Oh, come on.

A day after Masters champion Jordan Spieth looked deservedly tired and sluggish in shooting 3-over 74 in the first round of the RBC Heritage, the 21-year-old came back early on Friday and shot 9-under 62 at Harbour Town Golf Links to get into contention on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Spieth made nine birdies in the round, not dropping a shot. The Texan birdied the 10th hole, his first of the day, then made eight birdies in the final 14 holes of the round to go from the cut line to the first page of the leaderboard. 

On the back nine, Spieth made five birdies, with four of them coming on putts of 7 feet or less. At the par-4 eighth, his 17th hole of the day, Spieth made a 41-foot chip for birdie. 

The round ties his PGA Tour career low.

Spieth now has the afternoon session to wait to see the final leading number, but he now has a chance to become the first player to win the Masters and Heritage in back-to-back weeks since Bernhard Langer in 1985.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 17, 2015, 5:11 pm

Golfers typically wear goofy clothes, by choice, on the course. They also typically don't play very well. So imagine how the average hacker might do playing in a mascot costume. 

Well, Curtis Dvorak, the guy who plays Jacksonville Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville, managed to win $10,000 for charity winning a closest-to-the-pin contest -- while wearing the costume he wears during Jags home games.

Dvorak squared off against 14 other challengers, including former touring players, in the 17th Hole Charity Challenge at TPC Sawgrass on Wednesday. He won the contest with a shot to the island-green par 3 that landed just 4 feet, 9 inches from the hole -- again, in costume. Former PGA Tour player Bob Duval came in second at 6 feet, 4 inches. 

With the win, Dvorak scored a $10,000 donation to the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families with children facing cancer.

In Round 2, Web.come Tour player Jeff Klauk won to earn $5,000 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. Klauk had battled seizures since 2006, undergoing a series of procedures in 2012 to help combat the issue. He returned to competition later in 2012.

Then, on top of beating everyone who wasn't wearing a hot, bulky costume, Dvorak then hit a drive from his knees onto the green.

Holy cow. I want that guy in my club scramble.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 17, 2015, 4:38 pm

The USGA is loosening up. They'll allow fans to bring their mobile phones to the U.S. Open for the first time in June.

The governing body announced the change Thursday, detailing specifically the types of devices allowed:

"Spectators may carry mobile devices smaller than 7 inches in length and/or height, including cellphones, smartphones and PDAs. All device volume controls must be set to silent or vibrate at all times."

Your tablet is a no-go.

Fans will be able to use their phones for calls and other needs in four designated zones at Chambers Bay in Washington, which will host the U.S. Open for the first time. The USGA will also offer an improved U.S. Open app with content for fans attending the event. 

However, fans will still be prohibited from using their cameras to take photo, video or stream the event on championship days (Thursday-Sunday). We're looking at you, Periscope and Meerkat users.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 17, 2015, 2:56 pm

With the Masters behind us, we turned to one of golf's most enjoyable voices to review Jordan Spieth's record-setting win. Paul McGinley, winning 2014 Ryder Cup captain, joined the show to talk about Jordan Spieth's approach to the Masters and how he took control of the event. The Irishman also shared his views on how Rory McIlroy turned around his Masters in the final 45 holes, as well how Justin Rose did in standing toe-to-toe with Spieth.

McGinley also spoke about the Windsor beachfront community in Florida, where he was doing a post-Masters exhibition, including the important takeaways for amateurs and what he hopes people learn from him when he talks golf.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 16, 2015, 4:02 pm

Before every shot, Masters champion Jordan Spieth does the same thing.

He stands behind the ball and identifies where he wants his ball to go. Then he takes a few soft practice swings to simulate the motion he needs to produce his desired shot shape. He faces the target line, one foot slightly ahead of the other, envisions the shot in his mind and steps in to swing.

It's a process that allows him to think through every aspect of a shot and free him up to execute. It's also the envy of his peers.

"His composure is Bernhard Langer-like, which is incredible for 21," said 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogivly to Golf.com. "That's his x-factor."

Developing a pre-shout routine, like Spieth has, is great for your game, too. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of golfers don't have such a routine, and it costs them strokes.

Dr. Michael Lardon can help. He's worked with a number of top professionals, including five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, to improve their mental approach to the game. He has a system that he calls the Mental Pre-Shot, that encourages players to think through a three-step process before each shot: figuring out the distance, intended shot and the dangers; feeling what the shot is like, either through visualization or practice strokes; and finally executing the shot without a thought in your brain. 

"The problem for the average player," Lardon said in an interview, "is that they don't have a caddie to walk them through the process."

Lardon emphasizes the need for a physical trigger that reminds the brain that it's time to execute. That could be touching the cap, taking a breath or whatever makes you feel comfortable. Lardon believes a device like Game Golf, a game-tracking product which requires a player to tap a sensor to a device kept on your belt before each shot, could serve as not only a trigger, but deliver other benefits in the way of data and analysis into your game.

It's a simple thing to learn, but takes a long time to master and to fully integrate into your approach. However, once you learn how to do it and make it a part of each shot, it doesn't take a lot of time and can really help you throughout your round. Even if you can't pull of shots like Jordan Spieth, you can at least learn to think your way around the golf course somewhat like the Masters champion.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 16, 2015, 2:28 pm

If you didn't know anything about Jordan Spieth heading into the Masters, the one thing that probably became very apparent -- other than his talent -- is that he likes to talk to his golf ball. A lot.

It was inevitable, then, that someone would put together a supercut of all the times CBS and ESPN cameras caught audio of Spieth talking to his ball en route to a four-shot, record-breaking Augusta National win. That's precisely what Michael Murphy did, and it's wonderful.

The chatter was a pretty even mix of asking the ball to "go hard" or land softly. Every once in a while, he lamented an off-line drive with a very simple "Oh no."

Hopefully this video will convince our friends in TV to let Spieth do his own color commentary when he plays.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 16, 2015, 1:25 pm

Tiger Woods is feeling "fine" just days after he injured his wrist in the final round of the Masters.

Woods' agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN.com that the 14-time major champion is healing well after Woods hit a tree root with his approach shot from the pine straw off the fairway at the par-4 ninth at Augusta National.

It's unclear if Woods had a medical professional look evaluate the injury. Woods was clearly in pain immediately after hitting the shot, as well for several holes after the stinger. Following the round, Woods told CBS that a bone in his hand or wrist popped out of place and he had to pop it back in to continue playing. 

Woods also said after the Masters that he wouldn't compete again "for a while." He won't be eligible for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, which is limited to the top 64 players in the Official World Golf Ranking as of Monday. Woods is 101st in the world.

Woods is expected to compete in The Players Championship the following week. He's the 2013 champion there. If he keeps a typical schedule leading into an expected U.S. Open appearance in June, Woods will then play the Memorial in Ohio as his final tournament before heading to Chambers Bay .


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 16, 2015, 2:12 am

If you're in your 30s or older, then seven years probably doesn't seem like a long time.

However, for new Masters champion Jordan Spieth, seven years is one-third of his life. It covers a lot of ground.

That journey from being a 14-year-old kid with dreams of Augusta National to being a record-breaking green-jacket winner is documented briefly in a new ad released by Spieth sponsor AT&T.

The telecom giant, which signed Spieth in 2014 and put its logo on his bag in February, used some footage of a 14-year-old Spieth speaking to a Dallas TV station about his goal of winning the Masters to spin forward to his four-shot win. Few people know the work Spieth put in over those seven years, but the fruits of the labor are now obvious.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 16, 2015, 2:00 am

If Jordan Spieth hadn't already won you over with his Masters performance last week, then this should.

Dallas Morning News reporter Barry Horn tweeted a picture Tuesday of a handwritten thank-you note Spieth wrote while a junior at Jesuit High School in Dallas to the Murphy family, which provided him a scholarship.

Handwritten letter of thanks for Jesuit scholarship from @JordanSpieth in 2009 in which he reveals @TheMasters dream. pic.twitter.com/95dU7soxda

— Barry Horn (@bhorn55) April 14, 2015

In the note, Spieth talks about the value of Jesuit's work-study program that gave the Texan the opportunity to work to earn the gifted money to pay for high school. He then goes on to talk about his accomplishments, including being the top-ranked junior amateur at the time. Eight months later, Spieth would finish T-16 in the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Spieth also shares his ultimate goal: "My dream is to play professionally and win the Masters."

