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Ladies of the Links: April 11 - The Masters

Apr 11th 2021

Ladies of the Links: April 11 - The Masters

he 85th edition of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club kicked off the PGA major championship season. For the first time, an African American player was recognized as an honorary starter as 86-year-old Lee Elder joined Gary Player and six-time Masters’ champion Jack Nicklaus on the first tee for the honorary tee shots. The play commenced with the coveted Green Jacket, major championship and a purse of over $11 million on the line. Dustin Johnson, who shot –20 in last year’s Masters, was the defending champion.

First Round

Justin Rose, former number one from South Africa, got off to a tough start with a bogey on. An eagle on the par five 8th jumpstarted his round which included seven more birdies after the ninth hole. He finished with a 65 and a four-shot lead over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. Harman had four birdies and a bogey, while Matsuyama had two birdies, an eagle on and a bogey on 17. Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed were in a group of four at five off the pace. The only other players to break par on the opening day where the greens were super-fast were Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Jason Kokrak, Si Woo Kim, and Jordan Spieth. A triple-bogey 7 on the 9th put Spieth in a pickle at the turn. Last week’s winner turned it around with a birdie on the 10th and an eagle at 15.

Among the seven players lurking at even par were Jon Rahm, Kevin Kisner, Marc Leishman, and Xander Schauffele. Viktor Hovland of Norway got off to a terrible start with a triple-bogey on the first. He bounced back to shoot two-under par the rest of the way for a round of 73. Also at one-over were Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa. Plenty of big names finished with rounds of 74, including defending champion Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernhard Langer, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, and Adam Scott.

One of the highlights of the day came from Fleetwood at the par-3 16th where he recorded a hole-in-one. It proved to be the only hole on the day in which Fleetwood was under par. The 63-year-old Langer showed that age is just a number, at least for one day. Dustin Johnson had a surprisingly inconsistent day, which included a bogey on the 16th and an uncharacteristic double-bogey on the 18th.

Notables who were well off the pace and would need good round to play on the weekend included Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na at three-over, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, and Rory McIlroy at four-over, Zach Johnson at five-over, and Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood at six-over.

Second Round

A change in weather to cool and cloudy made Augusta National a different course. It was more receptive to shots, leading to lower scoring. Nevertheless, first round leader Justin Rose had difficulties early after an off-target tee shot led to a bogey. Despite a birdie on the second hold, Rose never appeared comfortable, finishing a topsy-turvy round with a 72. Although Rose retained his lead, the 72 must have felt like several shots worse compared to other contenders.

PGA rookie Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman were just a shot off the pace after rounds of 68 and 69. Only two shots back were Mark Leishman and Jordan Speith. If was Leishman who started extremely quickly with birdies on the first three holes. Tony Finau got off to a six-under start after 10 holes, which included an eagle and he finished with a 66. At four-under par, he was tied with Justin Thomas, Si Woo Kim, Cameron Champ, Hideki Matsuyama, and Bernd Weisberger of Germany.

Staying within striking distance was Xander Schauffele, who had five birdies and two bogeys for a round of 69. Cameron Smith, Corey Conners, Collin Morikawa, and Ryan Palmer all shot rounds of 70 and made that cut at two-under par. Bryson DeChambeau looked anything but one of the favorites in round one, but got rolling on the back nine with four birdies and was in at the halfway point at one-under.

Eleven players finished the first 36 holes at even, including Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Shane Lowry, and Abraham Ancer. At plus-one was a group that included Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, and Harris English. Webb Simpson was in good position to make a charge after the opening round, but a 76 put him in a group at two-over. Those who just made it for the weekend on the cut line included Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, and Ian Poulter.

A huge surprise to miss the cut was Dustin Johnson. He made his share of birdies on the front nine, but couldn’t keep momentum at any point in the round. A double bogey on five along with bogeys on 15, 17, and 18 led to a round of 75 and two shots back from the cut line. Other notables to miss the cut were Brooks Koepka, and Rory McIlroy, who continues to look out of sorts with his game.

Third Round

Early in the third round, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson shot one of the best rounds of the day with a 69, along with Francesco Molinari. Others who started early on the overcast Saturday didn’t fare nearly as well. Adam Scott, former number one player in the world, had five bogeys, a double bogey, and a triple bogey, leading to a round of 79 and last of the 54 players surviving the cut. Abraham Ancer, Brendan Tood, and Jim Herman all posted rounds of 75 or higher and fell far off the pace.

Looking to get back into the mix was Bryson DeChambeau, who hadn’t made the top 20 in each of his last four Masters. Six shots back starting the day, DeChambeau posted double bogeys on two holes, leading to a round of 75. Similarly, Collin Morikawa sits at one-over mainly due to going bogey and double bogey to start the back nine.

Also failing to take advantage of an opportunity to move up the leaderboard was Cameron Champ, who started the day only three behind Justin Rose. A ten-hole stretch of six-over par ended all realistic hopes for a Masters’ victory.

A weather delay halted play making the course more scoreable. Hideki Matsuyama took advantage, recording birdies at 11 and 12 and an eagle on 15 to kick off a four-under par finish. He finished with a round of 65 and entered the final round with a four-shot cushion at 11-under.

Justin Rose led a pack of four chasing Matsuyama at seven-under. He began the day with birdies on the first two holes. He managed to save par numerous times for a score of 72. Also at seven-under were Mark Leishman, Xander Schauffele, and Will Zalatoris. Schauffele’s highlight was an eagle on the 15th, while Zalatoris needed four birdies to offset three bogeys.

An ace by Corey Conners was the headline of the round. He also had five birdies and was in striking distance at six-under par. Six shots back was last week’s winner, Jordan Spieth, while Justin Thomas fell ten shots back, mainly due to a triple bogey on the par 5 13th.

Final Round

Sunshine returned making weather conditions perfect for Sunday’s final round. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the early starters failed to shoot par. In fact, only two were able to stay out of red figures. Francesco Molinari struggled the most, posting a round of 81 which dropped him to 52nd place. Billy Horschel and Tommy Fleetwood were four-over for the day and Jason Kokrak was at five-over. Others at four-over for the day were Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, and Joaquin Niemann, who started the day at even.

After a birdie on the second hole to move to three-under par, 35-year-old Bernd Wiesberger had a chance to push the leaders. Those hopes ended quickly after multiple bogeys which led to a 78 and a tie for 40th at four-over. Notables that finished at one-over par were Paul Casey, Cameron Champ, Bubba Watson, and Ian Poulter. A shot better was a group that included Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas.

Tyrrell Hatton of England strung together four straight birdies on the back nine and finished at one-under par for the tournament. A surprise at two-under was 47-year-old Stewart Cink who had three birdies on the day.

Tony Finau posted his 9th career top ten finish in a major and third at the Masters after finishing at three-under par. A round of 69 put Patrick Reed in the top ten and Jon Rahm’s 66 was sparked by a birdie-eagle start. He finished tied for 5th with Marc Leishman. Justin Rose couldn’t make a move, but holed a long birdie on the 18th for a top-ten finish.

Very impressive was Will Zalatoris. His demeanor looked like that of a 15-year tour veteran instead of a rookie. He finished with a round of 70 and sole possession of second place. As Hideki Matsuyama began to struggle on the middle of the back nine, Xander Schauffele made a move and got to within two shots. However, a ball in the water off the tee on 16 led to a triple-bogey and a tie for third with Jordan Spieth.

Hideki Matsuyama had four birdies and two bogeys over the first 14 holes and barely made it through a three-over par stretch to win his first major championship and 7th PGA Tour win. Matsuyama became the first Japanese born player to win a major golf championship.