April 12, 2011

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Surviving the Masters

By: Joe Williams

99 players teed it up at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday to compete for the green jacket. Charl Schwartzel was the last man standing on Sunday afternoon. He survived one of the most wide-open and unpredictable finishes in Masters history. If he is anything like me, he is still wearing that green jacket.

If you missed it, here’s how the field narrowed from 99 players to one Masters Champion:

November 25, 2010 – Tiger Woods will never forget this Thanksgiving Day. As we all know, his life changed in a major way and he hasn’t won since. (Just kidding about his elimination. Tiger could have won this tournament.)

Monday, April 4: No amateur has ever won the Masters. It is too tall an order for a group of guys who are probably just happy to be playing in the Masters. Players eliminated: David Chung, Jin Jeong, Lion Kim, Hideki Matsuyama, Nathan Smith, and Peter Uihlein. 93 players still alive.

Wednesday, April 6: Luke Donald wins the Par 3 Contest. No winner of the Par 3 Contest has won the Masters in the same year. Players eliminated: Luke Donald. 92 players still alive.

Thursday, April 7, 8:51 a.m.: Aaron Baddeley’s tee shot on the first hole ends up in a woman’s lap. When he arrived he marked the ball’s spot underneath her chair with a tee and took a drop. This is not the way you want to begin a major championship. Baddeley goes on to shoot 75. Players eliminated: Aaron Baddeley. 91 Players still alive.

Thursday, April 7, Round 1: You cannot win a tournament in the first round but you can play your way out of it. Just ask Martin Kaymer. He came into the week at the top of the world rankings but shot a 78 in the first round and went on to miss the cut. He was not the only big name to struggle in the first round. Players eliminated: Mark O’Meara 77, Padraig Harrington 77, Martin Kaymer 78, Ben Crenshaw 78, Ian Woosnam 79, Tom Watson, 79, Craig Stadler 80, Arjun Atwal 80, and Henrik Stenson 82. 83 players still alive.

Friday, April 8, 12th hole: Matt Kuchar stood on the 12th tee at 3-under par and within a few shots of the lead. His tee shot vanished as it landed. They finally found the ball but he had to take a drop on the other side of Rae’s Creek and walked away with a double-bogey. Graeme McDowell ran into trouble on 12 as well. He took a triple-bogey and missed the cut by two shots. Players eliminated: Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell. 80 players still alive.

Friday, April 8, Round 2: Only the top 44 and ties get to play the weekend at Augusta. Those who miss the cut can only think about what might have been. Players eliminated: Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Sandy Lyle, Davis Love III, Jonathan Byrd, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Rory Sabatini, Hiroyuki Fujita, Kevin Streelman, Anders Hansen, Louis Oosthuizen, Gregory Havret, Jason Bohn, Yuta Ikeda, Carl Pettersson, D.A. Points, Retief Goosen, Peter Hanson, Jhonattan Vegas, Ben Crane, Heath Slocum, Jerry Kelly, Stuart Appleby, Mark Wilson, Kevin Na, Francesco Molinari, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Sean O’Hair, Robert Allenby, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Tim Clark, Stewart Cink. 45 players still alive.

Saturday, April 9, Front Nine: It’s moving day. Those who just made the cut have no room for error. They need to go low. Players eliminated: Kyung-Tae Kim, Ernie Els, Nick Watney, Camilo Villegas, Steve Marino, Alex Cejka, and Paul Casey. 38 players still alive.

Saturday, April 9, Round 3: Anything can happen in the final round of a major championship. If you can stay within shouting distance of the lead, you’ve got a shot. Players eliminated: Jeff Overton, Trevor Immelman, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Justin Rose, Bill Haas, Robert Karlsson, Charley Hoffman, Gary Woodland, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Ryan Moore, David Toms, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Barnes, Ricky Fowler. 20 players still alive.

