By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
In 2010, I watched Adam Scott struggle with his putting at the Shell Houston Open. He was so frustrated; at one point he putted while looking at the cup rather than the ball. Players use that technique as a drill during practice but rarely during tournament play. Scott finished 186th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting that year. A switch to the long putter revived his career and produced gradual improvement. Scott finished 143rd in strokes gained-putting in 2011, 145th in 2012 and is ranked 78th this season. His birdies on the 72nd hole and in the playoff are two of the great putts this year. Cheers, mate.
Thumbs up: Golf brings out sportsmanship you rarely see in other venues. In the heat of the playoff, Angel Cabrera applauded Adam Scott’s approach into the 10th green, with the Aussie then returning the thumbs-up gesture. In a day filled with great moments, that split- second of sportsmanship ranks with the best.
Happy feet: If you want a quick indicator as to the quality of Angel Cabrera’s shot, watch his feet. He struggles with his balance at times, shifting his feet as if performing an Argentine tango. When Cabrera remains grounded, his balance is good and he hits quality golf shots. He struggled with balance in Sunday’s final round but recovered, starting on the 16th tee. His balance was perfect on the approach into the 18th green, leading to birdie and the playoff.
Unlucky: Tiger Woods came into the Masters as the prohibitive favorite. A combination of bad luck and bad putting had him finishing fourth. Woods’ wedge into the 15th hole Friday might have been the tipping point. Woods was too accurate. The ball hit the flagstick and kicked into a water hazard. A quarter of an inch, either left or right, and Woods probably makes birdie instead of triple. That’s a four-shot swing. The subsequent ruling over an illegal drop affected Woods’ play on Saturday and he left too many makeable putts short in the final round. That wedge on Friday was terribly unlucky for Woods but golf repeatedly teaches us, it is not a fair game.
Green speed: Putts were consistently left short on Sunday. Some rain affected the speed but greens were not exceedingly fast for any round. There is so much undulation in Augusta National’s greens that downhill putts are very quick, but putts from level lies are not faster than any other week on the PGA TOUR. The putting surface also remained receptive to iron shots throughout the tournament. When the greens were comprised of bermuda, they were crunchy hard but when the tournament switched to bent grass years ago, the putting surfaces softened.
Sand man: Jason Day is ranked seventh on TOUR in sand saves this year. He gets up and down 66 percent of the time. Day demonstrated that touch when he holed out for eagle from the greenside bunker at the second. On the 13th hole, his bunker shot cozied up to within a couple feet, leading to a birdie. Day was 4-for-6 in sand saves for the week and 3-for-4 in the final round but rolled the dice one too many times when he was bunkered at the 17th hole and did not get up and down.
Preparation: A change in the PGA TOUR schedule dramatically affected players’ preparation for this year’s Masters. The Valero Texas Open immediately preceded this year’s tournament, instead of the Shell Houston Open. Players liked the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas because it mimicked Augusta National’s greens and fairways. TPC San Antonio is a completely different course, playing in high winds with tight driving fairways. Phil Mickelson looked out of sorts all week and said he missed his usual tune-up in Houston. Rory McIlroy finished second at the Valero Texas Open but did not bring the same game to Augusta. The 2014 Shell Houston Open is expected to return to its normal slot in the TOUR schedule, immediately preceding the Masters.
Tough start: Alister MacKenzie liked his golf courses to begin with a gentle warm up, usually a short par four that allowed a player to ease his way into a round. You wonder if the Scotsman would recognize the first hole at Augusta National. “Tea Olive” has been lengthened to 445 yards and players averaged 4.292 strokes, making it the second hardest hole on the course. The opening hole gave up 25 birdies and 94 bogeys, plus nine double bogeys and one “other” this week.
The par-3, fourth hole was the hardest on the course. At 240 yards, it gave up just ten birdies this week with 103 bogeys, ten doubles and two “others,” playing to a stroke average of 3.389. When you have the same number of birdies as you do double bogeys, you have a tough golf hole
Pace of play: Masters Sunday is always a long day. The final tee time was 2:40. That’s a long wait for a pair of players like Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera. Both of them are high energy, quick tempo golfers. They are among the faster players on TOUR in pace of play. When you have two fast players paired together, it means long waits on the tee and fairway. You wonder if Brandt Snedeker became anxious from the waiting before and during in his final round.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Woods drops his ball after hitting into the water on the 15th hole Friday. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods has been assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters, tournament officials announced Saturday.
