Breakfast Ball, 4/14: Bubba Golf Returns at Augusta.

April 14, 2014 in Breakfast Ball by Chris Chaney

Harry How / Getty Images (via Huffington Post)

Maybe it was the back-to-back two-shot swings Bubba Watson picked up on Jordan Spieth on the back end of the front nine, but it was moon shot Watson hit off of No. 13 tee with a two-shot lead that seemed to slam the door on Spieth and the rest of the field.

Watson had the honor on 13 tee after Spieth couldn’t manufacture a Freddie moment on 12; the 20-year-old’s ball peeking at the green before retreating back down the shaved slope into Rae’s Creek. To his credit, though, the Texan made an admirable up-and-down for a bogey 4. This was Go Time and Bubba let one go on 13 tee.

“I knew it. When it took off… it was cutting a little too much,” Watson said. “I knew I hit it really hard. Obviously, when you get a roar on your tee shot, you know it’s pretty good. I could start breathing again once I heard them clapping and roaring.”

The roars that reverberate around Amen Corner on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club usually come from stuck approach shots or ticklish putts that find the bottom of the cup, but Watson’s 360-plus yard drive was enough to get the patrons on their feet.

Your move, kid.

AP Photo / Charlie Riedel

After a sizzling start, Spieth’s wheels were wobbling around the middle of the golf course. Now, looking at a demanding tee shot with the guy he was chasing sitting with a wedge into the par-5, Spieth needed an answer. Alas, a mediocre tee ball that left one hand on the club after impact put him in the right pine straw and he was blocked out from reaching the green in two. A punch out and he was only 25 yards in front of Watson’s drive.

A gap wedge from Watson and a two-putt birdie stretched the lead to three strokes with five holes to play. The door was cracked for a bit of Augusta magic over those last five holes, but solid play, along with a couple Bubba Golf moments and Watson was slipping into his second green jacket in three years about an hour later.

On a day when you would have thought that the final pairing featured Bubba Watson and “20-year-old Jordan Spieth,” the new master of the Masters showed that experience was key around the famed Augusta property. Lest we forget, Spieth hadn’t played in a Masters before this year. All he had was solid tutelage from the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson, good preparation in the weeks leading to the tournamnt and a game that was better than all but one man when it was all said and done Sunday evening.

While Watson and Spieth separated themselves early in the afternoon on Sunday, others like Jonas Blixt, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Miguel Angel Jimenez kept the pressure on. Blixt and Jimenez were arguably the most impressive.

The 29-year-old Swede and the 50-year-old Spaniard both shot 1-under par 71s under the gauntlet that is the final round of the Masters. Blixt, a little-known grinder who played his college golf at Florida State, has won twice on the PGA Tour although it was the Greenbrier breakthrough that punched his ticket to Augusta.

Not a great driver of the ball, Blixt’s short game was on point and on display all week at Augusta, redeeming loose drives with a deft touch around the greens. Blixt said it was his iron game that held him back, not giving him enough opportunities, but in just his third major championship start he carded his second top-5 finish.

“I love majors,” Blixt said. “I love when it’s tough. It’s not a shootout, so the harder the better.”

The T2 finish grants him entry into next year’s Masters field. At No. 33 in the world, up 23 spots from last week, Blixt should gain entry into the US and British Opens by virtue of a top-50 in the world ranking on May 26. He’s already in the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Jimenez was his usual self: solid. From tee-to-green, or as he calls it, tee-to-flag, and more interesting than anyone else on the grounds, Jimenez again found himself in primetime Sunday afternoon at a major. After making the cut by a stroke on Friday, Jimenez made his move with a Saturday 66 to vault him into contention. A poor front nine on Sunday, coupled with a good back nine earned the Champions Tour rookie the second-highest finish (solo 4th) at a Masters by a player aged 50 or above, bettered only by Sam Snead’s T3 in 1963.

Fowler and Kuchar cemented their top-10s with good Saturday rounds as well — 67 and 68, respectively — but couldn’t get anything going on Sunday, finishing in a two-way tie for fifth.

Lee Westwood hung around all week, shooting rounds no lower than 70 and no higher than 73. The Englishman’s solo 7th-place finish was 17th top-1o in a major, his ninth in the last four years and his fourth in the last five years at the Masters (the other was a T11). Something’s got to give, doesn’t it?

Rory McIlroy, Bernhard Langer, Jimmy Walker, John Senden, Kevin Stadler and Thomas Bjorn made up the eclectic group that rounded out the top-12 players, all tying for eighth place at even par for the championship. McIlroy and Langer were the only past major winners in the group, while Walker, Senden and Stadler were all making their first Masters starts.

