Every major championship tournament has epic performances and pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments. Such is the nature of professional golf, where so many players come into a week fancying their chances but only one can hoist the trophy…or put on the jacket.
This week’s Masters was no different. In fact, it felt like a major on steroids, highlighted by a winning performance that would make even the most histrionic Greek mythologists proud.
Ten years from now, we will remember the 2019 Masters as the tournament where Tiger Woods became Tiger Woods once again. But a golf tournament is so much more than just the players who tee it up; it is the golf course, and the grounds crew, and the broadcast, and the digital platforms, and the fans, and so, so much more. With that in mind, let’s hand out grades—and just to players—for the year’s first major.
Justin Rose. Perhaps even more than Tiger’s triumph, this was the most shocking finish of the week. Before last week, Rose hadn’t missed a cut on the PGA Tour since last August. He hadn’t missed a cut in his 13 appearances in the Masters. He’d finished in the top 10 in 10 of his last 14 starts worldwide and three of his last four starts at Augusta. And it wasn’t just that he missed the cut, it’s how he did it: by bogeying three of his last four holes on Sunday to miss it by one. A shocking week out of the guy who entered the tournament as the world’s top ranked player.
Paul Casey. I’ll be the first to admit how wrong I was about Casey heading into this week. I thought he would be a major factor come Sunday afternoon and that he might even win the tournament. Instead, he playe his first five holes on Thursday in five over , and his tournament was essentially over about 75 minutes after it started.
Augusta’s weather decisions. I know, I know, you can’t control or predict the weather. But the 28-minute weather delay on Friday seemed unnecessary. And the Sunday storm, which was the reason tee times were moved up some five hours, never really materialized. Better safe than sorry, of course, and I’m not sure things could have been handled much differently…but in hindsight, this tournament never needed to be stopped or re-scheduled.
Nike. The floral hats were bad. So were the checkered shirts. And I’m colorblind, but even I could tell that Tiger’s color scheme on Saturday was hard on the eyes. (Side note: no white belts, ever!) The only thing keeping Nike from a lower grade is Tiger’s Sunday red mock turtleneck. Having him win the Masters in the same outfit he wore last time he won the Masters? Brilliant.
Rory McIlroy. He entered the week playing some of the best golf of his career, and he was the rightful Vegas favorite. This was supposed to be the week he finally got his green jacket, the week he became a true immortal by becoming just the sixth player to win a green jacket. Instead, he got absolutely nothing going until a final-round 68. Another opportunity missed for McIlroy, who turns 30 before next month’s PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth. He shot himself out of the tournament with a first-round 75, and his T21 finish was his worst ever at Augusta National…but it was also his best finish since last September. He followed up the 75 with three straight rounds under par and has now broken par in six of his last nine rounds. It’s still a work in progress, but I feel much better about Spieth’s future prospects after this week than I did before. Perhaps that’s more a statement on how low our expectations had dipped, but still.
Francesco Molinari It’s a top-5 finish in a major, so in the grand scheme of things, a great week. But this was Molinari’s tournament to lose, and he lost it. Violently. For such a machine-like player to make two massive errors on the back nine—two water balls that both led to double bogeys—is inexplicable. Molinari has blossomed into a world-class player, so he’ll likely have more chances to contend in majors…but he probably will never get a better chance to win the Masters.
Jason Day’s trainer. If Day’s back was really as bad as he says it is, then his doctors and physios deserve a Nobel prize for getting him in good enough shape to swing as hard as he does. Related: I have a hard time believing Day’s back can handle 40ish swings of 120 miles per hour but can’t handle bending over to kiss his daughter before a round.
Justin Harding. How bout the South African? Few gave him any chance to hang around after he opened with 69-69 and was just one back entering the weekend. But that’s exactly what he did: hang around. He shot two under for the weekend and made a super-clutch birdie on Sunday at 18 to finish in a tie for 12th, guaranteeing his return to Augusta National next year. He’s up to No. 44 in the world.
Masters digital platforms. It wasn’t clear exactly what club chairman Fred Ridley meant when he said Wednesday that ever fan would be able to watch virtually every shot from the tournament. By Thursday morning, it was clear that he meant exactly what he said—the app and the website’s “track” feature might have been the single most impressive piece of sports technology I’ve ever seen. Every shot was uploaded and visible in crystal-clear HD within two minutes. Phenomenal ambition and flawless execution.
The amateurs. Four of the six made the cut, and there was a genuinely compelling battle for low amateur that lasted all the way until Sunday. Viktor Hovland, the Oklahoma State junior and reigning U.S. amateur champion, ended up winning it at -3 after Alvaro Ortiz bogeyed his 72nd hole. Takumi Kanaya also made the cut and shot 68 on Saturdady. Devon Bling had an ace at the par 3 contest and played the weekend in even par. All in all, a great showing for the amateurs.
Tiger Woods. Need I say more?