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Reed Ruins Rory’s Masters Party

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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The story of El Alamo came to mind during Sundays at Augusta as Rory Mcilroy tried every shot in his bag in the final round to secure victory. But no matter how he tried or how many strikes he made in anger his opponent fired right back. As the day progressed Mcilroy became surrounded by more adversaries: Jordan Spieth, John Rahm and Rickie Fowler that added to a sense of siege, against the four-time major winner started to run out of bullets. Arriving to eighteenth green the Holywood man cut a disconsolate figure with his second appearance in the final Sunday group foiled over the back nine. Although this time the sheer tenacity of his playing partner Patrick Reed was impressive. Albeit his round was also scrappy at times.

However, every time Reed stumbled or looked on the edge he came back with some magnificent strokes. Having studied in Georgia he had some local support even though Reed has a chequered following in the game due some outspoken comments over the years. In the end the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine influenced both men in the background one feels. Yet again it was the European golfer who wilted under the American’s pressure and struggling end to even stay in the fight. But up against the steely Reed the outcome was no real surprise. Like fellow Texan, Jordan Spieth, Reed is ruthless, focused and the ultimate competitor. Fighting back from the first bogey of the day on the opening hole to the last par putt om the eighteenth.

Unlikely to win any popularity contests, Patrick Reed, delivers on the course and his cut throat competitiveness takes no prisoners. A steely determination obvious since he was young kid and one that helped him survive through some turbulent college years also. But he seems to love pressured and now closes in on statements made in 2015 about being one of the top five gofers in the world. Remarks that ruffled his playing partner at the time a few years, as Mcilroy has held the world number one, along four major titles. Yet has been unable to master his demons at Augusta for the second time. He then sees Reed arrive and with the first chance he gets he squeezes the life out of all comers and leaves Georgia the proud owner of a green jacket. Like many of the recent winners wins without holding any major title. It seems Augusta has little respect for CV’s

Indeed, that weight of experience was of no hep to Mcilroy and when his putting stroke abandoned him on Sunday he saw a number of birdie chances slide by and moved down the leader board and out of reach of a green jacket this year. As he went south on the scoreboard the Americans went North with Spieth and Fowler starting charges. While the two gunslingers battled it out the real action was further up the field with Jordan Spieth starting his own fireworks by making the turn in 31 – and going on to card a 64. Only his birdie putt slid by the final he would been 14 under and pushing for a possible play off if Reed faltered. Not a bad effort considering where he started earlier that day. With Californian Rickie Fowler then engaging in the fight and going six under on the last 11 holes, finally coming of age at a Major it would seem. Indeed, when the pressure was at its most Fowler showed a calmness of thought that promises a major win soon.

On Saturday night though he said of his five-shot deficit over 18 holes. “I mean, I’m a ways back,” he remarked with an air of concession. But on Sunday he showed metal on the run for home: “I didn’t have the front nine that I quite needed,” Fowler said Sunday night, “I didn’t look at the scoreboards a whole lot today, but I wanted to kind of check in and see where things were at around the turn,” Fowler said. “I saw Jordan was off and running today. That was kind of a kick in the butt. I knew I needed a good back nine, but to see one of your buddies playing well … I knew what I needed to do.”

On Sunday, Spieth — the 2015 Masters champion — had one of the best final rounds in the 82-year history of golf’s most prestigious event. His 8-under 64 not only matched a personal best at Augusta National, it was only the seventh time in history someone shot a final-round 64 at The Masters. Yet it wasn’t enough. “The first few holes were stress-free,” Spieth said after his round. “I know where these Sunday pins are, and fortunately played the golf course exactly how it needed to be played.

“I’ve proven to myself and others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started nine shots back and I came out with the idea of playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it.”

“I didn’t look at one board,” Spieth concluded “The only time I knew where I stood was after I finished on 18. I knew the putt was important. Every shot was very important coming down the stretch, because I knew I needed to get deeper and deeper, because with that many guys ahead, somebody’s going low, But I didn’t know exactly what it was, so obviously pretty gutted at the finish. I hit a tee shot that wasn’t that, it just caught the last little branch of that tree. So obviously I want to go back to that tee shot right now, but it was a phenomenal day.”

