Blog: Paddy injures neck, roots for Rory

Padraig Harrington during the second round of the Masters.

Padraig Harrington during the second round of the Masters.

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4:24:01 PM ET. 04/19/2014




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1Nicholas Thompson-510-7
T2Rory Sabbatini-414-5
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T2Brian Harman-312-5
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Editor's note: We're keeping a running blog so you can stay up to date on the latest news each day at the Masters. Each entry is time stamped so you know when it was posted. Check back often, as we will bring you updates in real time on the stories surrounding the day.

Editor's note, Part II: For a complete rundown of all of our Masters coverage, by the day, click here to find the story you want to read.

•••

7:19 p.m.: Harrington battles neck injury, roots for Rory

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Padraig Harrington, who felt so good about his game coming into the Masters, is headed down the road after rounds of 77-72 left him well over the cutline. It’s the second consecutive year he has missed the cut at Augusta National. However, had it not been the Masters, Harrington wondered aloud late Friday if he would even have tried to play following a warm-up injury early Thursday that put a kink into the left side of his neck.

He said he planned to get treatment Saturday morning at Augusta National and then will fly back to Ireland in the evening. Harrington battled admirably, but had trouble staying down on full shots and even was uncomfortable standing over putts on the greens. In two days, the three-time major champion from Dublin had 70 putts.

“I had 20 putts on the last nine holes,” he said. “I’ll take 20 putts for 18, but for nine holes …”

Harrington injured himself swinging a club left-handed, an exercise for balance he does, ironically, “so I don’t get injured.” Even Harrington had to chuckle at that.

As for 21-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy leading the Masters, Harrington, a man who has helped guide the youngster in his early pro career, says he sees no reason why he cannot win.

“You’re always ready when you’re going to win,” Harrington said. “Yeah, I don’t see why he can’t win. If he does, there will be another name thrown in to that list of players who can win the most majors. He loves being there. At age 21, he should view this as a great opportunity.”

Then, thinking about the possibility of a 21-year-old winning at Augusta, Harrington added, “He could play here for the next 50 years.”

– Jeff Babineau

•••

3:15 p.m.: Couples' game trending on Twitter

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Couples and Augusta National. Two fan favorites, and a combination popular enough to turn the 51-year-old into a “trending topic” on Twitter. Ironic because Couples seems far from eager to get involved with the social media site.

“Twittering, I don’t know what that is. I mean, I do but I don’t,” Couples said at the Northern Trust Open. “For instance, if I did Twitter, would I tell people that I’m heading home and then going to eat at California Pizza Kitchen? Is that what you do, or do you actually Tweet information?

“What information do I have for my 500,000 followers? No, what do I have for them? I’m 51, I live in the desert. They all know that already.”

“Trending topics” are Twitter’s 10 most-Tweeted-about topics at a certain time.

– Sean Martin

•••

2:45 p.m.: Schwartzel takes advantage of legends' lessons

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Experience is an asset at Augusta National. Charl Schwartzel is only playing here for the second time, but he has advice from the Masters’ greatest competitor on his side.

Schwartzel, 26, shot 71 Friday to finish two rounds at 4-under 140. He finished 30th in his Masters debut last year.

Jack Nicklaus shared his copious and invaluable inside knowledge of all Augusta National’s nooks and crannies during lunch with Schwartzel at last year’s Els For Autism Golf Challenge in Florida.

“We started talking about hunting and he took me through the way he played 18 holes at Augusta,” Schwartzel said.

Among the insights Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, shared with Schwartzel: don’t aim outside the bunkers on the par-3 12th hole. That way a shot hit over the green will not end up in the bushes behind the green.

Schwartzel used advice from another major champion to finish his round Friday with a par. On the 18th hole he was faced with one of those parabolic putts you can encounter at Augusta National. He played 25 feet of break on a birdie putt of about the same length to set up an easy par.

Earlier in the week, Schwartzel watched Ernie Els, his mentor, hit a chip shot from a similar position during a practice round. Els hit his ball toward the hole, only to have it roll off the green.

“If I don’t play with him, I probably would have putted it at the hole,” Schwartzel said. Instead he two-putted for par.