The 2014 major season is officially underway and while you got a little piece of everything here, Geoff Shackelford did a nice job rounding up more in-depth pieces on nearly every golfer mentioned above. Pick your guy and find his wrap-up story.

You have more than enough to read today in the aftermath, so how about a preview article of an up-and-coming Bubba Watson. I love these stories that showcase guys before they make it like Damon Hack did for the NY Times in 2006 on Bubba from Bagdad.

The future of the PGA Tour hails from a village called Bagdad, a small town on the Florida panhandle that produced a golfer named Bubba.

Bubba is 6-foot-3, swings left-handed and hits the ball so far that drives byTiger Woods, John Daly and Phil Mickelson may be considered puny in comparison.

And for good measure, a similar piece from Alan Shipnuck on Jordan Spieth, buried in the pages of SI’s Peyton Manning Sportsman of the Year issue from December 2013. Crazy that the up-and-coming story on Spieth came just five months ago.

Spieth (rhymes with teeth) has always been an old soul. He was raised in Dallas to be a Texas gentleman—sir andma’am were built into his vocabulary, and community service was stressed through school and church. He developed a broader perspective at age seven when his sister, Ellie, was born with a neurological disorder and spent her first month in the NICU. Jordan visited her every day. “He saw firsthand how some of those kids never got to go home,” says his father, Shawn. By his teens Spieth was golf’s can’t-miss kid, but he never took himself too seriously because, he says, “in my family it’s never been about me.” He and Ellie have a very sweet, especially close relationship. She attends a school for developmentally disabled kids, and when he was in high school Jordan regularly volunteered in her classrooms. Now that he has gotten his first taste of fame and fortune, he is not shopping for Bugattis but rather talking about setting up a foundation to benefit special-needs children.

Get your tiny violins ready, here’s Tom Rinaldi with Bubba Watson. 

Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 11.47.23 AM

2014 Masters Fantasy and Betting Picks

April 9, 2014 in Golf by Chris Chaney

Fantasy golf is hard; information overload is easy. Once you have you’ve done your research and hitched your wagon to a certain player on a given week, depending upon what format of fantasy golf you play, *your guy* could be no longer available, running low on starts or too expensive. You need options. You’ll find get them here. Here’s who we love, like and need to show us something this week.

The first major is upon us and now is as good of a time as any to make some money in the process. Most of you are in some kind of league — fantasy, salary, draft, selection pool — for the Masters, so let’s get some insight and a few groundrules laid straight out of the gate.

First rule of Masters picking: no first-timer has won here since 1979. Augusta National is a course that requires a bunch of local knowledge. As Craig Stadler said in his pre-tournament press conference, “there are a lot of places on this course that you don’t know are dead until you get there.”

Sure, there’s the argument that this year’s crop is better than in year’s past, and maybe that’s true, but until one of them bucks this 35-year-old trend, stick with what works.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, don’t fall in love with an oldie. Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, even Tom Watson. Someone over the age of 50 might just steal one of these majors soon as we’re beginning to see guys play well into their AARP years, but again, until someone bucks that trend, don’t count on it.

Those two rules of thumb roughly eliminates nearly a half of the field. There’s a reason why people say the Masters is the easiest major championship to win by comparison. Only 97 players tee it up and maybe 60 have a legitimate shot at the green jacket. Cut out rookies and hold outs and you’re looking at around 40 real contenders. Let’s get into a who we have on our radar this week.

**Just a heads up, for majors, things go a little differently. The Love ‘Em section is the contender list. You’ll find our winner at the very end; the Like ‘Em list is guys we expect to make the cut and maybe even contend, but not win; and the Show ‘Em section is specifically rookie-centric for this week, so you’ll find our five favorite rookies this week that could reverse the curse.**

MastersLove

MastersLike

MastersShow

Alright, you got 15 good looks this week. So, who’s going to be wearing the green jacket this Sunday?

SnedGJ

Brandt Snedeker

Sneds is a Masters die hard. This is the title he hangs his hat on and the one he would trade his healthy bankroll in for. He’s solid around Augusta as shown by past results, including last year’s top-10. He blew a lead last year and hates himself for it. Worried about recent form? He T6′d at Bay Hill, but recent history proves form isn’t needed coming in. One week. One shot. One jacket. It’s Sneds’ year.

Breakfast Ball, 4/9: 2014 Masters Tee Times Announced.

April 9, 2014 in Breakfast Ball by Chris Chaney

Harry How / Getty Images

Tuesday of Masters week is such a tease.