Spieth career finishes at Augusta are 2014: T2; 2015: Champion; 2016: T2; 2017: T11 and
2018: Third. And he is only 24 years of age.

For Rory in contrast The Masters may be one of those tournaments where he may never dominate. Not unlike Ivan Lendl in tennis, who won every major except Wimbledon and was losing finalist on two occasions and unable to master the centre court on the final Sunday in June. Or Seve Ballesteros who never captured a US Open title with his best finish as third in 1987. Then Colin Montgomerie never won a major but was European Number 1 for many seasons. And so, it might be for Rory and the more he tries to win the Masters the further it gets for him. Sunday had that feel as he was a bit erratic even from the starting hole on the green, and finally signing for a two-over par 74. A card which dropped him to a share of fifth place on nine under overall. A total six strokes adrift of the champion Reed with whom had at in his sights and was just one stroke adrift.

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“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” said McIlroy, who littered his card with five bogeys against three birdies. “Of course, it’s frustrating and it’s hard to take any positives from it right now but at least I put myself in a position, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.

“For the last four years I’ve had top 10s but I haven’t been close enough to the lead. Today I got myself there, I didn’t quite do enough, but I’ll still come back next year and try again. I’m 100 per cent sure I can come back and win here.

“I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top 10s, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times. But I’ll sit down and reflect over the next few days and see what I could have done better.

“Whether it be mindset or whatever, I just didn’t quite have it today. I played some great golf, but I just didn’t continue that into today,” added McIlroy, who admitted his putter had “let me down” throughout the final round.

“I just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference,” he said. “I was trying to hit good shots and good putts and anytime I felt like I hit a good shot I got myself on the wrong side of the pin or gave myself a tricky one down the hill.

“Then when I did get some chances I didn’t take advantage of them, but it was a tough day and hopefully I’ll be better next time.”

Sunday proved Reed is ferocious in match play, and that singles victory over McIlroy at Hazeltine in 2016 was no fluke and led to the nickname of Captain America. The moniker was apt yet again at Augusta. Albeit all of American doesn’t necessarily love him. Regardless, he is deservedly the 2018 Masters Champion.

A title that still eludes McIlroy after ten visits to Georgia.


Major Rory Set to Be Master

Brendan Mcdaid

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To merely call it Moving Saturday at August this time was to under sell the third round very short. As it was just truly spectacular at times. The golf at times ranging from the sublime to the pure genius, to the subtlest and more beyond the comprehension of any mortal golfer. Proving once again that the annual azalea gathering in Augusta in Georgia is more than a marketing events. But a major sporting encounter in the beautiful of amphitheatres, bringing out the best and worst of each golfer I what is nothing short of gladiatorial battle with golf clubs. And as the Sunday dawn edges ever near over the course the final round this year bears all the hallmarks of anther classic with leader Patrick Reed holding a three-stroke advantage over a clearly possessed Rory McIlroy. Who even after a flowery escapade salvaged a par on what could have proved the unlucky thirteenth.

But early doors Reed made bogey at the par-4 third and gave some short-lived hope to the chasing pack. But birdies at the fifth and eighth holes settled things down. “Early on I struggled a little bit with how far the ball was going and how much it was reacting on the greens since the past couple days we’ve been playing for so much bounce and roll out and that extra foot of roll on the greens,” Reed said.

“Because of that I burned a couple of edges and hit a couple of iron shots that I thought were going to be good and ended up just a hair off, but I was able to adapt after the fourth hole and from that point on it just seemed to get back in the rhythm I’ve been playing. Hopefully I can adapt a little quicker tomorrow and be able to figure it out on the first hole rather than the fourth.”

