Tag:masters friday
Posted on: April 8, 2011 7:56 pm

Westwood uses wiles to hang with kiddies

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With his trademark dry wit, Lee Westwood might have reeled off the best line of the day gfive the state of affairs at the Masters on Fridat afternoon, where kids were running circles around their elders.

With 21-year-old Rory McIlroy leading and 23-year-old Jason Day in solo second place, the world No. 2 was asked if there were any advantages they might possess despite their comparative lack of experience.

He paused.

"No wrinkles," Westwood deadpanned.

They might have a few by the end of the third round Saturday given the big boys amassed behind them, including Westwood, who shot 5-under 67 to move into a share of seventh place, five strokes behid his pal and former Ryder Cup teammate, McIlroy.

Westwood was wandering along, not doing anything memorable, when he eagled the 15th hole to jumpe onto the scoreboard. He finished second to Phil Mickelson at Augusta National last year.

Three of the 10 players tied or ahead of him have never won a PGA Tour title, so Westwood is counting on his own wrinkles to be of a benefit. There are few courses in golf, if any, where experience is more crucial, because Augusta has more nuances than it has pine trees.


"Very important," Westwood said. "I used it today. I was through the turn in a couple under, 1 under through seven, missed a few chances and kept telling myself to be patient. A lot of things can happen around that back nine. 

"I didn't really make too many putts, and still managed to shoot 3-under around the back nine and 67 is always a good score. You always move forward with that. This is the sort of epitome of tournaments where experience is so valuable."

Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 5:34 pm

Fowler, Barnes facing steep historical grade

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Although opinions vary, a couple of contenders this weekend at Augusta National are trying to make Masters history.

Or not.

According to Augusta National tournament officials, the last player to have made the Masters his first professional tour victory was in 1948, when Claude Harmon, a club pro and father of Butch Harmon, won the tournament.

However, research by the Augusta Chronicle indicates that Harmon previously won events at what eventually became the Westchester tour stop on the PGA Tour. Even the event's many European winners over the years all had won previously on that tour.

By any standard, the road to a maiden tour win for players like Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes, two players in the top 10 after 36 holes, is going to be a difficult one. Neither player has won a professional event on the Nationwide or PGA circuits.

Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 4:56 pm

Are Masters weekends made for Mickelson?

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Forget all those wisecracks we made yesterday about Phil Mickelson's decision to use two drivers this week at Augusta National.

We're past that.

Now we're thinking two putters might have been better.

Wasting a chance to make up grounds on the leaders, Mickelson improved his all-around play markedly in the second round of the Masters on Friday, only to rake it around on the greens.

To recap, he drive it more crooked than any player in the field on Thursday, then hockeyed it all over the greens with the shortest club in the bag a day later. He shot 72 Friday and is 2-under overall, which left him at T20 as the leaders were finishing second-round play.

"I haven't made any putts and hit a lot of lips," he said. "My speed's been just a fraction off. I lefft a lot out there and I cannot afford to [do it again]."

For the day, Mickelson used 33 putts and ranked T86 in a 99-man field as the final two hours of the second round played out Friday. He was T73 over 36 holes, though not all players had finished.

Mickelson was 6 under and in third place last year heading into the weekend and shot 67-67 to win his third Masters title. He made 18 birdies on the weekend last week in Houston to win.

"These next two days are my favorite two days of the year," he said. "There's nothing better than the weekend at Augusta."

He better hope it proves true.





Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 4:30 pm

Ogilvy hopes to put some ahhs in Ozzie weekend

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Geoff Ogilvy had just completed one his most satisfying 48-hour period ever at Augusta National, a place he holdsw in very high esteem, when he was asked a question that begged for amplification.

Something about ending the "Ozzie duck" at the Masters.

Separated by a common language, indeed.

Translated from the slang of his homeland Australia, that means ending the drought -- no Aussie has ever won the Masters, though the 33-year-old is certainly poised to have a go at becoming the first.

With his second 69 in succession, Ogilvy, who hasn't finished better than 15th in his five previous trips to Augusta National, is positioned to add a second major to his U.S. Open crown from five years ago.
Maybe it's the fact that he and his wife have finally settled into a routine after having three kids in a four-year span starting shortly after his Open title in 1996, but Ogilvy seems more at ease lately, which is never a bad thing when playing a dicey track like Augusta. Even when he "butchered the two par-5s on the front nine," he maintained his cool, which must not have been easy.

He four-putted the second hole for a double-bogey and added a bogey at the eighth, two of the most vulnerable scoring holes on the layout. But he didn't go ballistic.

"Your first year or two here, you have a hard time dealing with that," he said. "Don't waste it on a bunch of self-indulgent carrying on."

It's been an odd few months for Ogilvy, one of the most talented all-around players on the planet. Now ranked No. 31 in the world after climbing as high as third, he was rarely a threat in the regular season in 2010, took several weeks off after the FedEx Cup series, then came out primed and ready for the winter events back home, where he won the Australian Open and was second at the Aussie PGA. 

Raring and ready to defend his PGA Tour title at the season opener in Kapalua, he sliced open his right index finger on some coral while playing in the ocean and missed a month of action, right when he had gotten some momentum generated.

Most of all, though, the quotable Aussie said his improved results of late relate more to finding his rhythm at home, where three toddlers occupy much of his time and made finding time to practice difficult.

"I am getting the life balance worked out better," he said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 3:35 pm

Barnes seeking maiden pro win at tough locale

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ricky Barnes is a big kid making a tall order.

