Tiger Woods was a very different man the last time he slipped on THE green jacket Sunday afternoon in Georgia. He was a young bull dominating professional golf, intimidating opponents with his shot making ability and his steely glare. Fast forward 12 years and Woods was faced with the with the fact he may never play again. Then last year Tigers comeback appeared “complete” when he won the season ending TOUR Championship. And now 14 years later he’s the Masters Champion, again!
Clichés are clichés because they’re true. "The Masters doesn’t start until the back-9 Sunday" - is true. Make the cut, get within striking distance moving day and walk off the 9th in contention. Then just play the golf of your life in the toughest environment you’ll ever experience. The best in the game were lining up for a shot at the title too – Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari. None had taken on Tiger when he was at the peak of his powers, they'd only really seen it on TV. Good luck gentlemen.
Tiger Woods teed off Sunday morning 2-shots adrift of Francesco Molinari and was only 1 back after 9 going out in 35. It was the stroke of luck Tiger got on the 11th hole that started the chain of events that would lead him to his 15th major. Just like Saturday, Tiger carved his tee shot wide right and just like Saturday, he found a gap in the trees with a direct shot to the 11th green. He made par when he should've made more. Then it was the turn of the 12th hole to change the day. Molinari forgot to check the wind and left it short into Rae's Creek. So did Finau. Tiger took out one extra club and hit the middle of the green. It would prove decisive. When the final group were in the 15th fairway, there was a 5-way tie for the lead. A solid strike from 217-yards and 2 putts later and Tiger moved to 13-under with the lead to himself for the 1st time of the week. An almost perfect 8-iron on 16 settled 3-feet from the pin, another birdie and suddenly he was 2-shots up. A regulation par on 17 and a meaningless bogey up 18 gave Tiger Woods his 15th Major and his 81st TOUR victory.
Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka finished a shot back T2 on 12-under. Johnson quietly made his way through the field, no heroics just solid golf. Then in the heat of the moment, he made 4 birdies in 5 holes to close with a 32 to get to 12-under. Xander Schauffele hasn’t won a Major, yet. With 4 TOUR victories (2 this season) including the 2017 TOUR Championship and the 2019 WGC-HSBC, he’s a player. Unfortunately, 4 front-9 birdies were offset with 3 bogies but he was still hanging in there. Schauffele came home in 33, not quite enough.
Koepka looks like Tarzan and he plays like him too. He crushes the ball off the tee but shows amazing touch around the greens. Augusta’s 12th has claimed some men over the years, now Koepka can add his name to the list. Brooks Koepka dumped his tee shot in Rae’s Creek and made double. He bounced back with an eagle on 13, a birdie on 15 and had a chance to tie with Woods on the 18th green, but his putt slid by the low side by just enough to hand him equal 2nd.
Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Tony Finau and 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari shared 5th place at 11-under. Day fought through a crippling back issue Thursday to post a gutsy 2-under 70 and backed up Friday with a solid 67. A 1-over 73 on moving day saw him tread water whilst others moved ahead. Jason Day closed with a fine 67 to be our best placed Australian. Simpson and Finau shot a pair of 64’s Saturday to rocket into contention. Webb Simpson didn’t make enough birdies Sunday and Tony Finau was ultimately brought undone on 12, as well.
Francesco Molinari was looking to become the 1st Italian to win the Masters. For 3 days, Molinari played almost faultless golf, carding just 1 bogey on the 11th Thursday. The man they call the “metronome” went out Sunday even with the card and was clearly the man to beat. Then the hole Jack Nicklaus calls “the spookiest little par-3 on TOUR” took another man down. Francesco Molinari’s Masters dreams drowned in Rae’s Creek on the 12th. He bounced back with a birdie on 13 but another double on 15, when he hit a wedge shot too high and clipped a pine tree was the last nail in the coffin.
Adam Scott was the next best placed Australian finishing T18 at 6-under. For the 1st 2-days Scott struck it beautifully but couldn’t hole a putt and the trend continued into the weekend. Adam Scott played the weekend rounds 1-over the card after being right there Friday night – he probably should have been in the lead. Marc Leishman carded a final round 75 to fall to T49 finishing plus-1. The Leesh didn’t break 70 for the week. Cameron Smith signed for a 4th round 77 which was good enough for T51. Smith teed off Sunday 3-under and a 2nd consecutive top-10 was there to be taken, alas he was another victim of the par-3 12th taking a 5.