He did make one more bogey at the par-3 16th, but a crucial par saves on the 17th ensured he signed his card 14 under with a final par at 18. He leads McIlroy by three and both men have an underlying score to settle in more ways than one. “Really excited. Any time you come out and have the lead going into Sunday you’re always going to be excited about it, but to be able to play against Rory and have him side-by-side with me is going to be a lot of fun,” Reed continued

“Every time we play with each other we seem to have a lot of fun, and we seem to both play some solid golf. So, hopefully we can get some fireworks out there and have a fun Sunday.”

If Patrick Reed beats McIlroy like he did at Hazeltine, it would make him the fourth straight first-time major winner at the Masters, joining Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia. In fact, another sub-70 round would make him the first player in Masters history to shoot in the 60’s all four rounds. Clearly the man is currently on fire and enjoying the local support where he went to College

On the other hand, the case for Rory is show in hi error free 65 on Saturday and puts him in prime position to take his shot at the career Grand Slam on Sunday. “It’s massive. This is my first final group here since 2011 and I feel like I learned an awful lot from that day and hopefully all that I did learn seven years ago I can put into practice tomorrow,” McIlroy said. “So, I’m really excited to go out there tomorrow, show everyone what I’ve got, show Patrick Reed what I’ve got and, you know, all the pressure is on him tomorrow. He went to Augusta State, he’s got a lot of support here and I’m hoping to come in and spoil the party.”

Rickie Fowler shot 65 and lies in third and is also in search of his first major. “We’re in a good spot. The golf tournament starts tomorrow on the back nine, so today was big to at least give ourselves a chance to go get it done tomorrow,” said Fowler.

One behind Fowler is Spain’s John Rahm, who carded a seven-under 65; Henrik Stenson is at -7 with Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson and Marc Leishman all at six-under.

Perhaps Patrick Reed prepared us best for the Sunday Showdown “It’s going to be electrifying. The fans are going to be ready to go, they are going to be ready to cheer for whoever is making putts, whoever is making birdies or pulling off shots.” Reed concluded.

But it’s hard to see past Rory now that he is in the final group on Masters Sunday. No better man for a mano a mano…..


Patrick’s Day at Augusta

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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Even the most ardent golf followers might struggle picking out in two current leaders of The Masters on Friday night, as they are not amongst the expected names. With both arriving at Augusta with no serious hint of form that could even facilitate two rounds of error free golf – for the most part—that would put them in the leading pairing. But here we are with American Patrick Reed leading on -7 and Australian Marc Leishman trailing by one stroke. With a few shots of daylight before some of the know guns appear, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson. Making for an interesting leader board on Saturday when a number of things will change, including the weather as rain is forecast.

The surge for both reed and Leishman was also threatening Tiger Woods survival as he needed to be in the top 50. Or within 10 strokes of the leader when the final group signed their cards on Friday night. As of midday 69 golfers were in line to qualify for the event’s final two rounds — five more than the 64 who made the cut in 1966 to set the course record. But ominously the top ten regulars like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler all remained within striking distance. However, it was Reed who shrank the field with his round reducing Saturday’s starters to 50 competitors. Which at one point looked like bad news for Woods after the 12th where he was +5. But then birdies on the 13th and 15th put him back on the safe side of the cut line.

In four appearances, Reed has twice missed the cut and tied for 22nd and 49th. But the American Ryder Cup players remains unfaczed. “The more you play someplace, especially Augusta National, the more you pick up the little subtleties,” Reed said Friday, “I’m in a better frame of mind with my golf game and mentally.” Although rain is forecast on Saturday afternoon the third round might throw up uncomfortable conditions. “I am from Texas,” he added, “I would say I like it when it gets challenging.”

Famously in 2014 after his third PGA Tour title – also becoming the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event – he shared some views that created a furore at the time among some of the golfing cognoscenti. “I’ve worked so hard, I’ve won a lot in my junior career, did great things in (my) amateur career, was 6-0 in match play in NCAAs, won NCAAs two years in a row, got third individually one year, and now I have three wins out here on the PGA Tour.

