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Here Comes the Masters (Thank God!)

by | Apr 9, 2024

The 2024 PGA Tour has been a bit boring through no fault of its own as new talent takes the center stage but this talent is relatively unknown to those who follow professional golf.    The talent base has been diluted with the desertions of Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelsen and a host of others to the LIV tour.  Viewership of the PGA Tour is way down and I don’t know anyone who watches the LIV tour.  No one I can find can even find where and when it is televised so the professional golf fan is either out playing golf, watching the USFL or taking up long distance cycling.  You can’t even find LIV in the TV listings pages of your local newspaper so LIV ratings are probably not measurable and certainly behind the Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Rory McIlroy has been all over the place in criticizing LIV, missing his former fellow tour players, significant competitive differences as it has been impacting his mental state.  I thought golf was supposed to be good for your mental outlook, such is the state of professional golf.  However, it is Master’s Week and all of this negative feelings will be abeyance as a number of LIV players will be playing in the event including all past winners and those players that the “masters” of Augusta National feel are worthy of playing in the event including LIV talent as Taylor Gooch.  We were treated to the scent of Augusta with the playing of the Women’s Amateur event at Augusta National.

Augusta National Women’s Amateur

Winner…Lottie Woad

The Women’s Amateur was conceived by Augusta National Golf Club as a way of bringing more attention to women’s golf and women’s amateur golf in particular.  The tournament debuted in 2019 with qualifying rounds played in the Augusta area with 72 invitations to the top women’s amateurs.  The field is cut to 30 players for the finals to be played on the Saturday before Masters Week.  A practice round is played by the field on Friday to give all the participants the experience of playing Augusta National.  The 2024 affair was quite exciting and replete with the drama of a major tournament.  Bailey Shoemaker, a highly ranked player at USC, came from behind the pack to shoot 66 (6 under), which was the best round in the history of the event.  Bailey finished way ahead of eventual winner Lottie Woad as she went to 7 under par for the event.  She went to the driving range to stay warm for either a playoff or a potential victory as she awaited the outcome.  Lottie Woad, from England, who plays her golf at Florida State was leading the tournament on the final day at 6 under and struggled through her round mightily, but held it all together but was still 6 under as she arrived at the 17th tee.  The worst part of her round was her bogie on the par 5, 13th hole, which essentially meant she was giving a shot back to the field.  It was highly unlikely from a historical perspective that Woad could tie or let alone win this event.  17 and 18 at Augusta are not birdie holes to say the least.  Woad is long off the tee and she hit a tremendous drive in the fairway on 17 and executed a short iron shot to a bit less than 10 feet and holed the putt for a birdie to tie the event.  You can imagine that Shoemaker’s stress level went up as she received the news and now she really had to prepare for the playoff.   However, Woad spanked another spectacular drive on 18 and executed another short iron shot again to birdie the 18th and win the event at 8 under.  Making birdie putts on 17 and 18 are unusual to say the least and the pressure of potentially winning this event, theoretically made these putts geometrically difficult.   You have to think that Wood had ice water in her veins as the likelihood of birdies on Augusta National’s 17th and 18th holes are slim and none.  It was a remarkable win for Woad and Shoemaker’s record round just fell a shot sort of victory.  Pretty amazing stuff for these two women and adding additional luster to an event that continues to promote women’s golf and the young girls that pursue this game.

Bailey Shoemaker completes her record round

Valero Open–A Weird Finish

What seemed to be a victory march for Akshay Bhatia turned into a near nightmare on Sunday, as Denny McCarthy came from 7 shots back of Bhatia to actually take the lead with his birdie putt on 18 from 12 feet.  Bhatia had led the tournament for the entirety of 71 holes and had inscribed the letters “WTW” (wall to wall) on his wrist to waltz to his second victory.  On the 10th tee, he had a six shot lead over McCarthy who is still seeking his first PGA victory.  He’s been close many times and today would prove to be another tough near miss.  McCarthy started to make putts on the 10th hole and would sink a 12 foot putt on the 18th hole to shot 28 on the back nine enroute to a round of 63.  McCarthy’s putt on 18 put him ahead for a minute or so as Bhatia needed to make a birdie putt of 10 feet to tie McCarthy and force a playoff.  Ten foot putts are no guarantee on the PGA Tour as Scottie Scheffler missed one the preceding week to finish second in the Houston Open.  Bhatia bravely holed that putt and the playoff was on again playing the 600 yd. plus 18th hole.  With both players in the fairway facing their third shot to the green on 18, McCarthy had a 99 yard pitch shot to the green.  The gods of golf must have conferred and determined that despite McCarthy’s incredible comeback and back nine 28, his time for victory was judged to be delayed to another day.  McCarthy plunked one of the easiest shots in the game of golf into the creek in the front of the green and that was the end of the tournament for him.  Bhatia breathed a serious sign of relief as he recorded yet another birdie on this hole for his second PGA victory.  McCarthy could only muse as to why or how this could have happened, but he was denied again on this day.

McCarthy fatal pitch in the playoff

This is Master’s Week and it will be exciting and exhilarating.    Tiger is playing and believes he has a chance and I would never doubt his intentions here.    Rahm, Koepka, Johnson, Watson, DeChambeau, Smith will be there as invitees of Augusta National and the PGA/LIV stuff will fade to the splendor of Augusta National.


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