5 things: What we learned at the MastersApril, 2015
The Texan Major, Tiger and Casey's return and Rory's good vibes
The Texan connection
It was fitting that in the week when Ben Crenshaw played in his 44th and final Masters, Spieth, a fellow Texan, should be slipping on the Green Jacket. Truly, this was a moment of generational shift.
Texas and the Masters have a long and distinguished history – Spieth is the eighth man from the Lone Star state to win the event.
He follows in the footsteps of, in chronological order: Byron Nelson (1937 & 42), Ralph Guldahl (1939), Jimmy Demaret (1940, 47 & 50), Ben Hogan (1951 & 53), Jack Burke Jr (1956), Charles Coody (1971) and Crenshaw (1984 & 95).
Right now, in the afterglow of such a dominant performance, it’s hard to imagine that Spieth, who is not 22 until July, won’t bring further glory to Texas.
All those birdies
It would be easy to portray Spieth as a consistent, steady player who limits mistakes and gives little away. Yet here he smashed the record for total birdies in 72 holes with an amazing total of 28, three more than Phil Mickelson’s previously unmatched haul.
Spieth actually made seven birdies and a double over the weekend, which you might expect to result in two over-par rounds. They didn’t.
Only Ian Poulter hit more greens over the four days, and only Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker had fewer putts per green in regulation. No wonder he won so dominantly.
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Rory now ready for Augusta
Rory McIlroy is not interested in high finishes, only winning. That much was clear by his demeanour after putting the finishing touches to his closing round of 66, the joint-lowest of the day. The build-up to Augusta was long and despite his best efforts, he did not arrive with his game in quite the shape he would have wanted.
But in finishing fourth here, we can now conclude that he has served his Augusta apprenticeship and is ready to become a serial challenger in the same that Mickelson and Tiger Woods have for the past 20 years.
When the disappointment fades, he’ll surely reflect that he is a wiser player and better prepared for future Masters.
His final round, when he began with six straight pars, was a cardinal lesson in how to compile a good score at Augusta – start steadily and gradually add birdies, letting them come to you rather than by firing at pins where the penalties for marginal misses are too severe to justify trying.
"When the disappointment fades, Rory will reflect that he is wiser and better prepared for future Masters."
Casey’s rehabilitation complete
While never quite threatening to win at any stage, Paul Casey was rarely off the first page of the leaderboard for long periods of the week and presented a sunny disposition throughout. He just looked pleased to be back in the big time and completing his rehabilitation.
He looks a changed man, after his life fell apart, if that is not too strong a way to put it, in 2011. A shoulder injury sustained while snowboarding was followed by divorce from his wife Jocelyn.
“Golf is always a humbling game, isn’t it,” Casey told NCG in late 2013. “I would say that it’s been maybe not a humbling experience but one that’s given me a different perspective. A new perspective.”
Now re-married to Pollyanna and with a baby son, he has worked his way back into the world’s top 50 and looks an altogether more content character.
The next step is a win on the PGA Tour, which is surely not far away given his recent form.
Tiger (nearly) ready to compete
In the end, it probably all just caught up with him. Tiger played from memory and on adrenaline for the first three days and just couldn’t maintain the standards he had set on Sunday, when he limped to a 73. Still, T13th was way, way better than almost anyone predicted was possible after his well-documented problems to date this season.
The best news for him is that he looked once more like a Major challenger and it’s been a while since that has truly been the case.
He clearly wasn’t ready for Augusta in any meaningful sense and yet he still climbed on to the first page of the leaderboard come Saturday evening.
It’s great to see him back.
What he needs now is a clear run from injuries and the chance to arrive at Chambers Bay, St Andrews and Whistling Straits with some high finishes behind him.
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