Youth is served at Augusta National – both with Patrick Reed’s victory and the new event starting there next year. The Starter just wishes the LPGA had been included more in the scheduling process. And cheers to the new playoff change for the older guys, though it comes too late to help Bernhard Langer.
1. Patrick Reed beats back all challenges to win the Masters. Rory McIlroy made an early thrust, then Jordan Spieth and eventually Rickie Fowler. But Reed never flinched, countering a couple of early bogeys with birdies one hole later. How does Captain America look in a green jacket?
2. Sergio Garcia makes more Masters history. Whatever good vibes the Spaniard still held after last year’s win vanished Thursday at No.15. Garcia put five balls into the water, watching wedge after wedge spin back off the green. His 13 – needing just one putt – tied the highest on any Masters hole.
3. Tiger Woods never contends, though he does play all four days. Remember when Woods’ odds actually dipped below 10-1? You would have made a better prop wager on where Woods’ first tee shot in three years would land. (Left trees.) A 73-75 start never got him in the mix, though he made the cut.
THIS WEEK’S LINEUP
PGA Tour: RBC Heritage
Course: Harbour Town Golf Links
Where: Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Defending: Wesley Bryan
LPGA Tour: Lotte Championship
Course: Ko Olina Golf Club
Where: Kapolei, Hawaii
Defending: Cristie Kerr
European Tour: Open de España
Course: Centro Nacional de Golf
Where: Madrid, Spain
Defending: Beef Johnston (2016)
PGA Tour Champions: Mitsubishi Electric Classic
Course: TPC Sugarloaf
Where: Duluth, Ga.
Defending: Stephen Ames
Though Patrick Reed found himself in a bit of hot water a few years ago when he pronounced himself one of the top 5 players in the world, the new Masters champion has the numbers to say he’s among the top dozen.
Reed ascended to No.11 with his triumph at Augusta National, the first time he’s cracked the top 15 since early 2017. He reached a high of No.7 in late 2016 before enduring a winless run that reached 20 months before Sunday.
It also was a good week for Rickie Fowler, whose ascent to sixth was just one off his career high in 2015. And Jordan Spieth is back up to No.3, bumping Jon Rahm after flirting with the Masters scoring record on Sunday.
RANK – PLAYER – (LAST WK) – POINTS
1. Dustin Johnson (1) 9.97
2. Justin Thomas (2) 9.40
3. Jordan Spieth (4) 8.74
4. Jon Rahm (3) 8.46
5. Justin Rose (5) 7.48
6. Rickie Fowler (8) 7.24
7. Rory McIlroy (7) 6.69
8. Hideki Matsuyama (6) 6.65
9. Brooks Koepka (10) 5.71
10. Sergio Garcia (9) 5.60
11. Patrick Reed (24) 5.58
STAT OF THE WEEK
With Reed’s triumph at Augusta National, all four major trophies are now in the hands of Americans under the age of 28. The only other time something like that happened was April 2001 – when Tiger Woods held them all.
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is the oldest, 3 ½ weeks shy of turning 28 and three months older than Reed. Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) and Jordan Spieth (Open Championship) are both 24, though Thomas turns 25 at month’s end.
STAT OF THE WEEK II
Luke Donald owns seven top-3 finishes at the RBC Heritage in the past nine years – but is still seeking his first Harbour Town triumph.
The former world No.1 has been runner-up five times during that span, most painfully a 2011 playoff loss when Brandt Snedeker came from six shots back. That result also denied Donald a rise to No.1, though he accomplished it later in the year.
Donald also was denied a 2014 playoff by Matt Kuchar’s bunker blast at No.18, also falling one short of Wesley Bryan last year and two behind Branden Grace in 2016. The Englishman’s cumulative score to par in those nine years: 75 under.
HOLE OF THE WEEK
No.18, Harbour Town Golf Links
Par 4, 472 yards
2017 average: 4.151 (2nd toughest)
One of the most picturesque finishes on the PGA Tour, with the Harbour Town lighthouse in the background, also features perhaps the tour’s widest landing area at 88 yards across a patch of land jutting into Calibogue Sound.