Augusta National is one of those places where even accomplished players like Schwartzel, a six-time winner on the European Tour, can learn plenty from legends.

“It’s definitely one of those courses where you’ll keep learning every year you come back,” Schwartzel said. “It’s not a course you’re going to master after a couple rounds.”

– Sean Martin

11:30 a.m.: Chance of thunderstorms later today

Augusta National isn't baked with sun this morning, as cloud cover has crept into the area, with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms at 3 p.m. and 30 percent at 6 p.m.

The temperatures will rise into the low 80s this afternoon after a mild morning that hovered around 60 degrees.

An early outlook on Saturday calls for a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms after noon, while Sunday's forecast is mostly sunny with a high of 90 degrees.

- Nick Masuda

•••

11 a.m.: Couples can play Augusta no matter how he feels

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Couples shuffled back and forth and shifted his weight from one foot to another during interviews after his first-round 71 Thursday. The 51-year-old wasn’t trying to dodge questions. In fact, he was frank with reporters when discussing his bad back, the reason for his perpetual motion. Even though standing still was an excruciating activity, Couples was able to shoot under par at the site of his only major championship victory.

Some players seem capable of playing well at Augusta National no matter the state of their game. Couples, who has 11 top-10s in 26 starts here, is one of those players. Birdies at Nos. 2, 4 and 7 have Couples at 4 under early Friday and on the first page of the leaderboard, despite his back problems. Couples told Golfweek after last week’s Houston Open that his back was “shot.” 

“I’ve been feeling terrible for two weeks, so I’m going to try my best to get through this tournament and then take some time off,” Couples said Thursday. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to take much more of this, unless it just goes away somehow.”

So how is Couples contending at Augusta National yet again?

“I can get it around. I can slap it around and make a good up-and-down here,” he said. “I dilly-dally around. I think I’m talented enough to make a birdie every now and then, but I make some bogeys.”

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, made 23 consecutive Masters cuts between 1983 and 2007. He contended in the 2006 Masters at age 46 before a series of missed short putts left him in third place. Couples shot 66 last year to take the first-round lead before finishing sixth.

–Sean Martin

•••

10:05 a.m.: Notable pairings today

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National is such revered territory that patrons would pay just to watch 5-handicaps tour Amen Corner. Luckily, we don’t have to. Several of this Masters’ leading men are about to tee off, including K.J. Choi, who shot 67 Thursday. Here’s when some notable groups are scheduled to play today:

10:19 a.m.: Justin Rose, K.J. Choi, Louis Oosthuizen

10:30 a.m.: Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, a-Peter Uihlein

10:41 a.m.: Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland, Alvaro Quiros

11:47: Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Nick Watney

12:42 p.m.: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

1:26 p.m.: Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar

1:48 p.m.: Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Robert Allenby

1:59 p.m.: Arjun Atwal, Sergio Garcia, Robert Karlsson

- Sean Martin

•••

10:00 a.m.: More fun with numbers

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A quick, quantitative look at Thursday’s first round at Augusta National:

8: Number of Americans among the 23 players that shot 70 or better.

1: Number of bogey-free rounds Thursday (Rory McIlroy’s 65).

30: Number of players in the 99-man field that broke par, eight shy of the record for number of sub-par opening rounds set in 2009. The 13 rounds in the 60s were six shy of the mark for most sub-70 first rounds, also set in 2009.

10: Number of strokes by which Alvaro Quiros beat his personal record at Augusta National. He never shot better than 75 in two previous trips to Augusta National, missing the cut both times.

309.5: Quiros’ average driving distance Thursday, 10.5 yards ahead of second-place Robert Karlsson. Rory McIlroy was third at 297.0.

21, 11, 3: McIlroy’s age in years, months and days. He surmounted Seve Ballesteros as the youngest first-round leader in Masters history. McIlroy wouldn’t be the youngest winner, though. Tiger Woods was 21 years, 3 months, 14 days when he won here in 1997.

4: Number of times Sergio Garcia had broken 70 in 40 previous rounds at Augusta National. He shot 69.

