successful Webb Simpson the 2012 U.S. Open Champion.  So Tesori may earn a fair dollar but he’s not having lunch with Warren Buffet anytime soon.

Tesori and his wife were thrust into the spotlight three months ago when Michelle gave birth to their son, Isaiah.  Young Isaiah had severe issues at birth and was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where doctors worked frantically to stabilize him. 

The news broke inside the world of professional golf and Tesori found out that he and Michelle and Isaiah had more friends than they could ever imagine.  What followed was an inspirational story of friendship, faith and kindness.

Click here and read Yahoo Sports Dan Wetzel’s story of Paul, Michelle and young Isaiah’s first trip to Augusta National.  It’s not about golf, it’s about family.

tesori

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An Unexpected Charge from Down Under

April 11th, 2014 No comments

by G. Rennie

MastersMost golf fans expected a strong showing from at least one Australian golfer and they were all proved right as Adam Scott continued his great play in round two of The Masters, carding a backside 33 to salvage par for the day which placed him tied for third after 36 holes. Some others touted Jason Day for contention even with his thumb injury which has kept him on the sidelines since his WGC Match Play win in February. Day made the weekend on the cut line at +4 but is unlikely to contend from 11 strokes off the lead held by the other lefty, the unique Bubba Watson.

But it’s unheralded forty something John Senden who tied for the low round of the day with a 68 and is in second place and will play in the last pairing of Saturday’s round three with past champion Bubba.

Senden

Senden

Senden won his second PGA Tour event in the Florida swing last month at the Valspar Championship on the tight and treacherous Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. The book on Senden was fine ball striker with an average short game and a balky putter. Well his short game and hot putter carried him to a million dollar payday in Tampa and shot him way up the leaderboard today on the fast and firm Augusta National greens.

Level par from round one didn’t last long with an opening birdie followed by another on number four. That’s when Senden got it going with three birds, on the 5th, 7th and 8th holes, to post a front nine 35. Three more birdies on the back side for 33 and Senden was sitting pretty. The highlight of his round, maybe of any round today, was a slick 15 footer from right of the hole on number 11. Nobody birdies 11!  Six total birdies all coming after two early bogeys should give this journeyman a boatload of confidence going into the weekend. Vegamite sandwiches for all.

DAILY TALLY FOR Links Life Golf  TOUTS

Lots of blood on these score cards and not much movement in the standings:
G.Rennie- +3      Holds onto lead with move by Spieth.
Big Dick -  +12     Kuuuuuuuuch and Rickie keep him in it.
Big Skins -   +14   The Spanish Armada has sunk.
The Greek – +19  Hercules was on the Spieth bandwagon as well.
Lil Skins -   + 27   What can I say, you can’t pick 64 year olds to win here.

OLDIES BUT GOODIES

You probably shouldn’t pick senior citizens to win  The Masters but you could have made a lot of do-re-me if you bet that 6 old timers, Champions Tour players, would make the cut. It’s no surprise that Freddie is in the mix but Sandy Lyle? Wow! They’re joined by fellow gray beards Vijay Singh, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize and Miguel Angel Jiminez (he’s a red beard). I don’t know what they are taking but I want some. Pass the Geritol.

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Bubba Watson Leads Another Tough Day at The Masters

April 11th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Augusta National played like Augusta National again today and frustrated many of the best golfers in the world.  Firm and fast greens seemed to be the demise of many of the big names as shot after shot looked to want to settle anywhere except on the green. 

Statistically the course played slightly easier today with an average score of 74.08 compared to 74.47 yesterday.  But don’t ask Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els if it was easier.  They all will be watching the next two rounds on television as they all missed the cut.  That being said there were plenty of hits today at The Masters and a fair share of misses also.

Hits

Bubba Watson holds a three stroke lead and is doing everything right.  He is driving it long (299yds), hitting fairways (71%), hitting greens (78%) and is Bubba Watson of the US reacts after makiputting with confidence.  More significantly, Bubba looks comfortable and relaxed and I saw two interviews he gave today and there wasn’t a single tear shed.  That’s bad news for the field.