“I just don’t see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and, you know, the other legends of the game. It’s just one of those things, I believe in myself and – especially with how hard I’ve worked – I’m one of the top five players in the world,”
He continued, “To come out in a field like this and to hold on wire to wire like that, I feel like I’ve proven myself.”

This week if he wins at Augusta he might just have proved his point.

Aa Jordan Spieth discombobulated on Friday he then recovered to hold a share of fourth the along with McIlroy and paired with fellow American on Saturday, Justin Thomas. After starting with a double bogey, he looked rather different to the fine-tuned machine that graced the course on Thursday. But refusing to be rattled by being three-over par after two holes then added a bogey on the par-5 second hole but went to finish 4-under overall. “I’ve taken a lot of punches on this golf course,” Spieth said. “So, to come back from 3-over through two holes and only shoot 2-over with a limited number of looks, it’s not so bad. I’m still in this golf tournament.” Clearly Friday’s windy conditions and quick greens challenged the field of 87 golfer.

“I just had two really bad tee shots to start the day on the first two holes,” Spieth continued. “Then the course was very difficult today.” By the third hole Spieth was talking to himself again to ensure he steadied his round with four straight pars. The Texan showing remarkable patience at age 24. “Par out here is a really good score,” Spieth said. “So, what’s the first couple of holes on a Friday start mean? It doesn’t really mean much to me. It means let’s figure out what was wrong and fix it. But it’s not going to affect the outcome of this tournament off those two holes. I’m still in great position.”

Rory McIlroy remains in the hunt after a very mixed day. But this year at Augusta he has brought a steely edge that has been absent on recent visits. On a day when par seemed a good score, McIlroy carded 1-under 71. “I’ve always been comfortable around the lead,” McIlroy said in what seemed like a bit of a message to the rest of the field. “It’s a place that I’m thankfully quite familiar with and know how to deal with.”

This year McIlroy has been very serious about his preparations traveling up from Florida to play 54 holes with members last week and 36 a few weeks before that. Also coming off that win in Bay Hill at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“Sometimes pars might be a little bit boring and you might feel as if you want to get a little bit more out of your round,” McIlroy said. “But as you look up the leader board and you’re still there around the lead, that’s taken awhile for me to adjust to.”

Still at Augusta National birdies are available on the back nine so took them at 13 and 14 before making a string of pars to finish his round. “I said to myself on the 13th tee, “Let’s make four in the next six,” sort of do what Jordan did yesterday,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t quite, birdied the 13th and 14th, gave myself a few more chances coming in and didn’t quite convert.”

When Marc Leishman was asked about how he managed to look so relaxed in that high-profile grouping, which also included Tommy Fleetwood. “Obviously, I’ve been through a lot off the course,” Leishman said. “I think that helps me on the course.” Leishman topped the leader board and the memory of being paired in the final round with Adam Scott some years ago, Leishman kerned the importance of seizing opportunities, and taking chances when the reward is worth it. On Friday at the 15th hole he did that and made eagle.


Beware The Iceman Cometh

Brendan Mcdaid

henrik stenson masters 2015 3 wooIt was a cold start to the Masters in Augusta on Thursday as the chilly morning air caused a few slow starts from even the leading names. Not least the current champion, Sergio Garcia, who arrived at the fifteenth in as much as contention as anyone and then walked off the green 13 strokes later. Seeing three shots trickle into the water to sign for the hole in the same number of shots as Tom Weiskopf in 1980 and Tommy Nakajima in 1978. Reminding all contenders of the small margins at Augusta National and something not visible to TV viewers.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Garcia. “It’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot. Simple as that.”

“I felt like I hit a lot of good shots and unfortunately the ball just didn’t want to stop. I don’t know, it’s just one of those things. So, it’s just unfortunate, but that’s what it is.” To the delight of a supportive crowd, Garcia then birdied the next hole but completed his day a despondent champion. Which is the usual story at Augusta for incoming champions. In fact, just three golfers have ever presented themselves with the green jacket: Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and retained the title the following year, when the Golden BEAR won an 18-hole playoff against Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer. Then in 1989 Nick Faldo won after a playoff with Scott Hoch, then Faldo needing extra holes the following year to see off Raymond Floyd; Tiger Woods in 2001, when victory over David Duval not only meant he uniquely held all four major titles at the same time, but also went on to win again the following year, beating Retief Goosen.