74.6: Martin Kaymer’s scoring average in nine career rounds at Augusta National. He shot 78, and is on pace to miss the Masters cut for the fourth consecutive time. He’s broken par (71) just once in seven rounds here.

16: Number of times in 17 Masters starts Woods has shot 70 or higher in the first round. He shot 71 Thursday. The only exception was his first-round 68 last year.

12: Number of eagles Thursday. Augusta National awards a pair of crystal goblets to each player that makes an eagle. Retief Goosen’s 2 on the par-4 first hole was the only one on a par 4. Eagles on the par 5s: No. 2: 0; No. 8: 2; No. 13: 4; No. 15: 5

- Sean Martin

•••

9:40 a.m.: Sometimes great bogeys are more significant than birdies

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Sometimes at the Masters, it’s not about the birdies you make, but the sensational bogeys that keep you from making the big numbers. Yes, that's right – sensational bogeys. Long bombers Alvaro Quiros (who tied for the first-round lead) and Gary Woodland (T-7) each encountered situations on Thursday when a big number loomed, but each player made a heroic escape to keep his round going.

Quiros was rolling along on the back nine when he pushed a drive at the par-4 14th. Surprisingly, he tried to go high with his second shot, caught a limb when the ball jumped on him, and the ball kicked straight down, directly behind another tree. Now he had no shot at the green. His great round was in danger of going up in smoke.

So Quiros came out sideways, got his fourth shot on the green “from 130 meters” (about 140 yards) and made a nice slider to keep from making double-bogey.

“Four meters,” the energetic Spaniard said of his putt. “It was a good 5.”

It was. He’d birdie 17 and 18 and share the lead at 65.

Woodland was in the fairway bunker at 8, looking to get a 7-iron down the fairway, never thinking about the lip above the tall face in front of him. But he bladed the 7-iron and the ball buried beneath that lip, so deep it was all he could do to find it. He declared an unplayable, took a drop (which plugged in the bunker), chunked a shot down the fairway and then made a great up-and-down from 131 yards to get out with 6.

“A heck of a bogey,” he’d say. “And that was a big boost.”

In his first Masters round, he went on to play his final six holes in 6 under to shoot 69.

– Jeff Babineau

•••

9:10 a.m.: Stats don't lie

AUGUSTA, Ga. - I love golf statistics. For those who keep stats relating to their own golf games, the results can be revealing, rewarding or embarrassing.

Here’s what we the ordinary golfers of the world can learn from the Masters: To shoot a low score, a golfer needs to excel in at least one statistical category.

Generally speaking, those who hit a lot of greens will make a lot of pars. Greens in regulation (GIR) is a very valuable statistic.

Those who miss a lot of greens must balance that deficiency with a low number of putts. Otherwise, a bad round is lurking.

Up-and-down stats go hand-in-hand with putting stats. If we miss greens, it is imperative to chip and pitch and putt like a bandit.

For amateurs, driving distance is difficult to compute. Driving accuracy (fairways hit) is easy enough to figure, but it can be a meaningless stat if a course has little or no rough.

So we should concentrate on three categories: GIR, number of putts and up-and-down percentage around the greens.

These statistics will not lie.

From the first round of the Masters, here are the leaders in some key categories:

Greens in regulation: 16 for Heath Slocum; 15 for Alvaro Quiros, Brandt Snedeker, Geoff Ogilvy, David Toms and Louis Oosthuizen; 14 for Rory McIlroy, K.J. Choi, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Trevor Immelman, Gary Woodland, Kyung-Tae Kim, Ryan Palmer, Fred Couples, D.A. Points, Peter Hanson, Bo Van Pelt, Zach Johnson and Graeme McDowell.

Number of putts: 25 for Ricky Barnes and Anders Hansen; 26 for Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Nick Watney and Jin Jeong; 27 for Alvaro Quiros, Y.E. Yang, Retief Goosen, Kyung-Tae Kim, Ryan Moore, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jason Bohn, Aaron Baddeley and Lucas Glover.

Breaking par while hitting 12 greens or less (and first-round score): Y.E. Yang (12 greens/67), Ricky Barnes (12/68), Ross Fisher (12/69), Sean O’Hair (12/70), Paul Casey (12/70), Phil Mickelson (12/70), Tiger Woods (12/71), Camilo Villegas (11/70), Retief Goose (11/70), Ryan Moore (11/70), Ryo Ishikawa (11/71), Rickie Fowler (10/70).