The king is now back on his throne where he belongs, no one can deny that. The young bucks had a crack, but ultimately Tiger showed them the way. Until today, the greatest comeback in golf was when Ben Hogan won a major 16 months after having a head on crash with a greyhound bus. Hogan just willed himself back from the abyss and today Tiger did the same. Not long ago he was unable to get out of his chair to greet friends at his house, the golfing media had written him off as a has been and some even called for him to "do the right thing" and retire. We have said it many times over the past years on this website, "never write off a champion." Today, Tiger showed us the fight that's left in him and now he owns the greatest comeback, not only in golf, but perhaps in all sport.
US PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka has gone wire-to-wire to win the 2019 US PGA championship, his 4th Major in 8 starts. Koepka looked like he was playing a different course than the rest for the first 3½ rounds. When he birdied 10, Koepka moved to 13-under and 5 clear of Dustin Johnson, the only other player in contention. Then Bethpage Black bared its teeth and Koepka returned to the pack, almost. Bogies on 11 through 14 saw his lead cut to just 1 after Johnson birdied 15 up ahead. Koepka steadied, Johnson stumbled and he was home by 2.
Dustin Johnson teed off 7-shots back (5-under) and looked to be playing for 2nd. He was 3-under through 15 Sunday, 8-under for the week and suddenly only 1-shot behind Koepka – he was in it. Unfortunately Johnson airmailed the green on 16 then missed from 9-feet for bogey, another on 17 and he was cooked. Johnson fired a closing 69 to finish 6-under and solo 2nd. Jordan Spieth had his best result this season finishing T3 at 2-under with Patrick Cantlay and Matt Wallace. Spieth’s form struggles have seen him fall to 39 in the OWGR, this week may provide the spark he needs to return to the top-10.
Cantlay is having a solid season; 3 top-10’s in his last 4 starts have pushed him to 12th in the FedEx Cup and 17 in the world. Wallace had missed his last 2 cuts but fought hard for his T3 finish this week. The Englishman had a double on 12 that ultimately cost him money, points and a solo 3rd. Luke List had played 3 sub-par rounds but closed with a disappointing 74 to fall into solo 6th.
Adam Scott was the best placed Australian carding a final round 74 to finish plus-1 and in a tie for 6th. Scott shot a brilliant 64 Friday to begin the weekend in 2nd, but then went 72/74 and lost ground. Jason Day was up and down all week and eventually finished T23, 4-over the card. Cameron Smith and Lucas Herbert were the only other Aussies to make the cut finishing T64 and T71 respectively.
Brooks Koepka played Bethpage Black to perfection. He was long and mostly straight – when he did miss he seemed like the only man capable of muscling it out of the rough to the green. Koepka putted beautifully and set the scene from the opening hole Thursday when he holed a 40-footer for birdie. This week’s historical win places Koepka atop of the heap, he’s displaced Dustin Johnson as the world No.1 and moved to 2nd in the FedEx Cup behind Matt Kuchar. Look out Pebble Beach and the US Open, Brooks is going for a 3-peat!
With his national title on the line, Gary Woodland stepped up, big time! On the tough par-5 14th standing 263-yards from the pin, Woodland played the shot of his life. The easy option would’ve been to lay up but Gary Woodland took out his 3-wood and piped it. He flew the huge bunker short and settled pin-high left in the rough. An up-and-down birdie and Woodland’s lead was back to 2-shots and he had a little breathing space. On the 72nd hole, Gary Woodland rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie to close with a 2-under 69 and win his 1st major, the 2019 UP OPEN. Woodland carded just 4 bogies and had no 3-putts in what was a beautifully crafted 4 days of golf.
Brooks Koepka teed off Sunday 4-shots back and playing for a place in history. After opening with 4 birdies in 5-holes, Koepka looked set for his 3rd straight US OPEN. A bogey on 8 stalled his run, then a birdie on 11 was offset with a bogey on the next and Koepka needed something really special. It wasn’t to be though and Brooks Koepka settled for a final round 68 to finish 3-shots behind Woodland. The reigning TOUR Player of the Year’s last 4 major finishes have been 1-T2-1-2; The OPEN beckons.
Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie and Justin Rose finished in a tie for 3rd at 7-under. Schauffele closed with a fine 67 but rounds of 73/71 on Friday and Saturday saw him start too far back to really contend. Rahm fired 4 sub-par rounds closing with a 68. Every time he seemed to gather momentum the Spaniard gave shots back with costly bogies. Reavie started 4 back and needed a big day if he was to contend. A closing 71 was never going to be good enough on Sunday this week. Justin Rose began the day just 1 back but went out in 31 and lost ground to Woodland. A further 3 back-9 bogies and his bid for a 2nd US OPEN was done.
