Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Masters

Our coverage of the Masters dropped off after Thursday because:  (1) the weather interfered with everything on Friday and Saturday, and (2) by the time everyone reached the turn on Sunday, the tournament was effectively over.  Just as Georgia steamrolled Texas Christian, LSU's women's basketball team steamrolled Iowa, and UConn's men's basketball team steamrolled San Diego State, Jon Rahm steamrolled the field at Augusta today.

Because of heavy rains yesterday, the third round had to be finished this morning.  When it was finished, the tournament was basically down to two people.  Brooks Koepka was at 11 under, Rahm was at 9 under, and everyone else was pretty much out of it.  On paper, a showdown between Koepka and Rahm appeared to be just what the doctor ordered -- they are two great players, they were both playing very well, and there was the whole LIV/PGA issue since Koepka had joined LIV last year.  But in the real world, there was almost no drama at all.  Rahm went out in 35, Koepka went out in 39, and that was pretty much the tournament.  In the end, Rahm hammered Koepka, 69 to 75, and rolled home with an easy four-shot victory.

Throughout the day, lots of other folks seemed to threaten to charge, but in the end, the only players to make any noise on Sunday were Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Reed -- three former winners who understand that the best way to go low on Sunday at Augusta is to attack.  Mickelson was particularly fun, shooting a 65 that left him in a tie with Koepka for Low American and Low LIV.  But while these rounds were entertaining, Mickelson, Spieth, and Reed all started too far back to put any real pressure on Rahm.

Last year, Scottie Scheffler blitzed the field with four early wins:  the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Match Play, and the Masters.  This year, Rahm has matched that start, with wins at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the American Express, the Genesis Invitational, and the Masters.  Last year, Scheffler's win at the Masters was his last win of the year -- we will see if Rahm can do better.

Next month, we go back to the East Course at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. for the PGA.  Oak Hill is probably my least favorite major course in the United States.  Since Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship by seven shots at Oak Hill in 1980, here are the majors at Oak Hill:

1989 U.S. Open:  Curtis Strange
2003 PGA:  Shaun Micheel
2013 PGA:  Jason Dufner

Not exactly Murderer's Row.  Oh, and the Americans collapsed at Oak Hill in 1995 to give the Ryder Cup to Europe.  Plus, I'm assuming the LIV guys won't be there, and this week showed the extent to which removing players as good as Koepka, Mickelson, and Reed water down the field.  So it should be a good chance for another Shaun Micheel or Jason Dufner to win the only major of their career.  In the meantime, here's the top 10 for the Masters:

1.  J. Rahm (ESP):  -12 (65+69+73+69=276)

T2.  P. Mickelson-8 (71+69+75+65=280)
T2.  B. Koepka-8 (65+67+73+75=280)

T4.  J. Spieth-7 (69+70+76+66=281)
T4.  P. Reed-7 (71+70+72+68=281)
T4.  R. Henley-7 (73+67+71+70=281)

T7.  C. Young-6 (67+72+75+68=282)
T7.  V. Hovland (NOR):  -6 (65+72+75+68=282)

9.  S. Theegala-5 (73+70+73+67=283)

T10.  M. Fitzpatrick (ENG):  -4 (70+72+72+70=284)
T10.  S. Scheffler-4 (68+75+71+70=284)
T10.  X. Schauffele-4 (68+74+71+71=284)
T10.  C. Morikawa-4 (69+69+74+72=284)

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