Many of us are capable for hitting 10 to 12 greens in a round of golf. Learning from the pros, this is enough to enable us to break par.

- James Achenbach

•••

8:45 a.m.: Mickelson reverses course on driver options

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Phil Mickelson, AKA Driver Boy, went to the first tee Friday morning with two drivers in his bag.

The Boy can’t make up his mind.

Mickelson announced Tuesday he would carry two drivers in the Masters. Both are Callaway Razr Hawk Prototypes, although one is 46 inches long (6.3 degrees of loft) and the other is 45 inches long (8.2 degrees). They have identical 70-gram, X-flex Fubuki Prototype shafts from Mitsubishi Rayon.

Then, changing his mind before Thursday’s opening round, he showed up with just the shorter driver in his bag. Behind his decision: He felt he might need a 3-iron on the 240-yard 4th hole.

So he added a 3-iron, removing the longer driver.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision, considering he hit just four of 14 fairways in the first round. That placed him 99th in driving accuracy in a field of 99.

So it isn’t so, Phil.

Oh yes - on the 4th hole he hit 4-iron.

All of which motivated him to return to the two-driver strategy. This reinforced the notion that no modern player is more fun to watch than Driver Boy.

- James Achenbach

•••

8:30 a.m.: Spectators get it all figured out

AUGUSTA, Ga. - It’s 7:20 a.m. at Augusta National Golf Club. Spectators are crowding the entry lanes to the golf course. They look like prospectors lining up for the start of the Gold Rush.

On your mark, get set, get ready, boom (imagine the echo of a loud gun shot).

Okay, there was no gun shot here at the Masters, just a voice on a loud speaker system.

“Don’t run, don’t run,” pleaded the voice.

Sure thing. Golf fans take off as if they were Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man. Despite the fact most are weighed down by folding seats, they charge toward the course and their favorite viewing spots.

I tag along with Spectator X, who doesn’t want me to use his name.

Here’s why: Spectator X has distilled his routine down to a science. He carries four seats. He plants two of them beside the ninth green, then scurries to the 18th green, where he deposits the other two.

“We go out early and walk with some of the first groups,” he explains. “Then we come back to 9, sit down in our seats, and watch a bunch of the golfers come through.”

“Then we walk a little more and we end up at 18, where we sit in our seats there. It’s perfect.”

Perfect? I guess it is for Spectator X and his girlfriend. However, it consumes precious viewing space that could go to other patrons.

The Masters is the best and the worst of spectator events. The atmosphere is electric. It’s the official start of the major championship season in golf.

Getting around the course, though, is like combat. Finding a prime spot for a seat is virtually impossible after the first hour or so.

Masters officials decline to say how many tickets are sold, but be assured it’s a lot. Somewhere between a zillion and a bezillion, I am guessing.

Live from the Masters, this is reporter X. Now where do I buy those folding seats?

- James Achenbach

•••

8 a.m.: First-round lead is great, but ...

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros shot opening rounds of 65 Thursday at Augusta that were the best opening rounds in the Masters since, well, 2009 when Chad Campbell duplicated the same feat. Of course, there also was a 65 by Chris DiMarco in 2001, and Greg Norman shot 63 in 1996.

Curiously, not one of them won a green jacket.

In 74 previous Masters, only 12 of the first-round leaders have gone on to win the tournament. That’s a 16 percent clip, not exactly what you would bet the house on.

Trevor Immelman in 2008 was the last to win after holding the first-round lead, but before Immelman it was Ben Crenshaw in 1984.

Having the first-round lead is nice, but in the end it is just one quarter of the way to a green jacket. Pay a little more attention to Friday’s leaderboard, as second-roud leaders have gone on to win 26 of 74 Masters (or 35 percent). I still wouldn’t start counting the money, but at least the odds are getting better.

- Alex Miceli

•••

• Tuesday's blog, click here.

• Wednesday's blog, click here.

• Thursday's blog, click here.

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