Ups and Downs: Players and trends after the 88th Masters

Ups and Downs: Players and trends after the 88th Masters
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – This 88th Masters meant different things for different people.

Here’s whose stock is up, and whose is down, after the latest 72 holes around Augusta National:

Up: Scottie Scheffler and his putter

The world’s top-ranked player and heavy pre-tournament favorite accomplished what everyone expected out of him. He broke out of a logjam on the second nine Sunday and won going away, by four shots. Familiar with historic ball-striking numbers during his recent dominance, Scheffler arguably won this one with his putter, which had caused him so much trouble in recent years. Scheffler ranked third in average putts per hole this week, and if he continues to roll his rock like this, look out.

Down: Challengers at Amen Corner

When Scheffler birdied the par-5 13th, it stretched his lead to three shots and capped an even-par showing in his final spin through Augusta National’s most famous three-hole stretch. The rest of the players in the final three pairings, at least collectively, weren’t so lucky; they played Nos. 11-13 in a combined 4 over. Ludvig Åberg and Collin Morikawa each rinsed approach shots on No. 11, each making double. Max Homa bounced over the green at No. 12, needing to take a drop and exiting Golden Bell with a double of his own. Scheffler would also birdie Nos. 14 and 16, to run his final-round tally to seven, but it was arguably on Amen Corner in which he clinched his second green jacket.

Up: Fatherhood

Scheffler isn’t the first professional golfer to become a father, but considering how much family means to the Schefflers and Scottie’s insistence that golf doesn’t define him but rather his life outside of the sport, even as he asserts himself as a generational star, this impending arrival is a big one.

Down: Side-eye

Congrats to Ohio State senior Neal Shipley on capturing low-amateur honors, but honestly, what was he looking at in Butler Cabin?

Up: Ludvig Åberg

Fuzzy’s designation is safe another year, but man, was the Swedish standout special this week. Already a winner on the PGA and DP World tours, and a member of the victorious European Ryder Cup team in Rome, Åberg looked like this was his 100th major, not his first one. He lost to Scheffler by three shots, but he also was three better than everybody else.

Down: Jordan Spieth

If Spieth’s second shot on Thursday, which ended up under a patron’s chair, was any indication, it was that this would be a wild week for the 2015 Masters champion. It was short, too, as Spieth carded a quadruple bogey at the par-5 15th hole en route to a first-round, 7-over 79, that effectively ended his hopes of avoiding his second Masters missed cut in his last three starts. He’d shoot 74 in windy conditions on Friday afternoon, but it was too late. Having now missed four of nine weekends this year, Spieth is unquestionably going to start fielding the what’s-wrong questions again.

Up: Wind

And, in effect, Friday’s scoring average. The second round produced a field average of 75.079, the highest second-day mark since 2007 (75.625). The gusts reached as much as 35 mph, and the windy conditions resulted in some entertaining theatre, albeit at the expense of the competitors. Justin Thomas had the most shocking trouble of all, playing his final four holes in 7 over to go from even par to missing the cut by one.

Down: Tiger Woods

Entering this year, Woods was confident that his latest surgery, an April 2023 subtalar fusion, would allowed him to play once a month this year. That hasn’t happened so far, as Woods withdrew during his second round at Riviera with the flu and returned only at this week’s Masters, where he made his record 24th straight cut before ballooning to his worst major score on Saturday, an 82, and a closing 77 that placed him last among the 60 players who completed 72 holes.

Up: Homa at majors

Masters chasers praise Scheffler’s approach

Ludvig Åberg, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Tom Kim and Luke List talk about what makes Scottie Scheffler a special player after his second Masters win.

For years, Homa has heard the noise. “The rhetoric on me, and this is from myself, as well, is I have not performed in these things,” he said Sunday after his T-3 finish, “and I performed for all four days.” Homa’s best Masters showing by far marked his second straight major top-10 (T-10 at last year’s Open) after having none in his first 16 major starts, which included nine missed cuts. He’s kicked open the door now.

Down: Greg Norman

The LIV Golf commissioner reportedly had to buy a ticket on the secondary market to watch LIV’s 13 players in the field this week. Four of them – DeChambeau, Cam Smith, Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed – cracked the top 12, but Fred Couples brought up a solid point on Twitter; why hadn’t one of the LIV players offered Norman one of their allotted tickets?

Up: Bold equipment moves

Whether it was Bryson DeChambeau’s 3D-printed, bulge-and-roll irons, which weren’t USGA conforming until Tuesday, or Morikawa’s mid-tournament putter switch, both decisions resulted in those players notching the best finishes of their Masters careers (DeChambeau, T-6, and Morikawa, T-3).

Down: Bold sweaters

Jason Day was told to take off his Malbon Golf sweater after only five holes Friday morning.

Up: Gnomes

The popular merch item isn’t expensive, retailing at $49.50, but boy, are these little guys hard to procure. If you didn’t snag one, they are available for a few hundred dollars on eBay, or you can wait until next year for the next collectable garden pal.

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