If you visit Augusta National enough times and enjoy late-afternoon walks in beautiful weather Monday and Tuesday, chances are you will see Padraig Harrington. He is a staple late in the afternoon, even if it’s to play nine holes over the vaunted stretch from Amen Corner through 13 and 15 and up to 18.
Turns out, the man has good reason for playing so late. (Then again, is it a surprise he has put this sort of thought into it? No.) The shadows.
“If you want to win this tournament, you’re going to finish at the time I did yesterday,” said Harrington, referencing his Monday round that stretched into the dinner hour.
“You have to putt in those shadows I putted in on the back nine. That’s why you play late on the back nine.”
No, Harrington didn’t get a chance to put his game to the test in those Sunday shadows (he missed the cut), but after hearing Adam Scott and his caddie, Steve Williams, talk about how difficult it was to read putts late in the day when it became dark and the shadows really were an issue, you appreciate the Irishman all the more.
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CONSISTENT IN A MAJOR WAY: Of the 12 players who made the cut in each of the majors last year, four of them left early from the Masters: Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington and Francesco Molinari.
So the streak’s over for them, but not for the others.
Steve Stricker has made the cut in 13 consecutive majors, having last missed at the 2009 PGA Championship. Zach Johnson (eight) is next. followed by Adam Scott and Jim Furyk (seven), Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley (six), and Tiger Woods and Freddie Jacobson (five).
Bradley, by the way, can still lay claim to never having missed a cut in a major.
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SOME HISTORY HERE: This wasn’t the first time Tiger Woods faced a bit of scrutiny with rules officials after a competitive round at the Masters.
In 2005, Woods had a memorable hiccup when he putted his ball from the back of the 13th green past the hole, down the slope and into Rae’s Creek. Ouch.
But it was what happened at the next hole that got him in a bit of a stir.
Having left his birdie putt within tap-in range, Woods didn’t want to step in his playing competitor’s line, so he sort of stood side-saddled, and that prompted a viewer to call in.
Officials viewed it, but unlike their actions in this year’s controversy, that year they put Woods in a cart, took him into the offices, and watched it together, and came to the conclusion that no penalty had been committed.
And unlike this year, Woods brushed off that rules scare and won the tournament.
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THIS ’N THAT: In honor of the number of strokes (officially, that is) it took Woods to play the 15th hole in Friday’s second round, here are eight thoughts, suggestions, and observations:
• You need to wipe away all the smoke and all the noise about Rule 20 or Rule 26 or Rule 30, ignore this extraneous “discretion of the committee” stuff and ask yourself this: Did Tiger Woods commit a rules infraction, neglect to penalize himself, put down an incorrect score, then sign for it? It has nothing to do with whether you like Woods or don’t like Woods; it’s all about integrity, honor and the first obligation a competitive golfer has. Do you believe in it? If so, Woods should not have played on the weekend.
• Annika Sorenstam had critical things to say about Michelle Wie. Next day, we heard that Wie said Sorenstam apologized. But we never heard Sorenstam say she apologized. Then again, no need to. Her comments were spot on.
• Speaking of Wie, the Lords of Golf want to ban anchoring? How about first banning that putting stance used by Wie, simply for the good of her back? Oh, and ban it immediately.
• When he retires, Ernie Els could open a shop and sell crystal. He made three more eagles at this year’s Masters, improving his Masters career to 15.
• If you can explain this, please do: Louis Oosthuizen was within one swing of the club of winning last year’s Masters, but he has missed the cut in his other four starts.
• Some free advice: I’d cancel that late-April golf trip to Wyoming.
• Has anyone filed a missing-person report on Bernhard Langer? Five under through four holes Sunday, he was in contention. Then, he disappeared.
• With the Masters stretching the cut to low 50 and ties, I fear for the future of the 10-stroke rule.
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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Adam Scott, after shooting 72 in the second round of the Masters to sit in a share of seventh at 141, three off the lead: “I’ve just got to keep in touch tomorrow, again. If I can stay three back or improve, that’s a good spot going into the weekend.”
Next day, Scott shot 69, pushed to 6 under, got into solo third, and was just one back.
Trust you know the rest of the story.
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AN OMEN? The feeling has been there all year that Graeme McDowell is someone to keep an eye on when the U.S. Open at Merion rolls around.
He has made the cut in all seven of his starts in that major, and he has finished within the top 20 each of the last four years.
And what’s not to like with this morsel: In 2010, McDowell missed the cut at the Masters, shooting 149, and went on to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Then consider that McDowell shot 149 at last week’s Masters and missed the cut.
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BABY STEPS: The good news is, Martin Kaymer is making progress. The bad news is, you wouldn’t go so far as to say he has figured out Augusta National.
Formerly the No. 1 player in the world, Kaymer had four straight missed-cuts at Augusta before he finished T-44 a year ago. This year he improved to T-35.
No big deal? Come on, progress is progress, and the German is still absorbing the nuances of the course. He did break par once this year (72-75-74-70), but in 16 rounds at Augusta National, he’s yet to shoot in the 60s.
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PARTING SHOT: There’s no doubt they represent what the name of the tournament suggests (Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf), but Gary Player concedes he is approaching the tournament a little differently than his partner, Jack Nicklaus. “He said he wanted to have fun,” Player said. “I’m going there to win.”