The dust has settled, the victor crowned . . . here are some takeaways from the 2018 Masters.
1. Apparently, people love Patrick Reed when he beats Rory McIlroy in the Ryder Cup, but not so much at the Masters. The response from the patrons at Augusta in regards to Reed’s victory was decidedly muted, which on surface seems strange given his ties to the area (he led unheralded Augusta State to consecutive NCAA titles over traditional collegiate powerhouses) and his “Captain America” persona. But Reed has carried a certain amount of baggage with him – he was accused of cheating in competition while playing for the University of Georgia, his wife had his parents removed from the grounds of the U.S. Open last year, and he carries himself with a cockiness and arrogance that has rubbed both fellow competitors and sponsors the wrong way (a friend of mine in the sports marketing business told me that after winning the Humana Classic in 2014 – a tournament whereupon he declared himself to be among the top 5 players in the world – he pretty much blew off any sponsor commitments).
2. None of which should detract from his victory last Sunday. Once Rory showed his nerves on the second hole by missing a short eagle putt that would have tied him for the lead, Reed went for the kill and pretty much eliminated the Irishman from the tournament. He is a fierce and fearless competitor who rebounded time and again from his own mistakes to bring home the green jacket.
3. Jordan Spieth would love to replay the 18th – twice. Spieth’s bookend rounds of 66 and 64 were both marred by bogies on 18 in which he tangled with the left side trees off the tee. The final round incident was particularly cruel, as he was in the process of fashioning a historic final round that caught Reed’s attention. His drive clipped a lone branch that left him over 300 yards from the green. Still, he had about a 8 foot par putt to keep him within a shot of Reed, but he overread the break.
4. The Ryder Cup singles match I want to see is Reed vs Rahm. Jon Rahm has carried on the tradition of great Spanish golfers who wear their emotions on their sleeves. He and Reed would put on a show in match play. But Rahm need to lose the beard.
5. Tony Finau is one tough son of a bitch. Finau, who many had as a dark horse contender, made a hole in one in Wednesday’s Par-3 Tournament, and while celebrating his ace, dislocated his left ankle – the angle at which he turned it was as gruesome as I’ve seen in any sport, and the aftermath was pretty ugly. Amazingly, he popped it back into place and teed it up the following day. Not only did he make the cut (and survive the hilliest course on tour), but his final round 66 featured 6 consecutive birdies on the back nine.
6. The Rickie Fowler Major Watch continues – but this was his best effort to date, firing a final round 67 to put himself into 2nd place.
7. Phil/Tiger were essentially non-stories. After a strong opening round, Mickelson barely made the cut on the number. And playing a course that for the first time since his comeback forced him to hit a lot of drivers, Tiger’s deficiencies with that club were exposed. But watch out for these two at Shinnecock Hills at the U.S. Open in June, a track which should suit both of their games.
8. Cameron Smith: keep an eye on him. He looks like a 12 year old, but the young Aussie is strong in all facets of the game and has been turning up on leaderboards fairly consistently after winning (with Jonas Blixt) the Zurich last year. His closing 66 put him in a tie for 5th with McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson. Not bad company to keep.
9. Remember Danny Willet? The 2016 champ has missed the cut at Augusta the past two years and has played rather poorly since then.
10. The Announcement – This perhaps should be higher up on the list, but Augusta National’s decision to hold a world-wide women’s amateur championship in advance of the Masters is groundbreaking on so many levels. Kudos to them.