The Murphy family has to take a lot of pride in the small role they played in helping Spieth achieve his dreams at the ripe old age of 21.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 15, 2015, 2:00 pm

Rory McIlroy may be a golfer, but he's a big fan of other sports, too, including rugby and soccer, er, football. It's not a surprise, then, that the Ulsterman would be willing to try a new variation on the sport.

McIlroy faced off against fellow Northern Irishman and "50 Shades of Grey" actor Jamie Dornan in a match of Circular Soccer, a new game where players try to score goals on a three-sided net in the middle of the playing field. The idea is to encourage players to develop more skills, including ball handling, on the pitch.

Naturally, the world No. 1 wins the match.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 14, 2015, 11:40 pm

The year's first men's major is in the books, and the PGA Tour moves on from Augusta National and the Masters to Harbour Town Golf Links and the RBC Heritage. The Hilton Head Island tournament is a relaxed, well-run tournament with a solid field.

Masters champion Jordan Spieth will keep his commitment to this tournament, headlining the field, along with the likes of Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and defending champion Matt Kuchar.

Here's a look at our top five this week.

1. Zach Johnson — The 2007 Masters winner was joint runner-up here in 2012, Johnson has been on the bottom of the weekend leaderboard the last two years at Harbour Town. However, a very nice T-9 at the Masters is his third top 20 in a row.

2. Jordan Spieth — Yes, he’s the best player in the world right now, but a player hasn’t won the Masters and Harbour Town back-to-back since Bernhard Langer in 1985. He was T-12 here last year, so he likes the place. He'll just be exhausted.

3. Russell Henley — Henley came out of the gate hot at the Masters, but cooled off to a 21st-place finish. Was not good here last year, but was T-6 in 2013. He's been making a lot of cuts.

4. Kevin Streelman — Karma is on Streelman’s side, winning the Masters Par 3 Contest partnering with a Make-A-Wish teen on the bag. He finished T-12 at the Masters. He was T-3 at Harbour Town in 2013.

5. Ian Poulter — Poulter is 4-for-4 in making cuts here, but has never been in the top 25. However, he was T-6 at the Masters and closed strongly.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 14, 2015, 3:52 pm

New Masters champion Jordan Spieth has been making the rounds in New York since becoming the second-youngest green jacket winner. He got on a private jet and made his way to the Big Apple for a whirlwind tour of media appearances, including a stop at CBS's "Late Show" with David Letterman.

Spieth spoke with the outgoing late-night host about the motivation he had to win the Masters a year after watching Bubba Watson earn a second green jacket in three years.

"Last year, I watched Bubba Watson, a deserving champion, walk up that 18th green with the win, watching him walk up to the patrons giving him a standing ovation, and that was tough," Spieth said. "I definitely had a chip on my shoulder and wanted to experience that myself."

Letterman expounded on Spieth's point, asking if Spieth couldn't wait until the next year -- this year -- to try again.

"I wanted to come back the next day (and try again), but I had to wait a year," Spieth said to laughter.

Letterman imagined what that might be like before Spieth joked, "Wouldn't be as special."

Spieth warmed up for the appearance with a Ron Burgundy-inspired voice exercise.

Warming up for @Letterman #youstayclassy pic.twitter.com/5o1nQU4oXd

— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) April 14, 2015

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 14, 2015, 3:46 pm

Grandstanding: A Yahoo Sports podcast
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After winning the Masters, Phil Mickelson went to Krispy Kreme, and Bubba Watson went to Waffle House.
So what Augusta, Ga, fast food joint did Jordan Spieth hit on Monday to celebrate his record-setting Masters win a day earlier?
Chick-fil-A. 
"Twelve-piece nugget and grilled chicken is my go-to," Spieth told Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk while appearing on the Yahoo Sports podcast Grandstanding.

Jordan Spieth speaks with his caddie Michael Greller on the 15th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Fresh off his victory in Augusta, Spieth spoke to Grandstanding podcast while standing outside the doors of David Letterman's studio. He gave Yahoo Sports the inside scoop on how he celebrated his victory, as well as how often he's wearing his green jacket.

Spieth also talked some actual golf, such as how he kept himself composed during a wire-to-wire performance, his first-ever Masters memory, and the best moment from Sunday's final round. Spieth offered up perspective on the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and also answered the question of whether he reads what people write on the Internet about him. Finally, he closed off with a little discussion about what it was like to walk up the 18th green at Augusta National with the entire world watching.

Thanks for listening to the Grandstanding podcast with Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk. If this is your first time hearing us, we do appreciate it. Hit us up on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding. See you next ep!

[Music by Chris Salmon and Tobin Summerfield]

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 13, 2015, 9:58 pm

Jordan Spieth tees off on the 11th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – This is the story of a broken tee, an unexpected handshake, and a sideways grin that, together, sum up Augusta National and the 2015 Masters.

You know how it ends, with Jordan Spieth winning a green jacket. Here’s what happened in the final hours before it happened.

You have to work hard to find a location at Augusta National Golf Club that doesn’t feature spectacular vistas of one of the world’s great golf courses. The greens at 16 and 18 are particularly popular, and the view of Amen Corner is so impressive that you’re willing to crowd amongst thousands of fellow patrons for a chance to cheer a shot you can’t even see.

So you’ve got to dig a bit to find a spot that’s both critical and sparsely populated. One such spot is the 11th tee, a tiny elevated plateau just up from the 10th green, a peninsula of green cut into the pine straw and azaleas. And it’s here that our little odyssey starts.

HOLE 11, White Dogwood

You know the old line about the Masters not beginning until the back nine on Sunday. This particular Masters was over right around 1:15 on Thursday afternoon, when Spieth first teed off. But you don’t often get a leaderboard like we had on Sunday, with the golf world’s four most fascinating characters holding down the top six spots. (Nothing but love for you too, Charley Hoffman and Justin Rose.)

Knowing full well I’m about to see either a coronation or a historic collapse, and that either would make a damn good story, I post up on the right side of the 11th tee. I watch Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Hoffman, Rose, and Spieth work their way through this hole, the 15th, and the 18th, all close enough to touch them.

I don’t, of course. You can get in real trouble with Augusta for far smaller offenses, as we’ll see in a bit.

But first: the 11th. A note on how this hole is set up: Augusta National is an incredibly hilly course, something that’s not obvious from TV. So you come off the 10th green, meet up with the 11th hole about a third of the way down the fairway, and then must walk back up another hill to get to the tee box. For this reason, many caddies don’t haul the 50-pound bag all the way up to the tee, instead shoving a driver in their player’s hands and saying, “Go hit it a long way, or something.”

Tiger Woods, right, walks with Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, and their caddies. (AP)Rory and Tiger are our first guests, and they walk up the fairway chatting. At this point, I don’t realize that Tiger has apparently done some kind of fairway surgery on himself, popping a wrist bone back into place, but I can say that Woods doesn’t appear to be showing any ill effects. His demeanor is relentless, while McIlroy has that little bouncy strut he gets when everything’s going exactly his way.

McIlroy tees off first, striping a 347-yard drive. He then makes an immediate beeline for the players-only Porta-John, tucked discreetly out of camera view behind a hedge. While McIlroy is taking care of business, Woods smacks his tee shot into the pine straw to the right of the fairway. He leaves his tee on the tee box and immediately sets off walking alone down the vast expanse.

There’s a lot of time to think in golf. Woods is, at this moment, 13 strokes behind Spieth. We don’t know what he’s thinking, but “so this is what it feels like” is a reasonable guess.

McIlroy, meanwhile, bounds out of the bathroom and – in violation of all codes of behavior at Augusta – begins running down the fairway to catch up to Woods. I mean a full-on, knees-high sprint. This would get a patron and their descendants keelhauled, but when you’re a four-time major winner, the rules are a bit different.

The broken tee still sits there on the tee box as Mickelson and Hoffman, both smiling broadly, make their own way up the hill. Mickelson has just birdied 10 and is loving life, and Hoffman appears relaxed and, honestly, just happy to be here. He grabs a water bottle from a players-only cooler as Mickelson picks up Woods’ discarded tee and tosses it to the side.

