2018 Masters Rewind

Honestly, I hated The Masters. We absolutely got cheated. On Sunday Tiger was off the course before the CBS coverage kicked off. Then Rory shanked his first shot of the day –  straight into the trees, so much for that Ryder Cup rematch. Nike wouldn’t let Patrick Reed show up in red, Jordan Spieth blew it on 18, and Rickie ran out of time. This. Masters. Sucked.

All right, fine, for the sake of transparency, I lost money this weekend. Your boy got in over his head, and tried to bail out by picking Rory as the winner, and JT to best Spieth.  I swear his putter looked shaky on Saturday. That was dumb, really dumb.

Before we get started, let us pay homage to Alister Mackenzie, the greatest golf course architect in history. The closing stretch of holes at Augusta National is unbelievable. Two gettable par fives, birdie opportunities on the par threes, and challenging, thought-provoking shots every time a player stood over the ball. Which side of the fairway provides the best angle to the pin? Which way is the wind going? Do we have enough club to carry Rae’s creek? With so many creative shots dictating the outcome of this tournament, excellence appears routine every single year. No venue, and no tournament provide as compelling action as the Masters. One miscalculation could cost the tournament, and one courageous act might just win it. Augusta just provides the opportunities. 

On to the competitors, a serious hat tip to a couple of guys out there that backdoor’d top tens, and ensured another visit to The Masters next year.  Tony Finau and Cameron Smith straight up balled.

What Cam Smith did to the back nine at Augusta could earn felony charges in several foreign countries. The 24 year old Australian made the turn at a mighty fine three under par… before bursting into flames. The Aussie Birdied six of the last nine, including four straight, vaulting the third year pro into a T5 finish. Already in possession of a T4 at the U.S. Open, Cam Smith has proven he is capable of performing on the biggest stage.  You did not hear enough of this kid last weekend, and you can expect that to change.

Up next,  Tony Finau… Holy Shit, what a gutsy performance from this guy. After a dislocated ankle on Wednesday, Finau fired a four under, 68, on Thursday. A round only bested by a lights-out Spieth. I think the rain, and soft turf, got the better of Finau on Saturday. After that freak accident, and a made cut, it was reasonable to assume any player would cash that check and wheelchair away.  Not Finau… on Sunday afternoon he birdied six of the last seven holes, climbed the board, and locked up a T10 finish. All due respect to P. Reed, but this may just be the most impressive performance of the weekend.

Jordan Spieth owns Augusta National. Five under at the turn, Spieth concurred his demons on the twelfth with a birdie put that set Amen’s Corner on fire.  For the next twelve months I will dream about that hybrid from the pine straw on 13. Two more birdies on 15 & 16, impressive could not begin to describe what we saw on Sunday.  Spieth had history in his grasp. One stray tee-ball on 18 kept us from witnessing the greatest round in Masters Tournament, and possibly golf history. Twice before has 63 been shot at Augusta, but never on Sunday. Stepping to the tee, with birdie on his mind, Spieth’s tee-ball pulled left, and caught the last branch on the last tree. The resulting bogey dropped him outside of playoff contention. Disappointing for everyone involved.

Jordan Spieth’s Masters Tournament history
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
T2 1 T2 T11 3

Spieth will have another 20 opportunities to win at Augusta, and with this track record, it is reasonable to believe that he could be in contention every time. But this one, this one could have been something really special.  I bet against the guy and could not stop rooting for him down that closing stretch.

Rickie Fowler performed admirably, but couldn’t match the leaders on Thursday and Friday. An impressive charge on Sunday left the fan favorite a single shot out of a playoff. But I’m not sure that it was ever that close. Rickie played the weekend lights out, and  I truly believe that he is one of the game’s great talents; but buddy, we need to see it for four days, not two.

Rickie Fowler best results in major championships
Masters Tournament 2nd: 2018
U.S. Open T2: 2014
The Open Championship T2: 2014
PGA Championship T3: 2014

Rickie has shown the ability to play at any major venue. That breakthrough is going to come eventually; but to win any major tournament, you need to bring it all four days.

Angry Jon Rahm is a sight to behold. He wears every emotion on his sleeve, and it provides incredible entertainment. The #4 player in the world can win a tournament any time he tees it up, but that lack of composure may be what is holding him back. Despite looking like a middle-aged, minivan driving, Arby’s drive through, father of five, Rahm is only 23 years old.  You better believe that his best golf is ahead of him

Rory doesn’t deserve three words in this piece. Yes, I’m biased. I don’t care. All the talent in the world, within striking position, I really thought that he would get it done. That round deserved to be dropped from the television coverage.

Above all else, the story is Patrick Reed. He played the villain, and he did it well. Every time he dropped a shot, and it felt like there might be an opening, he quickly found a birdie, time and time again. With early groups lighting the course on fire, it is easy to forget just how hard that golf course actually is. Patrick Reed navigated Sunday afternoon like a champion. The 26-year-old survived three bogeys, including one on the first hole of the day, to win the tournament by one shot. So few people will ever know the pressure of trying to close a major championship. And with the chaos in front of him, The tournament could have easily slipped away. Birdies on 12 and 14 kept the sharks at bay, but the tournament was not over until that ten-foot breaker fell on 18. With Three rounds under 70, Reed absolutely showed out this week. However, with the return of a  spotlight on his past, it will be interesting to see how the rest of 2018 plays out for the Ryder Cup hero, and now, 2018 Masters Champion.

 

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