His score on the par-5 goes from a bogey to a triple bogey, giving him a 73 for the second round and dropping him to 1 under for the tournament and five back of the lead.
Prior to the start of his third round, Woods tweeted, "At hole #15, I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules. I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules.
"I didn’t know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard. Subsequently, I met with the Masters Committee Saturday morning and was advised they had reviewed the incident prior to the completion of my round.
"Their initial determination was that there was no violation, but they had additional concerns based on my post-round interview. After discussing the situation with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the Committees’ decision."
The decision to assess the penalty -- rather than disqualify Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard -- comes after Rule 33-7/4.5 was changed in 2011 to read that if a player unknowingly signs for an incorrect score he will be assessed a penalty rather than be disqualified.
Fred Ridley, former president of the USGA and the chairman of the Masters competition committees, issued the following statement regarding the ruling:
“Yesterday afternoon, the Rules Committee was made aware of a possible Rules violation that involved a drop by Tiger Woods on the 15th hole.
“In preparation for his fifth shot, the player dropped his ball in close proximity to where he had played his third shot in apparent conformance with Rule 26. After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole. At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the Rules.
“After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.
“The subsequent information provided by the player’s interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player’s round.”
Woods' third shot on the 15th had hit the pin and caromed back off the green and into the water. He chose to play his fifth shot two yards farther back from his original spot to ensure the ball landed short of the flag, he said.
After his round, Woods explained his decision, saying, "I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."
Woods stuck his fifth shot to within a few feet and made the putt to salvage bogey, later saying, "It worked out perfectly."
But under Rule 26-1, Woods had three options for where to play his fifth shot from after hitting into the yellow-staked (not lateral) hazard:
• Play from the designated drop area, which he didn’t want to do because it was wet and he didn’t like the lie it would have given him.
• Drop the ball, keeping the point at which it last crossed the margin of the water between the hole and the spot which the ball would be dropped with no limit how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped. Had Woods chosen this option, however, he would have been well left of his position.
• Return to the original spot from which he played, and drop "as nearly as possible'' from where he played the third shot. As stated above, however, he did not do this, dropping two yards behind his original spot.
Officials -- specifically Ridley, Buzzy Johnson and Will Jones -- returned to Augusta National on Friday night at approximately 10 p.m. to review the situation before meeting with Woods at the course 8 a.m. Saturday.
"We went back to the tournament headquarters and reviewed the interview with ESPN," Ridley said (More Ridley: Tiger wasn't in danger of disqualification). "During that interview Tiger had indicated that he had taken a couple of extra yards, I think were his words. Based on that, it raised some concerns in our minds.
"Tiger was very forthright in his comments and his answers to questions that we had. Based on that and based on his very forthright and honest answers to the questions that I had, I told Tiger that in light of that information that we felt that he had, in fact, violated Rule 26 under the Rules of Golf and that he was going to have to be penalized. I also told him because we had initially made that determination the previous day after reviewing the ESPN video, not of his interview but of his round, that he, in fact, had not violated the rule and that we had elected to make that decision, had not spoken to him, that under Rule 33‑7 that there was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification but to waive that penalty and impose a two‑shot penalty."
Woods' tee time and pairing for the third round will remain the same -- Woods will tee off at 1:45 p.m. ET with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Earlier this year, Woods was penalized for taking an illegal drop in Abu Dhabi, where he missed the cut after being assessed a two-stroke penalty in the second round after he mistakenly thought he could take relief from an embedded lie.
The amendment to Rule 33-7/4.5 came after similar incidents in 2011 led to the disqualifications of Camilo Villegas in Hawaii and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi.
"For some time we have been concerned that, in certain limited circumstances, disproportionate disqualification penalties have been required by the Rules," chief executive of the R&A Peter Dawson said at the time. "This carefully considered decision reflects our desire to ensure that the Rules of Golf remain fair and relevant in the changing environment in which the game is played today."
"This is a logical and important step in our re-evaluation of the impact of high-definition video on the game," added USGA executive director Mike Davis then. "We collectively believe that this revised decision addresses many video-related issues never contemplated by the Rules of Golf."
This is the second penalty assessed this week.
On Friday, 14-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang was given a one-stroke penalty for slow play after violating Rule 6-7. He was assessed the additional stroke en route to what otherwise would have been a par at the 17th hole.