So much time and dedication has already been expended by the Tuesday of the first major week of the year — more so than most regular tournament weeks all together — that by the time Tuesday evening rolls around, it feels almost like we should have balls in the air for the tournament proper any minute.

The annual Tuesday morning announcement of the pairings for the first two rounds doesn’t make that feeling any lesser. The usual suspects are in play: the Big Three leading things off at 7:40 am; past champion Adam Scott is paired with reigning US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, along with the most recent major champion, Jason Dufner, at 10:41 am; they have their typical “young gun” group heading off right after that with Rory McIlory, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed teeing off at 10:52 am.

On the other side of the draw, the marquee pairing of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Justin Rose (1:48 pm) is sandwiched by Keegan Bradley, Victor Dubuisson and Peter Hanson (1:37 pm) and Harris English, Lee Westwood and Russell Henley (1:59 pm). However, for my money, the best-looking threesome with a chance to win a green jacket if I had to pick one Thursday-Friday grouping?

1:04 pm. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson. All three seem to be poised to win their first major championship and all three have games suited for Augusta National. Although each has question marks surrounding them coming in — Day’s thumb/rust; DJ’s Shell 80 WD; and Stenson’s health and ’14 form — they look like the best bet for a early-tournament threesome.

The full list of tee times can be accessed here with as little hoopla as possible. Who’s your pick for a group that could be donning the green jacket Sunday evening?

Even though it feels like we’ve exhausted all scenarios by Tuesday evening, part of the fun (for me, at least) of the early week buildup is the sheer number of press conferences there are. I love to see how guys are acting in front of the press. Are they relaxed and joking, a little more focussed and tight? What bearings do each matter of mannerism have on their actual outcome (hint: not much)?

Anyway, yesterday’s crop of pressers had its fair bit of quote-worthy moments, such as these two from Rory.

Phil got in on the act as well, telling a quick story about a friendly bet he made with a patron.

Of course Phil doesn’t carry anything less than $100. There’s a joke about a young guy on Tour asking around his practice round group to see if anyone has change for a $20 bill. The veteran pro looks at the young guy and says, “$20s are change, pro.” Pretty sure Phil was that vet.

And Keegan Bradley was probably that younger guy at some point. Not anymore, however. Keegs is in the big leagues now and with that kind of status comes important friends like, say, the greatest basketball player to ever live. And when you have friends like MJ, you get to walk around Augusta National in golf sneakers. Yes, that’s now a thing. Especially when those golf sneakers are 11s.



So, that’s cool and I’m jealous. When will he officailly become a member of Team Jordan? He’s been hinting at it since the Presidents Cup and now he has some more shoes. Maybe a partnership is imminent.

Don’t want to ramble on today, so we’ll cut it short right here, especially since I have something awesome for you to read. This one is a little older, but still a timeless piece from the Ancient Twitterer, Dan Jenkins. This year will be Jenkins’ 64th Masters.

Wrap your head around that for a second.

Here’s a piece he wrote ahead of last year’s Masters:

BEST TRADITIONS 
1. Ceremonial tee shots.
2. Including amateurs in the field.
3. Bringing back past greats. 
4. Keeping the veranda’s big trees on life support.

BEST REASON FOR CEREMONIAL STARTERS
Years ago, Gene Sarazen told Augusta National chairman Hord Hardin he was getting too old to hit the honorary opening drive at the Masters. Sarazen said he was starting to feel like “an exhibit in a museum.” That’s when Hord said, “Gene, the people don’t want to see you play, they just want to see if you’re still alive.”

Don’t forget that today is the Par-3 contest, your best chance to sucker your girlfriend/wife/sig other to tune in to watch golf. Get them in the Masters mood by watching little kids wear Masters jump suits and maybe they’ll lay off you this weekend hoping to see more cute little kids.

Augusta.com

Before the Par-3, however, stop by the 16th hole where you can see the video of the day play out in real time. Who knows what you’re going to see.


Breakfast Ball, 4/8: Masters Week Off to a Soggy Start.

April 8, 2014 in Breakfast Ball by Chris Chaney

AP

The Monday of Masters week didn’t go too well for those patrons on the property with one day badges. Luckily for those patrons, Augusta National has guaranteed them the opportunity to buy badges for next year’s Monday practice round, along with a refund of this year’s ticket price.

Unluckily for them, they’ll have to wait another year to get back on the hallowed grounds. However, for the rest of us, I’m pretty sure we’d all trade a washed away Monday for the weather that’s being predicted for the rest of the week.

Gates opened at 8am yesterday and closed at 10am due to the giant cell of thunderstorms moving through the middle of the country. By 12:35pm, the club made it official and barred anyone — player or patron — from getting back on the course.