Hoffman’s first tee shot drifts wide, and he growls a “No, Charley!” as it flew. Mickelson, at this point five strokes back of Spieth, keeps his grin as he walks back down the fairway.

And then it’s time for the leaders. Rose and Spieth walk up 11 with their caddies in tow, not speaking but not dismissive of each other, either. They know that Amen Corner waits just a few hundred yards away; they know their professional lives could be defined by what awaits them in the next 8 holes.

Rose’s drive is workmanlike, but Spieth hits his and immediately points hard right. “That’s a bogey,” someone in the gallery says, and like most things said in the gallery, it’s both stupid and wrong. Both Spieth and Rose par that hole, and at this point Spieth’s lead is six.

Woods’ broken tee rests there as patrons pack up their chairs and leave. Finally, only a father and son stand there at the ropes’ edge, trying to get the attention of a course marshal. A member of the private security team that patrols Augusta ambles over, and he tosses the tee to the kid. He grins, turning it over and over in his hands.

Off to 15.

HOLE 15, Firethorn

The 15th is the final par 5 on the Augusta docket, and thus the last realistic chance for a leaderboard-altering eagle. If someone’s going to make a move with four holes to go, going low at 15 is an absolute must.

We’ll go in reverse order here, for reasons that will become obvious. As Rose and Spieth walk up, Rose points at a young kid sitting cross-legged on the right side of the fairway, and rolls him his ball. It seems a noble gesture; I only find out later that Rose has just bogeyed the 14th, and thus he surely wants to get rid of that underperforming ball with all due speed. He and Spieth tee off without incident.

Preceding them came Mickelson and Hoffman, and it’s clear that Amen Corner has worked over both men. Phil’s smile has a lot less zip on it, but Hoffman – lord, Hoffman looks like a man who’s been told the date and manner of his own death. He walks stiff-backed, all traces of a smile gone from his face, his eyes locked somewhere over the pines in the distance. Both of them tee up and off easily enough; Mickelson, though he doesn’t know it yet, has an eagle just a few minutes in his future.

These four are anticlimactic to our first pairing, however. McIlroy arrives on 15 with about 43 percent less pep in his step. Woods has gone from arrogant to merely businesslike. And when he tees off, following McIlroy, well, that’s when the real action on 15 begins.

“LIGHT THE CANDLE!” some backwards-hatted bro bellows, and before Woods has even picked up his tee (he cleans up after himself this time) a Richmond County deputy – armed, unbelievably enough – has taken hold of the bro’s arm and is leading him over to another member of the security team.

(If you're curious what "light the candle means," well, here's sort of an explanation.)

Jordan Spieth smiles as he wears his green jacket. (REUTERS)Up strides a course marshal sporting a blue (not green!) jacket, a white Masters baseball cap, an orange GALLERY ribbon and the folksy accent of a man who knows his way around both an SEC tailgate and a boardroom. He takes the bro’s badge and begins calling in the number, summoning transport to rid the club of the bro’s presence. He then hands the badge to the officer, who tucks it in a breast pocket.

“I can’t believe you would do something like that,” the marshal says in a disappointed-father tone. “I cannot believe it.”

The bro begins protesting that this is his grandparents’ badge, and when bro’s friend comes up and tries to intervene, the marshal says, “Yes, I’m kicking him out. You want me to kick you out too?”

So it looks bad for our bro, but then peak Augusta kicks in. Our bro notes that he’s a student at a notable Southern university – surprise – and manages to drop a few names that catch the marshal’s interest – double surprise. A little back-and-forth later, some proper obsequiousness from the bro, and the badge is returned with a classic let’s-not-let-this-happen-again handshake. The golf cart that has been summoned to politely but firmly bum-rush our bro to the front gates is sent off, and all is as it should be at Augusta.

HOLE 18, Holly

And here we are, the end of the line. It’s all been decided now, everyone except Rose knowing this is a done deal. When Tiger and Rory approach the tee, they do so with the resigned air of men who know their cause is lost, but march forward into oblivion. Both of these guys can walk out of here with some measure of pride, Woods because nobody expected him to be still playing in Augusta with the Sunday sun setting, McIlroy because he’d played so poorly earlier in the week that no one believed he could make any kind of run.

Behind them come Mickelson and Hoffman, and both of them appear to have accepted their fates. Phil has been here, of course, coming in second in roughly 700 majors over the last decade. Hoffman looks like he’s just watched his car get towed away, which is a step up from the haunted demeanor he had before.

And then comes our leader and his playing partner. Rose has his jaw set hard; five strokes back, he knows his only hope at this point is to kneecap Spieth, and that probably wouldn’t result in a green jacket for him either. So he sends his final tee shot into the night, breaking a chunk off the tee as he swings, and then it’s all up to Spieth.

It’s here, the moment this kid has dreamed of for his whole life, even if that’s a period of time that’s a lot shorter than most of us reading this would believe. But he’s worked so long, so hard to get to this point, putting in hour after hour of thankless practice, and today, it’s paid off. He’s maintained a stern, reserved face every time I’ve seen him this round, but, at long last, after hitting his final tee shot of the 2015 Masters, he finally cracks.

Jordan Spieth leaves the last tee box at Augusta National and takes the final steps of his old life, grinning all the way.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 13, 2015, 1:33 am

Phil Mickelson reacts after hitting onto the 16th green. (AP)Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose ran into a buzzsaw named Jordan Spieth at this Masters. Spieth, who tied Tiger Woods' 72-hole tournament scoring record at 18-under 270, beat the pair of major champions by four shots for his first major title. 

Mickelson and Rose posted 14-under 274, an incredible total at Augusta National.

Mickelson won his third Masters in 2010 at 16 under par. This week was his second-best total at this golf course. It was Rose's best at Augusta National by nine shots. 

Most weeks, these guys would have been in a playoff for the green jacket. In fact, 274 would have won every Masters from 1934 to 1964 but one – and that would have meant a playoff with Ben Hogan in 1953.

Compare Rose and Mickelson's total this week to every Masters winner. It would have won or tied against any total in Masters history other than five: Jack Nicklaus in 1965 (-17), Raymond Floyd in 1976 (-17), Woods in 1997 (-18) and 2001 (-16), Mickelson against himself in 2010 (-16). Ben Crenshaw and Charl Schwartzel shot 14-under to win in 1995 and 2011, respectively.

Only one other player has ever finished the Masters at 14-under par and lost: David Duval, who finished two shots behind Tiger Woods in 2001 when he completed the Tiger Slam.

Great score, guys. Wrong week.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 11:56 pm

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At 21 years old, Jordan Spieth just completed one of the best Masters ever played. He's now the second-youngest Masters champion in history, just behind Tiger Woods, who was the youngest ever when he won in 1997. 

Of course, it's natural to compare the two efforts.

Spieth set or matched a number of records en route to his first major title, eclipsing several of Woods' '97 records in the process.

Bubba Watson puts the traditional green jacket on compatriot Jordan Spieth. (REUTERS)The Texan shot 14-under 130 for the first two rounds to take over the 36-hole scoring record from Ray Floyd.

His 16-under 200 mark through 54 holes also took down a record set by Floyd and matched by Woods in 1997.

With a bogey on the 72nd hole, Spieth matched Woods' 18-under 270 record from 18 years ago.

The new Masters champion became the first wire-to-wire green jacket winner -- with no ties -- since Floyd's then-record-shattering 1976 tournament. That's right, Woods didn't have the first-round lead in '97. He opened in 40 and closed in 30 to shoot and opening 2-under 70 to sit three shots behind John Huston. (Remember him?)

While Woods and Spieth both wound up shooting 270, Woods never reached 19 under par. Spieth did that, on the 15th hole on Sunday, only to cede that with a final bogey. Spieth also set the tournament record for most birdies with 28, overtaking Phil Mickelson's former mark of 25 in 2010.

However, Spieth won by just four shots. Woods won by 12. Spieth beat guys who had won majors in the last 24 months, in Mickelson and Justin Rose. Woods beat 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite, followed by Tommy Tolles and Tom Watson.