For Rory McIlroy the television coverage inevitably brings up his adventure at the tenth in 2011, and commentator Butch Harmon revisited that episode again on Thursday on Sky Sports. Although this year though it was a distant memory as the Holywood man shot a first round 69 – for the first time since 2011 -and just his fourth first or second round in the 60’s ever at the Masters. Clearly this places McIlroy as one of this year’s favourites even trailing leader Jordan Spieth by three after Round 1.

“You look at it, and not anyone is really getting away,” said McIlroy. “Jordan had a pretty strong finish there, but this is my best start in a few years. It’s such a hard golf course to play catch up on. If you start to chase it around here, that’s when you start to make mistakes. But to be right up there and have the ability to stay patient because of the position I’m in, that’s a nice luxury I have over the next few days.”

Both golfers having had their nightmare moments at Augusta so now know to avoid getting ahead of themselves.

It felt it was McIlroy’s destiny to become a 21-year-old Masters champion, just like Spieth did four years later. But it wasn’t to be. And as Spieth learned in 2016 the Augusta National course can bear its teeth as the Texan found out on that Sunday’s back nine. Subsequently unravelled his challenge to retain the title. So far this year after day one, only Tony Finau – the man who displaced his ankle in the Par 3 – and ever popular Matt “The Kooch” Kuchar stand between the two boy wonders – Spieth and McIlroy. Throwing up a possible magical pairing going into the weekend if Friday’s round goes according to plan.

“Obviously, it was very benign for us coming in the last few holes,” said McIlroy. “So, yeah, look, I’m not surprised about it at all. [Spieth] loves this golf course. He plays well around here; he always has. And he’s going to be tough to beat this week.”

For Spieth it was a solid day’s work with the continuation of the improving from over recent weeks. Especially with his putting stroke. Which is down to some undisclosed secret that has yet to be revealed. Yet he started slowly but topped the leader board after five consecutive birdies from the 13th to the finish. The ninth time in 17 career rounds at the Masters that Jordan finds himself with at least a share of the lead.

“I’ve kind of found a little trigger in the stroke that has served as beneficial that I tried out last week, and I really think what I did on the weekend last week was hugely beneficial to being able to start strong here,” said Spieth, “A lot of secrets that maybe if it propels to anything special, I’ll write about someday,” he laughed. “But there was a lot of work that went in mentally, physically.”

“To go wire to wire in a tournament is a rare occurrence in any tournament, anywhere,” Spieth continued. “So, I imagine there will be plenty of times, if not from … early on that I don’t lead this tournament anymore. Just things happen in this sport, and I’m going to try and control what I can control, and that’s about it.”

Then there is the Toy Finau story, who after dislocating his ankle in the Par 3 on Wednesday, followed by a dawn breaking MRI on Thursday trails leader Spieth by just two shots. But nothing that a couple of torn ligament will get in the way of Finau’s ambition. At least on day one as the early afternoon tee time allowed him some respite. Then remarkably playing with a heavily taped ankle he signed for a 4-under par 68 and a share of second place on his Masters debut.

“Mind over matter,” Finau said. “I felt like I did a pretty good job of masking the pressure because I had to worry about my foot. … I was able to stay in the moment.”

“Honestly, I’m not really surprised,” Finau continued, “I like the golf course and my foot started to feel better the more I played. And you know, my story’s quite crazy and I’m sure most of you guys knows it by now.

“I feel like my back’s been up against the wall my whole life, so something like this is just another part of the story, I guess. But to sit up here and say I’m surprised? Not really.”

Finau grew up in humble surroundings in Utah, the first PGA TOUR player of Tongan and American Samoan descent. “I look at myself as a pretty mentally tough person, and I think I showed that today in my round — just able to put my head down and just play.”