It’s the second shot that’s treacherous, with the green tucked close to the water and bunkers guarding both front and back. Little wonder there’s a natural tendency for second shots to end up leaking right of the target.
It’s been the scene of high drama over the years, going back to Arnold Palmer nearly chipping in to close out the inaugural Heritage. Boo Weekley did just that to close out his first PGA Tour win in 2007, and Matt Kuchar holed a bunker shot that lifted him above Luke Donald in 2014.
No.18 also was the site of one of the tour’s more bizarre playoff finishes, when Brian Davis called a penalty on himself for ever-so-slightly nicking a loose reed in the marshy area just off the green. Jim Furyk won his first tartan jacket as a result.
2017 RBC Heritage: no eagles, 50 birdies, 269 pars, 75 bogeys, 15 double bogeys, 2 higher
Though more than 60 golf courses now exist within an hour’s drive of Hilton Head Island, the sport was a relative newcomer when pioneering developer Charles Fraser saw the potential a PGA Tour event could bring to South Carolina’s southern tip. He dreamed big, too.
Hearing that Jack Nicklaus was dabbling in course design, Fraser made contact with the game’s pre-eminent player to gauge his interest in building a tour venue. Nicklaus was intrigued, but wanted to bring in a partner to keep the project on task.
Enter Pete Dye. Though the onetime insurance salesman had built a few courses in his native Indiana, he was a relative unknown in the industry. Though it was early in both men’s design careers, Harbour Town Golf Links has been lauded as one of the seminal designs of the modern era.
Working with limited space, Nicklaus and Dye built a course predicated on strategy and placement, with tall pines and oaks waiting to deflect errant shots. Greens were small and undulating.
The first Heritage Classic got off to something of a comical start, with Dye still spreading pine straw before the opening round and Fraser pulling up stakes without realizing they were marking hazard lines. Arnold Palmer wound up winning, ending a 14-month drought as Hilton Head Island basked in his victory.
DID YOU KNOW
After a four-week hiatus while its marquee players readied for the Masters, the European Tour gets back underway this week – with its first event of 2018 on European soil.
The Open de España is one of the oldest events on the schedule, playing its first edition back in 1912 when France’s Arnaud Massy emerged victorious. This week’s edition, though, comes after a one-year hiatus to find new sponsorship.
The event is the 18th on the European schedule, with the tour already having visited Hong Kong, Australia, Mauritius, South Africa, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. Morocco and China are next before the tour settles in Europe for the summer.
Even while the announcement of a new Augusta National Women’s Amateur to begin next year was hailed in many corners, it appeared to catch two key groups off guard: College coaches and the LPGA itself.
With plans to finish the Saturday before Masters week, the event goes in direct competition with the LPGA’s first major – the ANA Inspiration, which features its own sizeable amateur invitation list much like the Masters.
Top amateurs thus could find themselves having to choose between playing a major or getting a chance to play Augusta National. Within hours of the announcement, LPGA chief Mike Whan said his organization would explore the possibility of a new date.
College coaches, meanwhile, could find their rosters shorthanded at a critical time before NCAA bids are handed out. Four UCLA players, for instance, would have been ANWAC qualifiers this year.
CHAMPIONS DUMP RESET
There will be no repeat of last year’s scenario that denied Bernhard Langer the Charles Schwab Cup title despite his dominant PGA Tour Champions season.
The points reset at the heart of last year’s controversy has been eliminated, instead giving the playoff finale the same double-points structure utilized in the first two playoff events.
“We now have a platform of consistency which allows for fans to better engage with these tournaments,” said Champions president Greg McLaughlin.
Controversy reigned last year as Langer’s five regular-season victories built a big lead, widened by winning the first two playoff stops. But the points reset – similar to what’s used in the FedExCup postseason – negated that advantage and allowed Kevin Sutherland to nab the title by capturing the finale.
“It seemed like everyone else was saying how great I was playing all week, how very impressed they were – but come Saturday night and Sunday morning, they’re like, ‘Oh well, even though we said all these great things about how he’s playing, we think Rory’s going to win.’ It just felt like, OK, that takes a little bit of that pressure off of me and I can just go out and try to play golf.”
– Patrick Reed