So who was best? It's hard to say, especially considering Augusta National has been lengthened and changed several times since 1997. But Woods' effort in '97 probably still has the edge. Only 16 players were under part that year, as opposed to 32 this year, and none in '97 were even close to Tiger.

Simply, the course played a lot tougher against everyone in the field but Woods in '97, which wasn't necesarily the case this year, when a total of five players finished at least 11-under par.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 11:37 pm

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Coming into Sunday at the Masters, Jordan Spieth held a four-shot lead, and that was enough to ensure that this day would see a memorable story, one either of triumph at a young age or of gut-punch collapse.

With barely a doubt, Spieth delivered a triumph that will now have the entire golf world wondering if it hasn't just witnessed the second coming of ... Tiger Woods.

A lofty, if not premature comparison for sure, but consider this: Woods was 21 years old when he won his first major, the Masters, doing it in record fashion at 18-under par for the tournament. (No one had finished lower than 17-under before.) Spieth is 21, just a few months older than Woods was back in 1997, and won this Masters at 18-under.

What's more, Spieth became just the fifth player – and first since 1976 – to lead the tournament wire-to-wire, something not even Tiger has managed to do in his four Masters victories.

Defending champion Bubba Watson puts the traditional green jacket on Jordan Spieth. (REUTERS)Spieth has said he's dreamed of playing in the Masters his whole life, which is inspiring but not quite as impressive when you consider the fact that he hadn't even reached preschool when Tiger won his first green jacket. So it's not like he's suffered long in pursuit of his dream. But after an opening-round 64 on Thursday, he's been carrying the weight of expectation for the entire tournament. (Maybe even longer than that, considering he finished second here in his debut last year and entered this year's tournament as one of the heavy favorites.)

Spieth had spent all weekend trying to outrun the best in golf, and by Sunday, the best in golf had marshaled for one last run at him. For sheer name recognition, the Sunday leaderboard ranked as one of the best in Masters history, combining the brand new (Spieth), the iconic (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson), the reigning world No. 1 (Rory McIlroy), and the leading edge of golf's current generation (Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose).

Only Rose (four strokes back), Mickelson (five strokes), and Charley Hoffman (six strokes) had any realistic chance of catching Spieth. But when Augusta National announced highly favorable pin locations for the final day, ending a week in which Spieth had birdied virtually every hole on the course at one time or another, it was clear that only an exceptional effort would catch Spieth, and even that might not be enough.

Spieth ended the first day three strokes ahead of Hoffman, and no one would get any closer until the second hole on Sunday. At that point, Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner, had just drained his second birdie to open the day and move within three shots. But on the very next hole, Spieth birdied and Rose parred, and the lead jumped back up to four. 

Woods and McIlroy, meanwhile, weren't able to mount any kind of early charge. The Johnsons (Dustin and Zach) put together the best runs of the rest of the field in the early going, but it was like trying to catch a horse at the Kentucky Derby with a half-lap lead. Even when McIlroy caught fire on the back nine, using four birdies to move him to 12-under for the tournament, the world's No. 1 was still not even close to contention.

The only person that could catch Spieth on this day was Spieth.

He wasn't perfect, but for every misstep, Spieth had an answer, and then some. He bogeyed two holes on the front nine, but birdied three. Rose, his playing partner, was never closer than three shots, and even then for only a few moments.

By the time they made the turn, Spieth, at 17-under, was five strokes in the clear, leaving only one thing in doubt: would he catch or better Woods' tournament record of 18-under.

On the par-5 13th, Spieth opted to challenge the frontside creek and go for the green in two.

"Go hard," he yelled at the ball as his approach flew through the air. It did, landed softly on the green and rolled to within 14 feet of the pin.

If there was any doubt – and there wasn't, not even with Mickelson lurking at four back – it effectively ended right then. Spieth made birdie, moving him to 18-under, and the quest to match '97 Tiger continued.

Another birdie at 15 put him at 19-under, somewhere no player had ever been in the 78 previous times the Masters had been played.

Only a bogey at 18 kept him from setting the record. Still, he tied Tiger's record of 18-under, and the green jacket was his.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 10:57 pm

Tiger Woods injured his right wrist on the ninth hole at Augusta National on Sunday of the Masters after his club clipped a root while hitting a shot out of the pine straw.

Apparently, that injury required Woods to play doctor on course. Afterwards, Woods had a quite graphic explanation about what happened: "A bone kind of popped out and a joint kind of went out of place, but I put it back in."

"Really?" asked CBS's Bill Macatee.

"Yeah," Tiger said nonchalantly.

 

Woods managed to make par on the hole, but grabbed the ball out of the cup and tipped his cap with his left hand. As he made his way toward the 10th tee, a fan reached out for a fist bump, which Woods reciprocated with his off hand.

Woods winced again after hitting his tee shot on No. 10 – his first swing after the approach shot on No. 9. He wound up bogeying the 10th to move him back to 4-under in the Masters.

Later he explained the injury this way: "I didn't know there was a tree root there. I drove my hand or drove the club straight into it. It didn't move. But my body kept moving. I told the guys in there that there was a little joint that popped out and I was able to somehow put it back in, which didn't feel very good. But at least it got back in and I could move my hand again."

When asked how it felt, Woods said "it's sore. I'm not going to be lifting any weights for a little bit."

The 14-time major winner has dealt with plenty of injury setbacks over his career, particularly in the last five years. From a bad back, to an injured knee to a strained Achilles', Woods has battled injuries for much of the past few years. Prior to this week's Masters, he hadn't played a competitive round since February as he tried to rehab an ailing back.

Woods, who finished at 5-under for the tournament, said he was happy with his game, but would not be playing again "for a while."

Author: Jay Hart
Posted: April 12, 2015, 9:14 pm

It seems the breaks rarely go Dustin Johnson's way in the major championships. However, in the final round of the Masters, one finally worked out for D.J.

On the seventh green on Sunday, Johnson was getting a read on his birdie putt, but then the hill and gravity took over, pulling the ball closer toward the hole.

 

With a decidedly easier putt – and a handy read on what the ball did rolling toward the hole – Johnson made the birdie putt.

That birdie was the second in a row for Johnson, following a lengthy birdie at the par-3 sixth. He added another birdie at the par-5 eighth to keep pace with leader Jordan Spieth, albeit well back of the 21-year-old leader.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 8:18 pm

If history serves as any guide at the Masters, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose should feel very good about their chances to slip on their first green jacket on Sunday evening.

Spieth, who is at 16-under 200 through 54 holes of the Masters, will be paired for the final round with 2013 U.S. Open champion Rose, who is four shots behind the 21-year-old Texan. So what's the big deal? In the last 24 Masters, 20 champions have come from the final group on Sunday.

However, until Bubba Watson won his second Masters title last year from the final group – playing alongside Spieth, who then was vying to become youngest-ever Masters winner – the prior three Masters winner had come from outside the final group.

In 2011, Charl Schwartzel was tied for second place after three rounds, four shots behind Rory McIlroy. However, he wasn't in the final group. The South African was one of nine players to hold at least a share of the lead on Sunday, but Schwartzel birdied the final four holes of the tournament – a Masters record – to win by two shots over Aussies Jason Day and Adam Scott.

A year later, Watson wasn't in the final group at Augusta National but the penultimate group with Louis Oosthuizen, who wound up meeting Watson in a sudden-death playoff for the green jacket. Watson shot 68, while Oosthuizen shot 69. Then on the second extra hole, Watson's curved wedge from the pine straw led to a Masters-clinching par.

When Adam Scott ended the Aussie Masters curse in 2013, he did it from outside the final pairing as well. Like Watson the year prior, Scott was in the next-to-last group, a shot behind 54-hole co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker. Scott's 69 was good enough to tie Cabrera, who shot 70, and head to a playoff that again went two holes. This time, Scott made birdie to beat the 2009 champion and take his first major title.

Of course, like with investments, past results are not indicative of future performance – especially with the familiar Sunday hole locations at the Masters.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 12:48 am

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09: The clubhouse is seen before the start of the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)AUGUSTA, Ga. - For 50 holes, Jordan Spieth turned the Masters from a tournament into a coronation. But a late double-bogey put a crack in his previously impenetrable foundation, and suddenly a few challengers are within a handful of strokes of Spieth's lead. It'll be a challenge for them to catch him, but it'll be just as much of a challenge for Spieth to remain within himself and close out a wire-to-wire Masters.