Sunday, April 10: Rory McIlroy holds a four shot lead at -12. Anybody within range of second at – 8 has a shot to make a run if McIlroy struggles and comes back to the field.
1st hole – Alvaro Quiros and Martin Laird make bogey. Ryan Palmer makes double bogey. 17 players still alive.
3rd hole – Y.E. Yang makes bogey. 16 players still alive.
4th hole – Steve Stricker, Edoardo Molinari and Bubba Watson make bogey. 13 players still alive.
5th hole – Phil Mickelson makes double bogey. 12 players still alive.
3rd hole – Charl Schwartzel holes out from the fairway for an eagle to go -11 and tie for the lead. Fred Couples and Geoff Ogilvy are seven shots behind two players. 10 players still alive.
8th hole – Tiger Woods makes an eagle to get to -10 and a tie for second. Bo Van Pelt and Ross Fisher are five shots behind two players and six shots off the lead. 8 players still alive.
11th hole – Lee Westwood makes bogey and drops to -5 with three players tied for the lead at -10. 7 players still alive.
10th hole – Rory McIlroy makes a disastrous triple-bogey to fall out of the lead. He is just two shots behind but it is too hard to recover from a mess like that. 6 players still alive.
16th hole – Adam Scott nearly makes an ace but settles for birdie to go -12. Angel Cabrera falls four shots off the pace. 5 players still alive.
17th hole – K.J. Choi makes a bogey and drops to -9. 4 players still alive.
17th hole – Charl Schwartzel makes birdie to take the lead at -13. Tiger Woods is in the clubhouse at -10. 3 players still alive.
18th hole – Charl Schwartzel makes birdie to win the Masters by two shots over Jason Day and Adam Scott.
Your winner: Charl Schwartzel

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April 4, 2011

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2011 Masters Preview

By: Anson Whaley

It’s the time of the sports calendar that signals Spring. The Final Four, the start of baseball season, and the ends of the NBA and NHL regular seasons all mean that the weather is getting warmer. But the Masters is, perhaps, the biggest sporting event of the season. The weather forecast for this week is favorable with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s and plenty of sun, so we should be all set for four days of excellent golf.

Here are a few players that will be ready to claim the green jacket.

2011 may mark the first time that Tiger Woodsisn’t declared as a heavy favorite by fans. Not only is he winless so far this season, he failed to record a single victory in 2010. It used to feel like a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Woods would regain his previous form, but the longer he goes without winning, the harder it might be for him. Still, with four Masters titles under his belt, Tiger can’t be counted out as he continues to pursue Jack Nicklaus‘ record of 18 major championships. Woods knows the course well having competed on it for nearly 15 years and is still one of the game’s biggest drivers. That plays perfectly into his hands, despite the club’s attempt to ‘Tiger-proof’ the course in recent years.

Then there’s Phil Mickelson– the defending champion. Lefty isn’t only a favorite because he won the green jacket last season, but because he’s been wildly successful at Augusta throughout his entire career. He also has two prior Masters victories and an astounding six additional top five finishes. Even more impressive than that, Mickelson is almost always in the thick of things as he’s finished in the top ten every year since 1999 with the exception of 2007 when he came in 24th place. Few, if any, golfers have had that kind of success at any tournament, let alone the Masters.

Martin Kaymer, the current No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings, mightbe a contender. He won the PGA Championship last year for his first major and finished in second place in this season’s WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in February. But Kaymer has yet to even get past the cut at the Masters over the past three years and with a strong field, he will have his work cut out for him. He has the talent, but the lack of experience in playing past Friday may be a factor in his ability to close the deal on Sunday even if he does make the cut in 2011.

One player to watch in my opinion is Luke Donald. Donald, the third-ranked player in the world is off to a great start this season. He’s finished in the top ten in three of his four PGA Tour events and won the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. Donald had to defeat two top ten golfers in Kaymer and ninth-ranked Matt Kuchar on his way to the title and is playing some of the best golf of his career. He will be overlooked by many, despite his No. 3 World Golf Ranking, because he’s never won a major. But Donald has finished in the top ten in the Masters twice over the past five seasons, including a third place finish in 2005. He has all the tools to break through and potentially capture his first Masters victory.

Young guns like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will try to make their mark and other top-ranked players Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, and Paul Casey could also be right there in the end. But some older golfers will also be looking to make history, too.

25 years ago in 1986, a past-his-prime Jack Nicklaus laid claim to his 18thand final major. Not many gave him a chance as he hadn’t won a major since 1980, but Nicklaus found a way to win. In 2009 the age of 59, Tom Watsonbecame the oldest golfer to lead a major as he looked to win the British Open. Watson not only held a lead, but topped the leaderboard heading into Sunday. He eventually lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink, but proved that golfers into their 50’s can still be competitive in major championships. Experience counts for so much in golf and while players such as Fred Couples and Vijay Singhshouldn’t be expected to contend this weekend, well… you never know.