In contrast and hailing from snowy Sweden is an ever-looming Iceman, Henrik Stenson, who signed for a 69. The Swede has in 40 previous visits to Georgia only broken 70 twice, his best finish being in 2014 T-14. For the leading money winner both sides of the Atlantic the Masters seems a logical fit for such a crisp ball striker. But not yet, although Stenson’s demeanour and language this year reflect that he means business and is trying something different. On Monday of last week, he arrived intending to play 18-holes but the bad weather – “45 and windy” meant he spent the day on the practice putting green. This week he just arrived on Tuesday afternoon, playing only four holes and nine more on the eve of the tournament.

“I haven’t played a full 18-holes before teeing-up,” Stenson explained, “But it has worked out pretty good.”

“I managed my way round the course pretty well today,” he said after Thursday “I hit some nice chips and holed a couple of nice putts on four and eleven. I did make a couple of bad swings -real trauma both off the tee and into the green. But overall, I did a pretty good job. Anytime you shoot in the 60’s on the course you’ve got to be pleased. Shooting that score without playing my best is definitely promising. I just hope I can turn that notch up and see where that takes me on Sunday.”

Stenson’s only major moment came on the par-5 15th hole looking down on the distant green after a near-perfect drive and watching Garcia’s round spun out of control as wedge after wedge after wedge saw him leaking off the putting surface into the water.

“It didn’t really fill me with confidence,” was Stenson’s comment, “There is such a small margin between a really good chance for birdie and a guaranteed bogey on this course. But I’ve learned over the years. I pretty much know where to hit it and what to do on every pin location. It’s just a matter of being able to do it.”

Beware the Iceman cometh.


Busy Dance Floor at Augusta

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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Busy Dance Floor at Augusta

The hype is full throttle in the build to this season’s Masters, with Rory McIlroy choosing the unplugged version this year; Tiger Woods arriving totally plugged-in on the foot of some excellent performances in the Florida Swing in the preceding weeks; Phil Mickelson looking relaxed even in a button down shirt; Jordan Spieth returning to form just on cue and Ian James Pouter getting through to the Georgia course by sheer grit and valour winning in Houston by winning a playoff at the weekend. The returning champion Sergio Garcia landing pretty much under the radar. But with a few signs that he too means business this week.

Not unlike other years, Augusta National promises once again to throw up a few surprises.

For Rory it’s been a decade of trying with a few close calls and one where the tenth hole unravelled a round when it looked easier to just par the back nine all the way home. With that memory behind him now and some majors under his belt he now seeks the Grand Slam and his tenth appearance might just be the one. It would place him with some big names who also won it after a decade, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Or indeed, the more recently departed Arnold Palmer who achieved the Masters win in his twenty-eighth year – the age the Holywood golfer is these days. Conscious that the years are ticking by one gets the sense that McIlroy means business at this year’s Masters.

The signs of more focus come with the news that 2018 has no entourage either, his rented house this year not filled with buddies, nor is he renting the adjoining house to cater for the friends that want to join him for the week. The price of celebrity being squandered this time as he plans for that extra focus that just could help deliver the elusive Green Jacket. So maybe this year the man from Holywood will make his mark on the magnolia laded course.

Tiger may be out of the injury Woods and already has completed the most amazing of sporting comebacks. But he knows he’s vulnerable to the hype too and is in unfamiliar territory of fallibility these days. However, the fact that he is now playing seventy-two holes more often is not only a wonder of nature but a reflection of his gritty determination. Enough visible to suggest he could be a contender this week too. Although his swing is slightly different – given his back trouble – the raw power can still be seen at times on the tee box.

So, he will be hoping to continue at Augusta what he showed at the Valspar at Innis brook. Then again at the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill where he was undone by no little misfortune, seeing McElroy blitz his way through the final holes in style to secure the first win in the same number of years Woods has been injured. Now to see a more relaxed Woods these days is also good. It’s also very good for the game.