With all due respect to Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and others 10 strokes back or more, it will take both a titanic effort on their part and a total collapse atop the leaderboard for them to have a hope of contending. So we'll wish them well and keep our attention on the four men with the best chance to win on Sunday. In descending order down the leaderboard, they are:

Jordan Spieth (Leader, -16)
The case for: Spieth's chip on 18, a tricky up-and-down just minutes after he'd double-bogeyed 17, was his most critical shot of the tournament. He gently nestled the ball up near the flag and parred the hole; a bogey could have been disastrous for his confidence. That shot righted the ship and kept Spieth four shots clear of the field. If he keeps playing as well as he has so far, this Masters is his in a walk. Mild jog, at best.

The case against: Spieth is still just 21, and he's never played a bigger round than he will on Sunday. How will he handle adversity, and there will be adversity? He surrendered a Sunday lead last year. Is he able to put that out of his mind?

Justin Rose (-12)
The case for: Rose is a major winner, with the 2013 U.S. Open already his. He won that coming from behind on Sunday, albeit only from two strokes down. He played the back nine at Augusta in five-under on Saturday, which bodes well as long as he doesn't let Spieth get too far ahead.

The case against: Rose, and all the others behind Spieth, must overcome a substantial deficit, and Rose took a while to get started on Saturday. If he gives Spieth any room to run on Sunday, the young Texan might be too far away to catch.

Phil Mickelson (-11)
The case for: Phil's the most decorated and veteran golfer of this quartet, and he's been here plenty of times before. (He's fallen short plenty of times from this position before, too, but let's not focus on that.) Mickelson has the ability to roll in some long beauties, and usually is good for at least one how-the-hell-did-he-do-that shot on major Sundays. He'll need help, but another green jacket isn't out of the question.

The case against: Phil generally plays about 16 good holes every round, but he has no margin for such errors this time around. He'll have to do even better than his 67 to catch Spieth, and he'll have to eliminate any of the wiggly putts that always seem to show up at the worst possible time.

Charley Hoffman (-10)
The case for: Steadiness. Hoffman has lurked within sight of Spieth ever since teeing off in the very first group on Thursday. Plus, he's the subject of the greatest improv rap ever written about the Masters.

The case against: This is only Hoffman's second Masters, so the pressure of the moment could get to him. He tied for 27th in his only other visit to Augusta, in 2011. He wasn't able to capitalize on a decent scoring day Saturday, only finishing one-under in Round 3. Plus, he cut his luxurious locks.

Play begins at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday at Augusta, and the Mickelson-Hoffman pairing tees off at 2:40 p.m., with the others to follow 10 minutes later. Not much longer now.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 12, 2015, 12:00 am

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Tiger Woods' precipitous fall has blinded golf fans to another inescapable fact: for the last couple of years, Phil Mickelson has pretty much stunk, too.

Mickelson hasn't won since the Open Championship in 2013, and hasn't placed above a tie for 17th in seven tournaments this season. Yet here he was on Saturday, shooting a 67 that tied Justin Rose for the lowest round of the day, and putting himself, against all expectation, into the conversation for another green jacket.

Sporting a salmon-pink shirt to honor Arnold Palmer, Mickelson started hot, birdie'ing holes 2, 3 and 4 and 10 to make the turn at minus-10. He'd finish the day at 11 under, though not without a bit of jockeying between birdies and bogeys on the back nine. His finest moment of the round came on 16, as he holed a spectacular 41-footer:

 

A missed putt the very next hole -- this is Phil, after all -- dropped a stroke and helped keep him out of the final pairing. But all in all, he will begin Masters Sunday five strokes behind Jordan Spieth. It's a significant gap, but not an insurmountable one; Mickelson made up three strokes on Saturday.

Regardless of how Sunday turns out for Mickelson, he's garnered another highlight, and proven to himself and his fans that he still can turn out a stellar round on the big stage.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 11:22 pm

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There's doubt now.

Just when it seemed like Sunday would be a celebratory parade for Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan made double-bogey 6 on the 17th hole in the third round of the Masters.

Instead of carrying a nearly insurmountable lead in the final round, Spieth's 2-under 70 reduced his five-shot overnight edge to four heading into Sunday. Spieth is still on pace to topple Tiger Woods' 72-hole tournament record of 18-under 270, but, at 16 under through three rounds – a 54-hole record at the Masters – a first major win is not a certainty.

Instead of having a tee time with journeyman Charley Hoffman as he did Saturday, Spieth now has to play with 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. Rose birdied five of his last six holes to shoot 67, get to 12-under par and land a spot in the final pairing – a great omen considering 20 of the last 24 Masters champs have come from the final group.

Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, who also shot a Saturday 67, is a shot behind Rose. Hoffman is not out of it, shooting 71 to reach 10 under and have an outside chance to catch Spieth.

Things could have been even tighter for Spieth. He sprayed his approach on 18 to the right of the green and into the gallery, leaving him in an almost impossible spot from which to get up and down. But that's exactly what he did, flopping a pitch that was Mickelson-esque to within nine feet, then drained the putt to save par and, maybe, a bit of confidence as he walked to the clubhouse.

A slew of players are tied for fifth a 6-under total, including Tiger Woods, whose 68 was his lowest major round in four years, and Rory McIlroy, seeking to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy could tell Spieth a little something about four-stroke, 54-hole leads at the Masters. In 2011, he went into the final round with a four-stroke edge over a quartet of players only to shoot 80 on Sunday, finishing a mind-blowing 10 strokes behind eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 11:09 pm

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - It wasn't a particularly tough putt, as these things go, a little six-footer on the 8th hole. But when Tiger Woods drained it for a birdie, the YEAHHH that erupted from the crowd hit with physical force.

Whatever woes ailed Woods earlier this year, he's proven he's still got quality golf left to play, and his gallery proved on Saturday that they're ready to cheer if given the slightest opportunity. Saurday's four-under round, which left him at -6 for the tournament, dragged him back into contention. Sort of. He's double-digits behind Jordan Spieth and won't come close to winning, but this weekend, that's not the point.

For so many majors of late, following Woods has been like seeing the Rolling Stones in concert: you know exactly what you're going to get, and the rush comes from nostalgia rather than appreciation. But here in 2015, against all expectations and assumptions, Woods has returned to ... well, not to championship form, but to a level of golf that's put him on near the top of leaderboard. Saturday marked Woods' first sub-70 round in a major on the weekend since the final round of the 2011 Masters. For a guy who didn't appear to know which end of the club to hold in stumbling out of tournaments earlier this year, this renaissance qualifies as a minor miracle.

Woods still commands a large gallery, but there was something special about Saturday's. It grew and swelled, tidelike, as the round went on. Woods began his day with birdies in three of the first four holes, and that was enough to attract the patrons to his pairing. The gallery grew and grew, to the point that it was 15 people deep at places, and the only way to figure out whether he made a putt, even standing 20 feet away, was to listen for the roar.

The biggest, maybe, came at 13. Woods started off the hole by dumping his tee shot into the trees on the left, only to rally for an improbable birdie.

 

Augusta has always been a powerful draw for Woods, a place where he's felt at home and at ease. The challenge now will be for him to translate his success here to other venues. But it's clear from Saturday at Augusta that many thousands of his fans are still around.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 10:41 pm

James Hahn missed the cut in his Masters debut by a shot. He could have saved himself the shot he needed to play the weekend, and no one probably would have noticed.

That's because Hahn called a penalty on himself on the first green on Friday when his ball moved.

I called a penalty on myself on the first hole Friday when my ball moved at address on the green. Ball moved 1 dimple, but indeed moved.

— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) April 11, 2015

Hahn made a bogey on No. 1 en route to a 2-over 74 that put him at 3 over through two rounds and a shot off the cut line.

