Monday Finish: Garcia's time to shine at Augusta
Plus, see how a hole-in-one helped Aussie Matt Jones meet a legend
- Sergio Garcia owns eight wins in 266 PGA TOUR events, but is still searching for his first major title. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Here are a few things we learned this week:
If Sergio Garcia is going to win that major, this seems like the week to do it.
Turning anything into a do-or-die moment is probably dangerous and irresponsible, but as an outsider, it’s tough to think of a recent situation (or picture a future one) in which things have lined up more neatly for the battle-scarred Spaniard. He’s playing great golf and putting well (he hasn’t finished outside the top 20 and has four top 10s in six starts this year). Last year (T8) was one of his best performances at Augusta. Tiger Woods will be watching from the couch instead of looming over Garcia’s head.
Thanks to questionable health (Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Woods) and questionable Sundays (Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy), this year’s Masters is one of the rare situations in which it’s tough for us to agree on a favorite.
Why not Garcia?
When Matt Jones was 6 years old, he made a hole-in-one. (That’s not the whole story, just the most depressing part to those of us still searching for our first ace.)
When a local TV station found out about it, they flew young Matt out for a meet and greet with national golf hero Greg Norman, who was playing the Australian Masters at the time.
“I've wanted the play golf for a living since,” Jones said.
If this story is starting to sound repetitive, it’s not your imagination. A young Australian is inspired by Norman. He grows up and wins on the PGA TOUR. We’ve actually seen it three of the past four weeks on the PGA TOUR.
Hearing comments like that, you can’t help but think about the way young Americans have spoken the same way about the Tiger Effect. In fact, we’ve played 21 TOUR events this year and only had winners from two different countries, four from Australia and 14 from the United States (Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have multiple wins).
Australian golf appears to be stronger than ever and if there’s any truth to a “Norman Effect,” don’t expect the success to dry up soon.
I couldn’t help but notice that Jones’ theatrics around the green came on the same day the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship was held at Augusta National. (Although, he didn’t drive the ball particularly well, I’m confident Jones still would have won the Boys Ages 31-33 division if it had existed.)
If you didn’t catch the TV coverage on Golf Channel, you missed out on an awesome display by young boys and girls with great stories, great golf games and especially great fist pumps.
What made the event even cooler was the fact that a number of TOUR players were also on the grounds to practice for this week’s Masters. Bubba Watson stood on and watched the Drive portion. Jordan Spieth was giving high-fives and autographs. Even the defending champ himself, Scott, was there in his green jacket to present a trophy or two.
“Other than creating this tournament 80 years ago, this might be the greatest thing that Augusta National has done,” Fred Couples said in an impromptu interview with Golf Channel.
After thinking about the thrill those kids had, actually making a putt to win on Augusta’s 18th green, it’s tough to argue.
Maybe we should have seen Jones’ chip-in coming this week.
It seemed like everywhere you looked on the Internet this week videos were surfacing of celebrities holing chip shots. There was this one of Jimmy Fallon, who dunked one from a bunker in New Jersey. And then there was this one of the original “MJ,” who holed this downhill slider in true “Space Jam” fashion.
For the latter, Luke Donald, a fellow Chicagoan and frequent playing partner of Jordan, was quick to take credit.
I see my short game lessons are working MJ! http://t.co/rHiTGeXwAg— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) April 7, 2014
If you’re already tired of seeing tweets previewing what players will be wearing this week at Augusta, know that Gary Player and Tim Herron are on your side. Sort of.
It turns out the “win and you’re in” mantra even extends into tournament week at the Masters. Three players, Scott, Henrik Stenson and Day, all have a chance to move to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings with a Masters win. Here are a few other Masters stats to think about this week:
- Three of the top four players in the FedExCup standings (Walker, Reed and Harris English) are making their Masters debuts this week.
- Speaking of Reed, he is the first player since Sam Snead in 1937 to win three times before making his first major start. Only four players in history have accomplished that feat.
The staff at the Golf Club of Houston does a fantastic job replicating Augusta National’s conditions to the best of their ability. They knock down the rough and crank up the speed of the greens. They even mow the fairways from green to tee. Perhaps the best proof that players appreciate it is the fact that 44 players exempt for the Masters decided to tee it up this week in Houston.
However, for some, there is simply no replacement for the real thing. Players have been on the grounds for days now, sharing photos to help get us even more excited about the year’s first major.
Quote of the week: Not many people know that behind the smiles, Matt Kuchar is one of the funniest, most sarcastic players on TOUR, as evidenced by this quote after Thursday’s opening round.
Phil said it's the 1st time in his career that his 3some had 0 bogeys. Kuchar's reasoning: "That's the first time Phil has had no bogeys."— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) April 3, 2014
Up next: The Masters.
PGATOUR.COM has compiled the perfect way for you to get ready for the year’s first major. Check out Sean Martin’s hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National, in which he spoke to a number of different players about how they play each hole.