The muscular, 6-foot-2 Californian isn't just trying to win the Masters, he's trying to claim his maiden PGA Tour-sanctioned victory, and after 36 holes he was firmly in the top five at Augusta National at 5-under par.

Still, he was none too happy with the way he played in the second round of the Masters, when he scratched out a 1-under 71 that included a water ball and a few more mistakes than during his opening 68.

Especially on the key par-5 holes, where he made two bogeys and hit a ball in the water on the 13th when he went for the green in  two.

"Didn't do what I did," said Barnes, who never won on the Nationwide Tour, either. "I was in perfect position to play them them like I did yesterday. Probably a bad decision to go for it. It was bittersweet today."

Not so much with his putter, which didn't help him much.

"The way I hit it, I should have gotten to double figures under par," said Barnes, 30.

Asked how he planned to handle this putting issues, Barnes smiled and spoke of his 14th club as though it were a misbehaving member of the family.

"I'll have a talk with him," Barnes said.

Barnes finished T10 last year in his first Masters as a professional and made the cut as an amateur in 2003, finishing 21st.
Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 3:19 pm

Stricker has front-row seat to familiar scene

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Either way, I guess Steve Stricker was safe if he called Fred Couples a "leader."

Two years ago, Couples served as the captain of the Presidents Cup team, and Stricker was a key member. But after what Couples wrought on Friday at Augusta National, he's again the old-fashioned type of leader, too.

Couples shot a 4-under 68 on Frieday and is right back where he annually seems to be, despite his age, balky back and occasional disinterest -- among those atop the Masters scoreboard.

It's not quite every year without fail, but it sure seems that way. Couples was sixth last year as a 50-year-old, and was in the mix deep into the back nine in 2006, then he eventually finished T3 after his putter betrayed him.

Stricker played with Couples the first two days and was amazed at how well Couples can still contend out here with the younger set.

"He still hits it really well, has a lot of length, is a good iron player, and putts it great," Stricker said. "It was cool."

Stricker didn't hesitate when asked if he thinks Couples -- who won the Masters some 19 years ago -- has enough gas to finish this thing off on the weekend.

"I think he can, the way he's hitting it," Stricker said. "He's won here before, so that has to give him a little confidence."

Couples was blowing it past the younger Stricker and Luke Donald off the tee, not that either are particularly long hitters, as Stricker admits. But still.

"He can still step on it if he wants to," Stricker said. "And he has a good attitude around here."

Couples will again serve as the Presidents Cup captain later this fall in Australia, and Stricker will likely make the team.

"If he wanted to, if his back was in good enough shape, he could probably make the team," Stricker said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 1:18 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 1:34 pm

Schwartzel gets by with help from friends

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Charl Schwartzel freely admits that he is still a babe in the woods as it relates to Masters experience, and that nobody can dial in the nuances of the famous Augusta National layout in a hurry.

However, it never hurts to have friends.

Schwartzel, ranked 29th in the world, played in his first Masters last year, shortly after he received an impromptu walk-through over lunch from none other than six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus.

Schwartzel, 26, was playing in the annual autism fundraiser hosted by Ernie Els in March of 2010 when he was seated next to Nicklaus at lunch. From there, somehow, Nicklaus launched into a play-by-play account of how to tour the most famous course in the world.

"I mean, he took me through every single hole the way he used to play it when he played," Schwartzel said. "You can't get much better advice than that."

So far, so good. Schwartzel shot 69-71, and when he finished Friday, he was tied for seventh.

"We were having lunch, I don't know how it started," Schwartzel said of his crash tutorial from the 18-time major winner. "We started talking about hunting and he took me through the way he played 18 holes at Augusta."

Schwartzel was trying to remember every word and a friend, Johan Rupert, was seated nearby and doing likewise.

"I tried to, but  I was in such awe," Schwartzel said. "Like I say, you can't get better advice than that. So, I've had lots of advice from people, but you have to experience it for yourself, and that will take a couple of years."

He also got a great tip from Els, his South African friend and mentor, in a practice round this week. Playing the 18th, Els hit a chip shot directly at the flag and the ball rolled off the front of the green.

Schwartzel had a putt on a similar line and must have played 20 feet of break, and two-putted for a closing par.

"You need lots of experience out here to win on this golf course," he said. "You've got to play so different to others; the way this golf course plays, you need lots of patience. 

"Sometimes you have to accept that a bogey is a good score, if you hit it in the wrong place. If you try and be a hero, you're going to be no hero -- you're going to make big numbers.

"So, treat it with respect."

Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 1:03 pm

Augusta flags have players on pins and needles

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A trend of sorts has taken shape at Augusta National.

Easier flags on Thursday and Sunday, with more testing pin placements and conditions on the middle rounds.

Whether you subscribe to that notion, we were on middle round, middle ground on Friday at Augusta National, where few players were making much headway and most players were fighting to keep their scores around par.

Most of the dialed-up difficulty was due to some more punitive pin placements, which made attacking anything other than the par-5 holes a risky proposition on the trickiest greens in the world.

"There were some sucker pins out there," said Charl Schwartzel, who was in the first group off the tee and shot 1-under 71.

Playing partner Charley Hoffman all but said amen.

"Pin placements," Hoffman said. "That's all it is. You get on the wrong side and you ave a hard time getting it to 15 feet."

Hoffman shot 69, which by the end of the day might be worth its weight in gold.

"It's defnitely a little harder, maybe a half-shot harder," he said, though early returns suggested he was low-balling the increased difficulty. "I was first off, so it was softer. So we'll see what happens later when it dries out."
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