Missed cut by 1.Sometimes you don't get rewarded for doing the right thing,but it doesn't mean you shouldn't do the right thing. #integrity

— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) April 11, 2015

The 33-year-old new dad may not have made the cut at Augusta National, but earned a ton of respect for showing his integrity.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 9:42 pm

When Jordan Spieth was just 14 – so a mere seven years ago – he was a rising high-schooler headed to the Junior British Open, a tournament for the best under-16 golfers in the world. 

At the time, a Dallas-area TV station profiled Spieth and the progress he'd made in a couple of years with instructor Cameron McCormick. 

As part of the piece, the reporter asks Spieth about the goals he had established with his teacher. It was pretty clear.

Spieth said, "My ultimate goal ... is to win the Masters."

In control of the tournament with less than two rounds to play, Spieth may well be on his way to achieving his dream.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 9:17 pm

Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods: Things between these golfers escalated during the Players Championships. Their fight has continued on after the tournament ended and Woods has even publically stated that he will not make up with Garcia.AUGUSTA, Ga. - Just outside the Augusta National clubhouse Friday, Tiger Woods was speaking to a small crowd of media when Sergio Garcia, his own interviews done, walked behind Woods and genially clapped his shoulder as he passed. Woods turned and nodded an equally pleasant "Hey."

That was it. Garcia didn't leap in off the top rope and smash a chair over Woods' head, alas. Such things are not done in golf. But if they were, these two would be the ones doing them.

Woods and Garcia, playing partners in Saturday's third round of the Masters, have an icy relationship stretching back nearly two decades. The two have exchanged a few unfortunate remarks and poison-tipped witticisms, but more often they've conducted their business in the passive-aggressive style of golf since time immemorial.

As with their brief interaction on Friday afternoon, it's usually Sergio making the first move, for good or ill, and Tiger making the last. Shortly after Saturday's pairings were announced, Garcia offered up the following waddaya-gonna-do tweet:

It was gonna happen at some point sooner or later! Paired with @TigerWoods tomorrow but don't you worry guys, I'm sure we'll both be fine 😉

— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) April 11, 2015

Woods has not commented publicly. Of course, his play in majors against Garcia, even at this late date, tends to speak for itself:

Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia will tee off together an hour from now. In 8 previous rounds together in majors, Garcia has never broken par.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 11, 2015

Their rivalry dates to 1999, when Woods, already a major-winning force of nature, first encountered Garcia, a phenom whose acclaim exceeded his achievements. Playing in the PGA Championship at Medinah, Garcia very nearly defeated Woods in a round punctuated by one of the great recovery shots/celebration hops in golf history:

Woods, even at 23 already full in The World Is Mine mode, didn't much care for Garcia's antics, including some attempts at intimidation on the green. (Woods, of course, has no problem with similar greens gamesmanship of his own.)

Woods and Garcia jabbed back and forth over the next few years, primarily in regard to Ryder Cup play, the one arena where Woods appeared somewhat mortal during the 2000s. When Woods beat a yellow-clad Garcia in the 2006 Open Championship, he reportedly texted a friend, "I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird."

The Woods-Garcia rivalry really boiled over in 2013, when Garcia accused Woods of interfering with his swing at the Players' Championship by inciting the crowd. Woods insisted he thought Garcia had already swung. Garcia fired back: "I'm not going to lie, he's not my favorite guy to play with. He's not the nicest guy on tour." A few weeks later, Garcia said he'd try to make amends with Woods by serving "fried chicken," the race-laden language forcing him to issue an apology.

That particular twist to the feud forced everyone right up to Jack Nicklaus to take a side, with most trying to brush it off. Since then, there have been no major dust-ups, just the standard cool detachment. During practice rounds earlier in the week, patrons reported that as Garcia putted on one green, Woods played through, and the two did not exchange a single word.

They'll have plenty of time in one another's company on Saturday. They probably won't break out the folding chairs this round either, but there will be plenty of green ones in the gallery just in case.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 5:07 pm

No one has ever played Augusta National Golf Club for the first 36 holes of a Masters as well as Jordan Spieth.

The 21-year-old set the 36-hole scoring record on Friday at 14-under 130, ending Raymond Floyd's 39-year mark from 1976. Spieth is five shots clear of 38-year-old Charley Hoffman, who is known more for his now trimmed long hair and propensity to break clubs than for seriously contending in major champions. 

His closest pursuers with stronger resumes are another two shots behind Hoffman. 

This thing is over, right?

That was the sentiment here 19 years ago after Greg Norman opened with a course-record-tying 9-under 63 and followed it with a Friday 69 to carry a four-shot edge into the weekend. He expanded that lead to six on Sunday as Nick Faldo shot 73 to Norman's 71. The expectation was that Norman's final lap around Augusta would be a coronation, with the Shark finally earning the major that teased him most. (All four did.)

A simple Wikipedia search tells us Norman didn't win; Faldo, who closed with 5-under 67, did somewhat repentantly as Norman collapsed to 78 on Sunday.

Norman, perhaps having flashbacks on Friday afternoon, had some advice for Spieth: Don't let up.

“You've got to make sure to play the way you've been playing,” Norman said, according to Golfweek. “Don't change your game plan. You can easily go unconsciously into a bit of a conservative game. That's happened to me a couple of times during the round where instead of going at it, I will just put it 15 feet to the right. So you disrupt your normal game plan by having a Masters lead. There's a little bit of, I guess, fighting within at times.”

Perhaps, but Raymond Floyd shot a pair of weekend 70s in 1976 (after going into the final two rounds with a 5-stroke lead) to win by eight over Ben Crenshaw. What Floyd avoided and Norman didn't was the big number. Spieth couldn't avoid it down the stretch a year ago when he tried to pull the lead back from eventual winner Bubba Watson on the second nine. The then-20-year-old Spieth found Rae's Creek with his tee shot to the par-3 12th, leading to a bogey. Spieth wouldn't make another birdie the rest of the way, as Watson cruised to a second Masters title.

Mistakes are fine, but they cannot be compounded.

Spieth will have to come back to the field, or at least tred water for a long time, for someone to have a chance to catch him. However, they'll have to go deeper under par as well. Making three eagles in a round, like Dustin Johnson did on Friday, would be a great start. 

Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson thinks the field will need some help from above -- not divine intervention, but heat. 

"I think for us to catch him, we're going to have to get a little fire in the golf course," Mickelson said. "But for that to happen, the rains have to hold off."

Unfortunately for Mickelson, the Augusta weather forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of rain on Friday night, meaning Augusta National will likely again play right into Spieth's hands.

More from Greg Norman on Yahoo Sports:


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 12:28 am

If someone is going to catch Jordan Spieth at this Masters, they're going to have to make up strokes in a hurry.

Dustin Johnson showed the blueprint on Friday, making a tournament record three eagles in Round 2 as part of a 5-under 67 that has him in a tie for third place.

Johnson made eagle 3 on three of the four par 5s at Augusta National – Nos. 2, 8 and 15 – to make a charge up the leaderboard.

Until Friday, no player in the prior 78 Masters had ever made more than two eagles in the same round.

"It was pretty special and a lot of fun, too," said Johnson.

On No. 2, Johnson hit a 5-iron from 207 yards to 18 feet, then drained the putt. At the uphill eighth, Johnson creamed a 3-iron from 250 yards to 11 feet at the eighth. And made the putt. And at No. 15, it was again a 5-iron, hitting his second shot to inside 2 feet from 205 yards for a tap-in eagle.

He also made birdie on the 13th, the other par 5 on the course, to play the Augusta's longest holes in 7 under par, which just also happens to be his aggregate score through 36 holes. He's 9-under par on the par 5s through two rounds.

That's not a coincidence. The Doral winner is one of the Tour's longest hitters. However, he didn't have some kind of superhuman strength on Friday.

"It wasn't like I was hitting it any farther," Johnson said. "It was normal shots that I've had in the past. Just it's always tough around here to hit the shots the correct distance with the wind. The wind was blowing pretty hard today. So to figure out the wind and get the shot in the right spot, it was tough. But I just hit some great shots on those holes."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 11, 2015, 12:10 am

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)AUGUSTA, Ga. - Rory McIlroy and Camellia, the 10th hole at Augusta, have a strange relationship.