Adam Scott finished a shot further back at 7-under and was the best placed Australian. Scott had it to 9-under after 12 and was 6-under for the day, but that’s where it ended. He hit it OOB on 13 and made double, then had two 3-putt bogies on 16 and 17 to fall out of the top-5 and contention. It was Scott’s 19th top-10 in his 73rd consecutive major. Jason Day finished T21 at 2-under and aside from his back-9 Friday, was solid. Marc Leishman was our next best at T35 closing with a 1-over 72. Cameron Smith was the only other Aussie to make the cut, finishing well back at T72 on plus-8.
The population of Ireland were all waiting for Rory McIlroy to be the one to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday, but it ended up being another Irish son, Shane Lowry.
Royal Portrush was one of the most incredible venues for The Open. The Harry Colt masterpiece was fantastic from start to finish and the crowds made it just that little bit more special as well. The crowds cheered the local boys with song after song and after every days play, the party kept going late into the night. This will be a celebration that all of Ireland will be joining in for many days to come.
Going into the final days play, Lowry had a healthy 4 shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood and a 6 shot lead over 3rd placed J.B. Holmes. Most thought that a challenge would come, but the weather had other ideas. For the first 3 days, Royal Portrush had been difficult, but it was about to get down right nasty. The wind was first and it hit the final leading groups hitting off the first tee hard. Driving irons were replaced by 3 woods and drivers, but there was more to come. By the time the leaders had hit the course, the rain had begun. As the skies grew darker, the scores blew out. By the time Tommy and Lowry were on the 8th, it was extremely dark and all but one challenger had been taken care of.
Many thought Brooks Koepka would be the one to make a run, but he started with 4 bogeys on the first 4 holes and even after an eagle on the 5th, he couldn't do anything to eat into the large lead and finished tied 4th on -6. He could not have been paired with a worse partner in J.B Holmes. Not only is Holmes one of the slowest players on tour, but Koepka is probably the fastest. He ended up tied with Lee Westwood who hovered around 3rd and 4th all day. Tony Finau finished 3rd after a solid par round on the last day, which was very good when you looked at the scoring of some of the others. On the last day Sergio shot +7, Kuchar +8, Rose +8, Schauffele +7. Speith +7 and poor old J.B. Holmes had +16 (including a 46 on the back nine)
Only 15 of the 73 players on the final day were under par. It was tough!!
The fight was between Fleetwood and Lowry, but it never really got too close. The damage had been done the day before when Lowry shot a new course record of 63 to give himself the 4 shot lead. Tommy hit his 2nd shot on the first to 6 feet and if he made the putt, after Lowry made bogey, it would've been only 2 after just 1 hole. That might have changed everything! Fleetwood failed early to put the ball into the fairway and put any pressure on Lowry while he was vulnerable. At times the lead was 5, then back to 4, then out to 6 and so on, but by the 15th, when Lowry made birdie, it was all over. Lowry cruised through the final 3 holes without a care in the world and the crowd got louder and louder until it reached fever pitch when he tapped in on the 18th. At times the day was as wet, cold and dark as the day Lowry took out the Irish Open at County Loath in 2009 and just like that day, he came out on top. This time though, he gets the cash ($1,717,320) and all the spoils, as well as the title of Champion Golfer of the year. A very deserving winner with 4 rounds of 67-67-63(new course record) and 72 in horrible conditions to win by 6 shots on a quality field. Well Done Shane Lowry!
Only one Australian made the cut for weekend play and it was Cam Smith, but unfortunately his final 2 rounds were not what he hoped for. An even par on Saturday and a 76 on Sunday had him finish tied 20th but in great company with the likes of Oosthuizen, Speith, Rose and Stenson. It was a poor tournament for the rest of the Australians who failed to come to terms with the golf course.
Robert MacIntyre was the surprise of the tournament. His form has been very good through the last few months on the European Tour, but his final round 68 had him sitting 22nd, but after the weather came through he just kept rising up the leaderboard as the scores got bigger. Macintyre made the news earlier in the week when he had an altercation with Kyle Stanley after Stanley failed to call FORE on a wayward drive and the ball almost struck Macintyre's caddy's mother. Poor form from Stanley, but players need to realize that golf balls struck at those speeds can be extremely harmful. Just call FORE! Not that hard. That is it for the majors for 2019. Don't know about you, but I think the new format has them come and go too quickly for my liking. Well Done Shane Lowry!
The Tour Championship will be the next big one on August 22nd, then the European Tour's Race To Dubai in November.