The last player disqualified from the Masters was Larry Nelson in 1992. He shot 73 in the opening round but was disqualified for using non-conforming clubs -- his irons had decorative diamond shapes on the clubface that were found to be non-conforming by the USGA.
The last player to be disqualified here over a scorecard issue was Dick Mayer in 1967 after failing to sign his card following a 79 in the opening round.
The most significant snafu at Augusta National occurred in 1968 when Roberto De Vicenzo was forced to take a 4 on the 17th hole during the final round. He actually made a birdie 3, which would have gotten him into a playoff the next day with Bob Goalby but because DeVicenzo had signed for the higher score, mistakenly marked on his card by Tommy Aron, he was required to take it.
Bubba Watson carried on the trend of lefty winners at Augusta with his 2012 victory. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
FIELD LIST: Who’s teeing it up at Augusta National
• COURSE: Augusta National Golf Club, 7,435 yards, par 72. Laid out in 1930 by Bobby Jones and co-designer Alistair Mackenzie, one of the world’s most visually stunning layouts also has provided the stage for some of the game’s most gripping Sunday drama. An expansion era that saw yardage added four times from 1999-2006 has given way to stability, allowing both players and club officials to understand the nuances of the revamped layout. The course’s signature magnolia trees and azaleas are holdovers from the Fruitlands nursery operation previously on the site.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
• CHARITY: Masters Tournament Foundation, which last year distributed $3.5 million to various charities. The Community Foundation of the Central Savannah River Area receives $1.5 million annually, with another $500,000 given to the Salvation Army’s Augusta Kroc Center. Other gifts are granted to the World Golf Foundation, PGA TOUR Charities, U.S. Golf Association, PGA Foundation, The First Tee and others.
• FIELD WATCH: FedExCup and world No. 1 Tiger Woods heads a 93-man field that features 54 of the top 58 players in this week’s Official World Golf Ranking. Shell Houston Open winner D.A. Points and Henrik Stenson were among four players added at last Monday’s almost-last cutoff for qualifying. … One more opening is available for the winner of this week’s Valero Texas Open, if he hasn’t already qualified. … British Open champion Ernie Els returns after failing to qualify last year, his first miss after 18 consecutive invitations. … Seventeen entrants are making their Masters debuts, five of whom are amateurs.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 270, Tiger Woods (1997).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Nick Price (3rd round, 1986), Greg Norman (1st round, 1996).
• LAST YEAR: Bubba Watson’s snap-hooking recovery shot on the second extra hole was worthy of a green jacket, trumping Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross earlier in the afternoon. Watson used four consecutive birdies on Sunday’s back nine to shoot a 4-under 68, drawing him even with Oosthuizen (69) after four rounds. After both parred a replay at No.18, Watson’s tee shot disappeared into the trees right of the 10th fairway. But the mercurial lefty was equal to the challenge -- hooking a wedge onto the putting surface that stopped 15 feet away. Oosthuizen wound up with a bogey after his approach hit short, leaving Watson two putts for his first major title.
• STORYLINES: Woods, with three wins in four stroke-play PGA TOUR starts to begin 2013, is a heavy favorite to end a nearly five-year drought in major championships. Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since his epic 2008 U.S. Open playoff triumph at Torrey Pines. … Tuneup time is up for world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, whose new equipment deal at 2013’s outset has transformed into a rocky adjustment to new sticks. … Watson seeks to become just the fourth back-to-back Masters winner, joining Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-1990) and Woods (2001-02). … China’s 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, winner of last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, is set to become the Masters’ youngest participant. Italy’s Matteo Manassero was two years older when he teed it up in 2010.
• SHORT CHIPS: Five of the past 10 Masters have been won by left-handed golfers -- Watson, Phil Mickelson (2004, ’06, ’10) and Mike Weir (2003). … Last year’s playoff was the ninth since the Masters went to a sudden-death format in 1976. None have lasted more than two holes. … Watson is keeping his Tuesday night Champions Dinner menu close to the vest. “There’s gonna be food,” he stated. … This week figures to be the first public appearance for women sporting those official green Augusta National jackets -- new members Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, granted historic membership last fall.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-7:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN), highlights show 11:30-11:45 p.m. (CBS). Saturday, 3-7 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, 2 p.m. EDT-conclusion (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).