The hole starts up by the putting green, in the shadow of the Augusta National clubhouse, then drops off steeply. Cabins overlook the left side of the hole; on the right is a large expanse of round-destroying trees. It was at this hole in 2011 that McIlroy, who had up until that point been throttling the Masters field (this is an important point we'll return to later) saw his lead evaporate after a disastrous tee shot.

And it was on this hole, four years later, that McIlroy found some measure of redemption, kicking off a five-under back nine that may not have saved his Masters, but certainly saved his sanity. McIlroy had played the opening nine at +3, and stood on the cusp of missing the cut.

That would have been an ugly way indeed to close out his first attempt at a career slam. He's almost certainly lost this chance at a "McIlslam" or a "Slamilroy" or whatever the heck we would call it if he held all four majors at once, but at least he'll play the weekend and won't face an early ride home. But he can take comfort in the fact that he played the back 9 at -5, an exceptional series of holes that gives him the tiniest measure of confidence heading into the weekend.

"If I can string together four more nines like that, I'll have a chance," he said shortly after the round.

The back-nine run is key for McIlroy, who has often fallen completely apart when his chances of victory fade away. It's all part of a growing process for the world's No. 1, who's still relatively young [just 25] but is finding himself upstaged by someone even younger.

"I thought 10-under would be enough to win the entire tournament," McIlroy said. "I never thought someone would be there after the second day."

As for Jordan Spieth, whom McIlroy was trailing by 7 when he left the course and 13 when he returned? "I know better than most what can happen with a big lead," McIlroy said, before adding with a wry smile, "A few guys could catch him. It would take something exceptional for me to do that."

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 10:55 pm

Welcome back to another episode of Grandstanding, friends. We've got two very different episodes here slapped together in one, but we think you deserve the very best.

Rickie Fowler.First off, this is Masters week, and we've got an interview with Rickie Fowler, he of the outrageous fashion and highly competent golf game. Fowler comes to us courtesy of Mercedes Benz Golf, and he talks of Masters preparation, Tiger Woods, and much more.

After that, we speculate a bit on the Masters, but we've got other, more pressing pimento cheese sandwiches to craft. See, Kaduk's beloved Wisconsin Badgers lost in the NCAA final on Monday, and Kaduk was there to watch it all unfold. We spend quite some time discussing how it is that teams can break our hearts this way. And right when we've got Kaduk feeling better, here comes Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab, our compatriot on the Shutdown Corner Podcast and a fellow Badger, to rip the scars off again. Anyway, it's therapeutic for them, and when your team loses, we'll be there for you, too.

Thanks for listening to the Grandstanding podcast with Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk. Subscribe via iTunes and leave a review right here. Hit us up on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding. See you next ep!

[Music by Chris Salmon and Tobin Summerfield]

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 10:41 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Let's just put this out there, shall we? Once Tiger Woods announced he'd be returning from a long layoff at this week's Masters, the Tiger Woods Hating Brigade believed Woods would miss the cut so badly that the gallery would simply point and laugh, shaming him right out of the game altogether. The Tiger Woods Sanctification Society believed Woods would drop birdies like grenades, detonating the greens and the leaderboard en route to another green jacket.

Both contingents are equally delusional, and both were equally wrong, as Woods finished the second day of the Masters at 2-under and safe for the weekend. Sure, he's 12 strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth, but that's not the point. Woods, both because of recent injury and an extended period of poor play, was even money, at best, to make the cut ... and that's one hell of a fall.

Tiger Woods reacts to his missed putt on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 10, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)"Tiger vs. the Field" has become "Tiger vs. the Early Departure."

"To basically change an entire pattern," Woods said immediately after the round, "and put it togehter and put it in a position where I can compete in a major championship like this is something I'm very proud [of]."

Woods played Friday's round exactly the way he needed to: taking advantage of good breaks and minimizing mistakes. He birdied the first, then bogeyed the sixth, but got back that stroke and one more with birdies on the next two holes. He had but a single birdie on the back nine, but managed several long par saves, including a 14-footer on 17 that he used to make routinely and now cards only rarely.

We're five years from Woods' return to Augusta following his fire-hydrant-and-scandal-induced layoff. That year, Woods shut out distractions of every stripe, like planes flying mocking signs, to finish in a tie for fourth. For a guy who basically rolled up to the course with virtually no prep, having not played a competitive round in months, Woods' performance on that week was perhaps the most impressive non-winning tournament of his career.

"I'm still right there," Woods said, displaying that optimism that borders on delusion. "I'm 12 back, but there's not a lot of guys (18) ahead of me. And with 36 holes here to go, anything can happen." Woods then referenced 1996, the infamous Masters in which Greg Norman coughed up a six-stroke Sunday lead. Tiger won't be the last to do so.

We've still got a ways to go, but if Woods can craft another couple of quality rounds this week, the 2015 Masters will rank up there in the annals of "quality non-wins." There's no way Woods will be in anything close to contention; there's just too much ground to make up and too many players ahead of him. But if he's able to bring home a top-five finish, that will quiet the Bag-It-Tiger contingent, and give hope that better times lie ahead for Woods.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 9:41 pm

It may be time to consider Spieth-proofing Augusta National. 

Jordan Spieth, all of 21 years old, is blowing away the field at the Masters. After firing an opening-round 64 on Thursday – the lowest first round at the Masters in 19 years – he backed it up with an equally stunning 6-under 66 on Friday.

After 36 holes, Spieth is 14-under, the lowest score after two rounds in tournament history. Ray Floyd previously set the mark in 1976 with 13-under 131.

The 21-year-old from Texas birdied five of his first 10 holes Friday sending a signal that the pace he set Thursday would not slow. He then made birdie 4 on both of the back-nine par 5s to extend his lead further. He closed with three pars to take ownership of the 36-hole Masters scoring record.

According to Wikipedia (briefly, until it was edited), Spieth has already claimed the green jacket:

That might be a bit premature, because despite Spieth's stellar start, his lead is only five strokes, as Charley Hoffman has kept pace (somewhat) with his own round of 4-under par to put him at 9-under overall.

What's next for Spieth? Perhaps Tiger Woods' overall scoring record of 18-under 270 from 1997.

If Spieth were to go wire-to-wire and claim the green, he'd be just the fifth player to ever do so (and first since Floyd in '76). He would not, however, be the youngest ever to win. Woods was a few months younger than Spieth is now when he won in 1997.

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 7:07 pm

Tiger Woods, left, hugs, Mark O'Meara after their practice round for the Masters golf tournament Monday, April 6, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)AUGUSTA, Ga. — It's been a good couple of days for Mark O'Meara, Masters champion and soon-to-be Golf Hall of Fame inductee.

The 58-year-old O'Meara made his first cut at Augusta National since 2005 on Friday, posting a 4-under 68 to move to 3-under for the tournament.

O'Meara has been so far under the radar in these parts that he only showed up in photos at the Masters this year while in the company of Tiger Woods. There's a reason for that: O'Meara has played every year here with the exception of 2012, but simply hasn't come through.

O'Meara is one of those Masters champions who got hot once, exactly at the right time. He has only one top-3 finish and two top-5 finishes, his best being that 1998 win.

But in Augusta, one green jacket grants you immortality.

O'Meara finished Thursday's round at 1-over, leaving him in decent position but nothing spectacular. However, he crafted a fine round on Friday, recording early birdies on 5 and 6, then 12 and 15 late. He finished out the round at 3-under, good enough for a tie for fifth at the time he walked off 18.

Sure, Jordan Spieth is about three miles and almost four decades ahead of him, but so what? For the first time in a decade, Mo has to free up a weekend to play at Augusta.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 6:03 pm

Yahoo Sports is at Augusta National all week for The Masters. Here's the seen-and-heard chip shots that don't add up to full articles. Got a question or request? Hit us up at jay.busbee@yahoo.com. And now, we swing away...

Friday, 2:38 p.m.
Steve Spurrier is in the house ... or on the course, as the case may be. He was wearing a South Carolina visor, which made it relatively easy to spot him.

Friday, 10:50 a.m.
Jack Nicklaus recorded an ace at the Par 3 tournament on Wednesday. The next day, he revealed via his Facebook page the gifts that Jack gave grandson Stevie for caddying. Sweet haul here:

Jack Nicklaus' memorabilia collection

Wednesday afternoon, 4:51 p.m.
This man has so many more Masters cups than you:

Masters cup man

The gentleman, who was scavenging in every trash can he passed, didn't give his name, but said he uses the cups as bargaining chips at his home club in Canada. "They're good as gold," he said. "I use them for all kinds of favors." 

