Augusta has a history of writing Hollywood-like scripts. Drama? Check. Excitement? You bet. The Masters never fails to disappoint, even down to following tradition. And no, we’re not talking about presenting the winner with the green jacket. We’re referring to the fact a rookie hasn’t worn one since Fuzzy Zoeller won in 1979.
Jordan Spieth came close in 2015, and was even paired with Bubba Watson in the final group. Alas, the fairytale ending never came to pass and Spieth had to wait another 12 months to get his hands on the green jacket.
Much was expected of the class of 2017, and the early signs were encouraging as Thomas Pieters, John Rahm and William McGirt entered the weekend inside the top 10.
Ultimately, all three went in the wrong direction on Moving Day and were left to lament costly mistakes on the back nine – a fate Spieth knows only too well.
Pieters emerged as a late contender on Sunday to earn a creditable top-five finish, but it certainly wasn’t plain sailing for everyone making their debut…
The Belgium may be earmarked as a future Major champion by Tiger Woods, but few would have expected the Ryder Cup star to storm out of the blocks the way he did. The 25-year-old topped the leaderboard after a stunning five-under-par front nine, only to undo all his good work once he reached Amen Corner. He eventually signed for a level-par 72, but battled back to claim a tie of the lead after shooting a 68 on day two. The weekend followed a similar pattern to the previous two days as Pieters toiled on Saturday and then rallied on Sunday. Four birdies on the trot between 12 and 15 proved a major turning point as he grabbed a share of fourth and guaranteed that he will be in the field again next year.
Charley Hoffman deservedly took the headlines on day one, but McGirt was the best of the rest after a three-under-par 69. The American, who won the Memorial Tournament in January, followed it up with a 73 on day two, and two birdies in his first five holes on Saturday stuck his name on the first page of the leaderboard. Sadly, that was as good as it got for the 37-year-old, who had to settle for consecutive rounds of 74 and a tie for 22nd.
The Spanish sensation was the name on everyone’s lips going into the tournament, and for good reason too. The 22-year-old pushed World No.1 Dustin Johnson all the way at the WGC Match Play, and lurked just three shots behind at the midway stage at The Masters. Two birdies in his first three holes on Saturday hinted at something special to come, but it never materialised over the weekend. Instead, he was left to rue a triple-bogey seven which ended his final round and pushed him outside the top 25. On the plus side, he did get to take home a pair of crystal goblets after chipping in for eagle on 13. Compare that to being presented with a sleeve of balls for winning the twos in your monthly stableford…
The Englishman came into the tournament ranked a career-high 31st in the world, but a torrid first round saw the 26-year-old limp home in 78 strokes. He didn’t fare much better on Friday either, offsetting four birdies with six bogeys to end up two shots outside the cut line on +8.
Noren, a four-time European Tour winner last year, looked a good outside bet after reaching the quarter-final stage of the WGC Match Play. However, his chances at Augusta were dashed early on Thursday after a horror stretch of four consecutive bogeys during his outward nine. He fought back impressively to sign for a 74, only to capitulate 24 hours later as he posted a five-over-par back nine to miss the cut by one.
The 25-year-old Englishman will want to forget about his last two tournaments in a hurry. First he was knocked out of the WGC Match Play after incurring a two-stroke penalty for a rules breach in a three-man playoff; and then he suffered the indignity of finishing fourth from last at Augusta. The World No.15, who has five top 10s on the PGA Tour this season, never recovered from a wretched first round which included seven bogeys, one double and just the solitary birdie. He followed that up with a round of 78 to sit eight shots outside the cut mark on +14.
And the Amateur…
All eyes may have been on US Amateur champion Curtis Luck beforehand, but the Australian was upstaged by Hagestad who won the low amateur award just a day shy of his 26th birthday. Hagested, who became the first US Mid-Amateur champion since 1989 to make the cut at The Masters, shot a final-round 73 to finish in a tie for 36th at six-over par, three shots better than Luck. Hagested later admitted that he intends to play a full amateur schedule this summer. Luck, on the other hand, has announced that he will turn pro at the Valero Texas Open next week.