Cheers to Mike Weir who shot 73-72 to make the cut and sits tied for twenty-first.  The 2003 Masters champion has battled injuries for years and it is wonderful to see him back, playing well at Augusta.

Adam Scott had a rough start with three bogeys in his first five holes to fall down the leaderboard.  But the affable Aussie stuck with it and found some birdies on the back nine to shoot an even par 72.  He’s only four shots off the lead and a true thoroughbred looking to win another Masters.

Fred Couples works wonders on this course.  The 54 year old says Augusta is his favorite place in the world and it shows.  Matching 71’s the first two rounds have him T7 and five shots off the lead.  Not bad for a senior.

Thomas Bjorn matched Watson and two others for low round of the day at 68.  The Great Dane, 43 has seven career top ten finishes in major championships and would love to make this his first major win.

First timers continue to do well at Augusta as three of them have finished in the top seven.  Jonas Blixt T3, Jordan Spieth T3 and Jimmy Walker T7 are trying win The Masters in their first start. Fuzzy Zoeller was the last to do it in 1979.

Props to two time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.  No, not for making the cut, he finished dead last at 24 over.  But for once again teaming with his go-to caddy at The Masters.  Carl Jackson has caddied for Crenshaw at every Masters Gentle Ben has played and was on the bag of both of Ben’s wins.   Jackson is 67 and this is his 53 Masters, not bad.  Now Ben and he are close and Ben helped old Carl a bit today: He jettisoned his big, heavy tour bag for a lightweight one to ease the load on Carl.  That’s friendship.

All week we heard about all the young bucks vying to claim their first Masters title.  Well how about a cheer for the old dudes.  Six players over 50 years old made the cut.  Freddy leads the pack of Larry Mize, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sandy Lyle and Vijay Singh.  Sometimes experience pays off. 

Misses…and Missed Cuts

phil mickelson misses cutFor the second day in a row Phil Mickelson was done in by a triple bogey.  On number twelve today he went from bunker to bunker to bunker and struggled to a six on the par three.  Two 7’s yesterday and his triple today sent Phil packing.  You can’t win majors with 7’s on your scorecard.  Phil had made 16 straight cuts at Augusta.

Rory McIlroy struggled both days but managed to make the cut on the number.  But he did have a real bit of misfortune on the thirteenth when his approach hit a sprinkler head on the edge of the green and bounded into the flowers and shrubs behind the green.  That led to a bogey on a par five, a sin, which he had birdied yesterday.

I can’t remember a major where so many high profile players missed the cut and many of them were mentioned as pre-tournament favorites.  Phil, Luke Donald, Sergio, Ernie, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner all are going home early.  That’s a lot of star power.

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Bubba Watson’s Back Nine Birdie Blitz

April 11th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

bubba masters 14 r2Bubba Watson has set the mark and thrown down the gauntlet at The 78th Masters.  Will Bill Haas and the rest of the contenders pick it up? 

Watson, playing his best golf in a long time, had a sizzling back nine of 32 to pull away from the field at Augusta National with a three stroke lead after he finished his second round.

Bubba strung together five birdies from 12-16 to go to eight under for the tournament.  His only slip up on the back nine was a closing bogey at eighteen that left him with a 4 under 68 and alone in the lead.

Watson has an affinity for the back nine at Augusta.  We all remember his amazing hooked wedge from the woods in his ’12 playoff victory but it was his play through Amen Corner and the rest of the back nine that got him at the top of the leaderboard. 

In the final round of 2012 he strung together four straight birdies from 13 to 16 to earn his spot in the playoff.  In fact in rounds two and three of that year he had three birdies each on the closing nine. 

So if it is as they say, “The Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday” Bubba is in fine shape and a very real threat to earn his second Masters title.

Bubba appears more relaxed this week than his normally hyper self.  He has the same outlook as defending champions Adam Scott who is playing pressure free golf as he has adopted the attitude,”no matter what happens this week I still have a green jacket.”  Bubba must be thinking the same thing.

Click here for the Masters website, click leaderboard, click Bubba’s name, click scorecard and then click on the birdies and you can see the video of each one.

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