Tagged in: masters

Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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Masters Tournament delays ticketing process for 2021

The Masters Tournament has delayed its ticketing process for the 2021 championship as it seeks a way to let some spectators to return for the first major of the year.

Dustin Johnson won the 2020 Masters, which was postponed from April to November because of the coronavirus pandemic, before just a smattering of Augusta National members, as the tournament had made the decision to play without spectators.

With just 100 days until the first round of the 2021 Masters arranged for April 8, the club has to make decisions quickly.

“As planning continues on how to stage the 2021 Masters Tournament safely and responsibly, we would like to inform you that Augusta National is delaying the ticket process for Patron Series Badges, which traditionally begins Jan. 1,” the club said in an email to ticket holders.

“Our intention is to communicate our decisions for the 2021 Masters to all patrons of record by the end of January. No further action is needed with your account at this time.”

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Patron Series Badges are good for the four tournament rounds only and do not include practice rounds. The cost of a badge for 2020 was to be $375, and when the Masters announced in August that it would play in November without spectators, it offered to defer those badges to 2021.

Practice rounds are another matter. Those tickets are distributed for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday via a lottery conducted the previous spring. Those tickets were also deferred to 2021.

Because all of these tickets and badges have been pre-sold, Augusta National Golf Club has a difficult problem in figuring out how to proceed with presumably a smaller number of spectators permitted on site. In the email, the club thanked its patrons for “continued patience” as it looks to communicate a definitive answer.

Crowd sizes are not revealed, but it is generally believed that around 30,000 series badges are sold.

Whittling that number to even half would require some ingenuity, possibly allowing admittance for a limited number of days or again deferring attendance a year.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in November that he hopes the “tournament in April will be more normal than it is now,” but offered no assurances that it will be any different, given the current uncertainty with the pandemic.

“We would need to see objective data that would give us a high level of confidence that we could bring large numbers of people onto the grounds for April,” Ridley said on Nov 11. “I think the vaccine — I don’t want to get into medical prognostications — but just logically as a lay person, the vaccine, while it will be wonderful when it happens, there are all kinds of issues that point to beyond April [for the vaccine] as the silver bullet.

“As it relates to [COVID-19] testing, there are some real opportunities there. Our staff has been exploring those very deeply. We have a number of people who are very interested in helping us. It is something we will be looking very hard at. It’ll be a wonderful circumstance if we could test large numbers of people.”

In November, the Masters required all who would be on the grounds to produce a negative COVID-19 test before being admitted. It administered rapid-response tests through a local pharmacy. But those were administered to a relatively small number of people, perhaps fewer than 2,000.

To have significant numbers of spectators who have to undergo testing would require a huge effort, although Augusta National has the financial resources — plus acres upon acres of parking facilities — to make it possible.

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Tiger Woods says he’s considering playing Houston Open before Masters

Tiger Woods is defending his Zozo Championship title this week with an eye on the Masters in three weeks.

And the run-up to what usually is the first major championship of the year is strange to say the least, he said.

So odd, in fact, that Woods stated he is considering adding another tournament before the Masters, the Houston Open.

“I think my plan is just to play and practice,” he said at Sherwood Country Club, where the relocated Zozo Championship starts Thursday.

“I don’t know if I’m going to play Houston or not. I’m not playing next week, and we’ll see how this week goes and make a decision from there.”

It would have been a good bet to figure that this week’s tournament would be the only one before the Masters, simply because Woods has never played the week before the Masters in any year since playing his first as a pro at Augusta National in 1997.

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Asked how he would try to replicate his run-up to the Masters, Woods said: “You can’t.”

“It’s not normally this time of year,” he said. “It’s not normally played this way, the configuration of events. We’re not in a Florida swing. This is all different.

This whole year’s been different for all of us.

“The fact that the Masters will be held in November, it’s unprecedented, never been done before. I can’t simulate the normal ramp-up that I normally have, and I don’t think anyone else can either. It will be different for all of us.”

Woods is making only his sixth start on the PGA Tour since the resumption of play following a 13-week pandemic shutdown.

His best finish is a tie for 37th at the PGA Championship in August. He has slipped from 13th to 28th in the world.

His last start was a month ago at the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut and struggled again with back stiffness.

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Dustin Johnson out of CJ Cup due to covid

No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from this week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas after testing positive for COVID-19.

Johnson, according to the PGA Tour, was experiencing symptoms, prompting him to take a test. Players are tested prior to travel each week and on site as part of the PGA Tour’s coronavirus testing protocols.

“Obviously, I am very disappointed,” stated Johnson, a 23-time PGA Tour winner who took the Tour Championship and thus the FedEx Cup title last month.

“I was really looking forward to competing this week but will do everything I can to return as quickly as possible. I have already had a few calls with the tour’s medical team and appreciate all the support and guidance they have given me.”

According to David Winkle, Johnson’s agent at Hambric Sports, the golfer took an on-site test Sunday that was negative. But he started feeling symptoms Sunday night, stayed away from the course Monday and didn’t feel better Tuesday, so he took a test that came back positive.

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Because the symptoms started Sunday, it is possible that Johnson could return at next week’s Zozo Championship as long as his symptoms have subsided.

He would not be able to practice on site prior to the tournament.

Johnson has not played since he finished tied for sixth at the U.S. Open last month. It is also possible he could play at the Houston Open the week before the Masters, which is Nov. 12-15.

Johnson has been one of the most consistent players in the game of late, tying for sixth in his last start at the U.S. Open, winning the Tour Championship, finishing second at the BMW Championship, winning the Northern Trust and tying for second at the PGA Championship.

He will be among the favorites at the Masters next month. Johnson becomes the second player in straight weeks to test positive for COVID-19.

Tony Finau withdrew from last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open due to a positive test. He also withdrew from the CJ Cup field and has been substituted  by Robby Shelton.

The PGA Tour has had a successful return to competition following a 13-week shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson is the 15th player who the tour has announced as having tested positive. Prior to Finau, two players tested positive at the U.S. Open, but there had been a six-week stretch of no positive cases before that.

J.T. Poston was the first alternate and replaces Johnson in the 78-player field.

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Augusta National to close by week’s end

Augusta National first postponed the Masters. Now the home of the Masters is closing its club.

Golf Digest obtained a letter from Chairman Fred Ridley to Augusta National members that says the club will close by the end of the week because of growing concerns over the new coronavirus and how it might affect the staff.

The club would confirm only that a memo had been sent.

“Beginning today, we are taking the necessary steps to curtail our operations so, by the end of this week, the Club will be closed until further notice,” Ridley stated in the memo obtained by Golf Digest.

Ridley said the grounds would be maintained with limited personnel and said other duties would be handled remotely.

He said he would review the situation and send timely updates, and he thanked the members for “patience and trust as we plan for the realities of this pandemic.”

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The Masters was planned for April 9-12. This will be the first time since 1946 — when the Masters resumed after World War II — that golf’s most viewed tournament is not the first full week in April. Augusta National closes about a month after the Masters for the summer and reopens in October.

Still to be determined is when it could be rescheduled, which is the club’s plan. Ridley’s letter comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered that events of 50 or more people be shut down for eight weeks. That would last until the second full week in May.

Still up in the air is the second major of the year, the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 14-17 in San Francisco.

If played as scheduled, the top 20 from the 2019 PGA professional of the year standings would qualify for the PGA. The PGA of America has yet to announce a decision on the PGA Championship.

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