With that behind us, though, there’s nothing but blue skies and unfulfilled dreams ahead. Speaking of unfulfilled dreams, the largest contingent of first-timers will be teeing it up in the Masters this week. You’ve probably heard and will continue to hear that no first-time Masters participant has won the green jacket in his first tournament since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

However, given this year’s trend of first-time winners — there have already been eight on the PGA Tour this season — and the amount of them in the field (24, 17 of which are pros), this year seems as likely as any to produce a rookie Masters champion. Considering some of the names that fit the bill — Harris English, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Graham DeLaet, Victor Dubuisson and Jimmy Walker — hardly any would be a monumental surprise.

According to the guys out in Vegas, first-timers most likely to break through are Spieth (30/1), English (40/1), DeLaet (50/1), Reed (50/1) and Walker (50/1)*. While it’s hard to pass on roughly a quarter of the field, until the trend is bucked, it’s still a trend and as you’ll see tomorrow when our picks are released, first-timers will find themselves in the Show ‘Em Something list.

*All betting odds come from golfodds.com (LVH) and bovada.lv.

Charlie Riedel / AP

Speaking of gambling odds, another storyline is the Aussie contingent this week. Headlined by defending champion Adam Scott, the men from Down Under number seven and, with the exception of amateur Oliver Goss, all are heading into Augusta with the confidence that they could become the second Aussie to slip on the green jacket.

AScott has been getting the star treatment, especially given he will host the Champions Dinner tonight, but Jason Day is coming in as the not-so darkhorse pick of many a pundit.

The 26-year-old Day is coming off of a six-week layoff resulting from some bad tendinitis in his left thumb. At his pre-tournament press conference on Monday, Day explained that he got a cortisone shot into the base knuckle of the thumb two weeks ago and has “full confidence” in the digits ability to hold up over four rounds of major championship golf.

After Scott and Day, a host of recent winners in Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch and John Senden populate the tee sheet. As first-timers, again, they won’t be expected to do much, but be wary of the confident golfer. All three are in form and ready.

But our pick of the week? Marc Leishman. You can get 12/1 odds on the big Aussie to finish as low Australian and methinks it’s a good gamble. Given Scott’s recent struggles with the long/flat stick and Day’s rust from six weeks away from competitive golf, Leishman doesn’t only seem like a sneaky good pick to go low Aussie, but to contend. You know, like he did last year.

A Moreton Bay bug (Morsels & Musings)

Last things last today, let’s go back to that Champions Dinner thing. Adam Scott, being the kindly gent that he is, isn’t guarding the menu like it’s some kind of state secret like some past champs have done (*cough*Bubba*cough*). Instead, he released an idea of what the menu will be ahead of time so guys like, I don’t know, Bubba, can save some room for the Wendy’s on Washington Rd. after the meal. From the Sporting News

And now for something completely different: Adam Scott has made known his entree for Tuesday’s former championship dinner before the Masters. Say hello to Moreton Bay bugs.

Before you conjure up images of Crocodile Dundee and a big pot of steaming insects, Scott’s choice is more upscale than it sounds.

In a salute to the home folks back in Brisbane, Scott picked a local favorite. According to reports from Down Under, a Moreton Bay bug is a flat-headed lobster that takes its name from the body of water that borders the city.

Rather skip to the dessert? Scott’s choice is pavlova, a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside. It’s from Australia New Zealand but takes its name from a Russian dancer. A simple recipe, it is topped with kiwi, pomegranate or other fruit.

I think I may be with Bubba on this one. Two JBCs, no tomato, please.

For some reading today, we’ll stick with the first-timer theme. Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com files this report on Augusta State alum and WGC-Cadillac Championship champ, Patrick Reed.

Long before he announced to the planet last month that he is among its top five golfers, inspiring a scaled-down version of the storm Richard Sherman kicked up after the NFC Championship Game, Reed was known for projecting a vibe of superiority and for doing too much talking for his own good. “He shot his mouth off early on when he shouldn’t have,” said Henrik Norlander, Reed’s teammate at Augusta State.

“All I asked him to do was keep his mouth shut and play golf and let his golf clubs do the talking for him,” Gregory said. “It was the only way for him to earn the respect of his teammates.

“Patrick was on his final strike, and he knew that. If he didn’t shape up, he couldn’t go anywhere else. Even if he made the tour at that point, maturity-wise he would’ve gotten eaten up. I told him he was never going to make it if he didn’t get things under control.”