In December Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of the Hero World Challenge and Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf for the first time in 16 months delivered significant ratings increases for the networks: Most-watched Thursday Round 1 since The Open Round 1 in July: Most-watched Round 1 at this event on Golf Channel (2007-16); Excluding Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, most-watched 4th quarter Round 1 in Golf Channel history (2006-16)

When NBC Sports released its audience numbers from the Valspar Championship, where Woods came very close to winning for the first time in five years, viewers turned on in record numbers. The Golf Channel PR department reporting that the final round at the Copperhead course drew a figure that is the highest non-major audience since the 2013 Players Championship. Which to surprisingly was won by Tiger Woods), and the highest non-Masters rating since the 2015 PGA Championship. So clearly golf still needs Tiger.

In the build to this week the sight of Phil Mickelson and Tiger practising together is a joy. With some of the those less attractive moments from their younger days falling by the wayside and consigned to history. The wisdom of age falling over both as they realise that the days inside the ropes are on the wane so enjoy it. As player at least. Which doesn’t mean that Mickelson isn’t coming to claim another green jacket at Wood’s expenses either. No bigger competitor at Augusta than Phil.

Mickelson said he bumped into Woods on Monday and the two set up the practice round ahead of the 82nd Masters. “It was good to be able to watch what he was doing and how he was hitting it,” Mickelson said of Woods. “I wanted to see him play.”

Spieth arrives from the Houston Open where he finished third, and maybe the favourite for many to win his second career green jacket. In his own words he feels there are two reasons- He’s been here before, and he’s feeling better than ever.

“I feel like my game is in the form that I’ve needed to be for major championships,” Spieth said. “Things are kind of clicking at the right time.” The familiarity of Augusta, where Spieth has competed four other times, is also a major reason for his comfort entering this week’s showcase.

“I’ve played it in very firm conditions, I’ve played it in soft conditions (and) either way played well,” he said. “The golf course, it fits my eye, the way you have to play off of different slopes … they require a lot more feel than just you’re in-a-dome, driving-range shots, and going back to when I started playing the game, I’ve been a ‘feel’ player.”

A first-time Masters winner in 2015, Spieth was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people the following year and then won the 2015 U.S. Open with a 5-under-par. A second-place finisher in that year’s PGA Championship, he has since logged wins at The Open Championship and seven other PGA Tour event

Ian Poulter looked to have blown his last chance to qualify for the year’s first major with an opening 73 in Houston. But after three rounds Poulter had played himself into contenion and then sinking a 19-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. By winning the first extra hole against American Beau Hossler Poulter found himself on his way to Georgia. Again, when it really mattered Poulter delivered. Hence his nickname “The Postman”.

No doubt the former Woburn Pro will enjoy his first trip to Augusta since 2016.

Poulter had reached the quarterfinals of the WGC Match Play and thought he had done enough to make the world’s top 50. But when he lost his quarterfinal 8&6 to American Kevin Kisner he was then informed he hadn’t made it. A huge blow to his season.

“To get this done today to get me to Augusta is amazing,” said Poulter, “My first strokeplay win in the States, and to do it with the Masters on the line is unbelievable.”It’s going to take a little while to sink in. I’m super excited.”


McIlroy knocked out of WGC Matchplay

Brendan Mcdaid

Rory McIlroy’s bid for a second WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title came to a disappointing early end as he bowed out in the group stage in Austin.000f95a5 800
McIlroy needed to beat American left-hander to have a chance of reaching the last 16, but gifted his opponent several holes on his way to a comprehensive 5&3 defeat.

The 2015 champion, who came into the event on the back of a victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, made a mess of the third, fifth and ninth to fall three down and a conceded birdie on the 10th was matched by Harman from eight feet.

Another Harman birdie on the next extended his lead before he gave McIlroy a glimmer of hope by finding water with his approach to the par-five 12th.

However, while McIlroy could only par the short 13th after attempting to drive the green, Harman pitched to four feet for another birdie and the pair were soon shaking hands on the 15th green.