Yes, Patrick Reed eventually got things under control. He showed up at Augusta National on Monday saying he’d wear red again in the final round in honor of his idol, Tiger Woods, whose absence here isn’t the only reason the 23-year-old Reed might win the first major in which he’s ever competed. His victory at Doral in the WGC-Cadillac Championship was his third in seven months, notarizing his staggering belief in himself (think Ian Poulter’s ego on steroids) and encouraging him to see contention on Sunday’s back nine as a realistic endgame.

Good read.

***And before I forget, if you’re interested in doing a Masters pool, shoot me an e-mail with your information and I’ll get back to you right away. Thanks.****

As for a video, how about this from CNN’s “Living Golf” on the first Dr. Alister Mackenzie’s road to Augusta.


Breakfast Ball, 4/7: Lexi Thompson Wins the Kraft Nabisco.

April 7, 2014 in Breakfast Ball by Chris Chaney

Getty Images

There will be plenty of time this week to get into an Augusta state of mind, so we would be remiss if we didn’t start this Monday morning edition off with an ode to Lexi Thompson, the 19-year-old winner of the year’s first major championship, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

After opening up with a 1-over par 73 on Thursday, Thompson gained a share of the 36-hole lead with a scorching 8-under par 64. Tied after two rounds with World Golf Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak and with big names like Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr and Shanshan Feng in contention, Lexi and Wie emerged on moving day to put a dream final twosome pairing together for the LPGA’s first major of the year on Sunday.

It was Lexi’s tournament from the first tee on Sunday, however. The momentous showdown turned into a one-woman show as Thompson’s power and precision attack put Wie in the rearview.

Three birdies for Lexi in the first five holes opened up a comfortable margin that she would eventually stretch to five strokes by the turn. To Wie’s credit, she didn’t fade, a trait that’s become all to common on the men’s tour over the past few weeks. Playing alongside a buzzsaw, the most recognizable name in women’s golf carded a 1-under par 71, one of only three under par rounds among the top-10 finishers (Thompson and Lewis were the other two).

An outward nine 32 for Thompson set the stage for solid, mistake-free golf coming in. 10 pars in a row to finish out her day gave way to Thompson’s fourth win on the circuit and her first major championship. Of course, she also got to take the leap into Poppie’s Pond, in which her caddie, the not-related Benji Thompson took next level with a front flip.

The win for Thompson is definitely a win for ladies golf. Perhaps only a Wie victory would have caused more ripples in the mainstream, but the Hawaiian’s resurgence is evident and a breakthrough seems imminent. With Lexi’s first major victory coming at age 19 and Michelle Wie still only 24 years old as well as the likes of Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer in the mix, the LPGA’s future looks bright.

The only question left to be answered is whether or not Lexi can get a spot on a prominent golf magazine’s cover?

EPA

Someone who won’t be on the cover this week? Matt Kuchar. Despite another solid performance and a big check being deposited in his account on Tuesday, Kooch had at least a piece of the lead during the final round for the second week in a row and couldn’t finish.

While the Kuchar missed opportunity at the Shell Houston Open couldn’t be a great confidence booster for the world’s No. 7 ranked golfer, the pandemic of leaderboards sliding backwards to par on Sunday afternoons ended. Kuchar held pat for the majority of the day before two birdies in three holes from 13-15 got Feherty’s latest guest to 17-under par and clear of the field. Hiccups on two of the next three put Kuchar back to even on the day and within reach of Matt Jones’ heroics.

Matt Jones, someone you’ve heard of most likely, but don’t know much about, fired a final-round 66, 6-under par to earn a spot in the playoff that Kuchar backed up into. While Kuchar sputtered, Jones stepped up. Playing in the second-to-last group, Jones needed to make a birdie on 18 and get some help from the six-time PGA Tour winner.

Jones hit two okay shots into 18, leaving himself 46-feet for birdie. Of course, he drained it and went full Tiger-finger.

Jones did his part and then Kuchar did his, chunk-hooking a hybrid into the lake guarding the left edge of the green.

Which gives us this amazing gif.

GOLLYMATTY

 

Free golf!

The first hole of the playoff was back on the 18th tee. A couple of wayward approach shots — Jones short of the green and Kuchar in the greenside bunker — led to a 10-footer for par for Kooch and a 42-yard chip shot for Jones.

Useful. Jones gets the last invite to Augusta and here we are.

Masters Week. 

So, what can you expect from WrongFairway.com during this holiest of all weeks? Hopefully some more content, some you may have seen here if you’ve been around for a while and some new content as time allows. Be sure to check back multiple times this week and to follow along on Twitter for some live commentary from yours truly.

Time to get to work on some Masters things, but to get you in the mood…