McIlroy will at least have the consolation of some desired extra time off before stepping up his bid for a first Masters title at Augusta National, which would make him the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

Harman, who ended the group stage unbeaten with two and a half points from three matches, told PGA Tour Live: “I played really well. I only made one over-par hole and made five or six birdies and was in the fairway and on the green a lot.

“It felt like I was able to put some pressure on the golf course and in match play I feel that’s really important.
“You can actually gain a little bit of an advantage if you’re first coming into the green and for me I’ve played with Rory enough times to know that I can’t keep up with him off the tee box.

“But I can hit it plenty far to be aggressive into these greens so for me it was about playing my game and hitting the tee shots that I was capable of. He’s going to do the crazy stuff he does – the second shot on number six he hit in, I don’t have that in the bag. I don’t think anybody does.”

Harman’s win meant he topped the group ahead of compatriot Peter Uihlein, who beat McIlroy on day one and Jhonattan Vegas 4&3 on Friday.


Rory Loses WGC Match to Peter Uihlein

Brendan Mcdaid

Rory McIlroy lost his opening match against Peter Uihlein at the World Golf Championships in Austin.

The 28-year-old, who won his first tournament in 18 months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, was beaten 2&1 in the opening group game.

Ian Poulter secured a 3&2 victory over fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, while defending champion Dustin Johnson lost 3&1 against Bernd Wiesberger.

The matchplay competition features 16 groups, each made up of four players.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton won his first match, beating Frenchman Alexander Levy 3&2, however Hatton’s compatriot Ross Fisher lost 2&1 to Japan’s Yuta Ikeda.

McIlroy faces an uphill struggle to reach the last-16 as wins over Jhonattan Vegas on Thursday and Brian Harman on Friday may not be enough if Uihlein goes on to win all three group matches.

World number two Justin Thomas avoided an embarrassing defeat to Luke List, who was forced to putt with a wedge after bending his putter out of shape in frustration during the early stages.

“I was walking off the sixth green and I was a little unhappy about the way I was feeling, a little under the weather,” List said.

“I thought it was a brush area and I just kind of swiped my putter and it turned out to be a wall. Stupid on my part.”


The 12 Golf Tips of Christmas

Brendan Mc Daid

santa golf

Golfing in the depths of December or early in the new year is nowhere near as attractive as playing a round on a fine summer’s day, but that doesn’t mean the clubs have to be left aside for several months of the year.

Instead, by making a few modifications to your play – and even to your routine as you prepare to play, and what you do afterwards – you can continue to enjoy the game even at this time of year.

Read on for my Top 12 Golf Tips for this Christmas:

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Stenson’s Open win the highlight of the year

Brendan Mcdaid , , , ,
Henrik Stenson with Claret Jug after winning British Open 2016

Henrik Stenson with the Claret Jug after winning The Open at Royal Troon

2016 has brought us another great year of great golf, but for me, the undoubted highlight on the Tour scene was Henrik Stenson’s brilliant victory in The Open at Royal Troon.

Stenson is one of my favourite golfers anyway. I love his competitive spirit and his style of play. He’s also a great character, as can be seen on his social media account. For example, have a look at his official Facebook page if you’ve never done so before, to see what I mean.

His Open victory saw him post a record score of 20 under par, and was also history-making in that it made him the first ever golfer from Sweden to win a Major.

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A pleasure to work with Order of Merit winner

Brendan Mcdaid , , ,
Jake Whelan

Jake Whelan

The countdown to Christmas is traditionally a time to look back on the year gone by – and in 2016, one of my personal highlights was continuing to work with promising young golfer, Jake Whelan from Newlands Golf Club.

Jake enjoyed a tremendous year that saw him top the Leinster Under-21 Order of Merit with a fantastic 120 points – a full 50 ahead of his nearest rival, Conor Purcell from Portmarnock.

He achieved this by finishing as runner-up in both the Leinster Youths Open and Ulster Youths Open, by making the semi-finals of the Irish Amateur Close at Ballyliffin, and the last 16 of the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.

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