Tuesday afternoon, 2:53 p.m.
Time for some of that fine Georgia weather: rain that feels like you're getting a pool thrown at you, followed by humidity like you've wrapped a warm bath towel around your face. Only a few golfers are still on the course; those that are, are in full enjoy-the-moment mode, taking multiple shots and laughing with patrons. Still another 36 hours before things get serious.

Tuesday afternoon, 1:00 p.m
Tiger Woods speaks. Here's what he said and what it might mean for his chances this week.

Tuesday afternoon, 12:18 p.m
Down in the trees on the right side of hole no. 10, dozens of patrons try to pinpoint the spot where Bubba Watson pulled off one of the most amazing shots in golf history en route to winning his first green jacket in 2012: the looping, twisting wedge from deep in the trees. There's no plaque marking the spot. If only the patrons could pull out their cell phones to watch the video. Alas.

Bubba, meanwhile, was dealing with another self-inflicted catastrophe: the fact that he's deemed one of the most unlikable golfers on the PGA Tour.

Tuesday morning, 10:12 a.m.
Right outside one of Augusta National's walk-in gates stands a man loudly proclaiming what he believes to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (He's one of many who will try to convert the masses at Augusta.) This man fervently, and loudly, preaches that the devotion which we are showing this earthly paradise could be better spent on something more celestial and eternal. 

The crossing guard standing five paces away mutters, "I've been listening to this for two hours. I don't know whether to choke him or myself."

Tuesday morning, 7:07 a.m.
If you're driving from the Atlanta airport to Augusta, the first exit outside Atlanta's perimeter to feature a Chick-Fil-A is Turner Hill Road, Exit 75. And if you were to take this exit and visit this Chick-Fil-A, or really any Chick-Fil-A along Interstate 20, at any time during the early hours of Masters week, you'd likely see a scene similar to this one: more than a dozen early-to-late-middle-aged white dudes (including your humble author), all sporting golf shirts and pressed shorts, all standing in line for those sweet, sweet Chick-Fil-A biscuits.

This particular morning, one of the aforementioned array appears a bit mystified by the general process of Chick-Fil-A. Specifically, this gentleman is highly irritated that he cannot get lunch items at 7 in the morning. He's also apparently flummoxed by the idea that nuggets are not a la carte, and indeed can only be purchased in multiples of 6. He is making his displeasure known in a way highly unnecessary for the early-morning hour.

And golf fans wonder why the rest of the world hates them.

Tuesday morning, 6:30 a.m.
Like all great stories — "Gone With The Wind," "The Walking Dead" — our Masters saga begins with a drive from Atlanta. Join us, won't you?

____

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 5:41 pm

When Jim Nantz calls the Masters a "tradition unlike any other," he's now using a phrase trademarked by Augusta National Golf Club.

The home of the Masters filed in September for a pair of trademarks related to the phrase, according to an ESPN.com report. Nantz is believed to have concocted the phrase in the run-up to his first Masters in 1986. One of the filings claims the club first used it in 1989.

Not only has the club filed a trademark for the phrase, but also the use case of putting the phrase on merchandise. Augusta National is selling Masters shirts this year printed with that phrase.

You might be wondering why Nantz has never trademarked the phrase himself. After all, everyone has adopted it; he could make millions like ring announcer Michael Buffer has with "Let's get ready to rumble." Not so fast. As part of the contracts arranged between Augusta National and its broadcast partners for the Masters, Augusta National retains ownership of the broadcasts and what's said on the air. In other words, it owns the rights to whatever Nantz -- or any other Masters broadcaster -- says during the tournament.

A club official said Nantz would not be prohibited from using the phrase. However, it's unclear what permission Nantz would have to use it during speaking engagements and other public appearances.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 2:43 pm

AUGUSTA – The microphones were close, too close, and out came that old familiar Tiger snarl.

"Oh Tiger," Woods yelled to himself as he watched his tee shot on hole 15 veer offline. "Dumbass."

That fire was quite familiar. The rest of Woods' first Masters round on Thursday, however, was decidedly unfamiliar to longtime fans: Woods treading water with a doting yet calm throng tailing along in polite support.

"You'll be all right!" was the loudest yell when Woods teed off, 10 years minus a day after his 16th-hole chip-in after his 16th-hole chip-in became one of the most celebrated shots in golf history. That 2005 shot caused a din that rattled off the tall trees here for what seemed like an hour. A decade later, most fans would more likely bet on Woods shooting 83 than 63. Instead, he shot 73. That fan on the first hole was spot-on: Woods was all right.

Not bad. Not good. Just all right.

Tiger Woods takes a drop after hitting into a creek on the 12th hole. (AP)After the round, Woods said his playing group was "fooled" by the pace of the greens. He said his goal for Friday is to "hit the putts harder." It's funny how with all the talk about his swing changes, and the thousands and thousands of practice cuts he's taken from dawn to dusk to get ready for this event, it's still the putter that keeps him from being his old self. Woods said he was "only nine back" of leader Jordan Spieth, but that's a lot of strokes at a major event, and he won't make that up unless he putts better.

Woods' putting might be the underlying plague during his steady decline from unbeatable to this state of mediocrity. Yes, there have been injuries and scandal and age and swing coach firings, but the story of Woods' super-short game is telling as well.

Ten years ago, during the season when he holed out that chip on 16, he made 89.33 percent of his putts of 10 feet or less (according to PGATOUR.com statistics). That percentage has since slipped year after year – to 88.33 in 2006, 87.5 in 2007. It dipped to 86.65 in 2011 and 85.52 last year. There was one notable exception, 2009, when Woods made 90.44 percent of those 10-and-under putts, and that was one of the better years of his career: nine top-two finishes and more than $10.5 million in earnings. He did not win a major in '09, but only twice in his entire career did he have more top-10 finishes than he did that season.

So all the scrutiny of Woods' swing may have less to do with his struggles than everyone thinks. The aftermath of the "dumbass" comment is evidence: he did block his drive, but he ended up saving par on the hole. When he excels at his short game, he blots out the errors.

Now consider the third hole, in which Woods fired an amazing drive. On a 350-yard Par 4, Woods blistered his tee shot to the apron – a 320-yard strike. He had less than 100 feet left to get up and down. He took eight practice swings only to misjudged his chip, leaving himself a long putt for birdie. Woods wound up with par – the same score as on the "dumbass" hole.

The old Tiger surely would have made birdie there.

Thursday was a good return to play for someone who's played so little lately (this is his first competitive round since February) and and so poorly when he does actually play – 1-over isn't bad at all for a first-round score at a major. It's just that the sentiment around him now is more one of appreciation than expectation. Making the cut Friday would likely mean two more chances to see Woods as opposed to a weekend attack on the leaders.

When he walked off the front nine, an older woman on the ropeline shouted in his direction: "Thank you for all you've done!" Woods was jolted from his usual impenetrable stare and made eye contact with the patron. "Thank you very much," he said. The woman was delighted. "What a gentleman!" she bellowed. "Tiger Woods!"

There were other little moments like that on Thursday. Clarence Williams, the former NFL running back who is now in enterprise software sales in Silicon Valley, flew overnight from Seattle through San Francisco to Atlanta to walk 18 holes with Woods. "Nice to see you, Tiger!" he shouted on the second hole. Woods tipped his cap.

"I admire the journey he's on," Williams said. "Considering he has it all, finding the will to win and compete. I can only imagine what the last nine weeks of his life were like."

These types of comments, thanking him for all he's done and admiring his journey, almost speak to Woods' place in lore more than his place in modern golf. Woods himself has no hand in this – "I'm still in it," he insisted after his round – but it's somewhat poignant how, 10 years after he was so unstoppable, he's a repository for memories more than for impending highlights. Williams didn't fly all night to watch Woods dominate; he flew all night to watch Woods play.

The expectations will ramp up mighty quickly if Woods gets his putting game together. That kind of sudden excitement would thrill the crowds here like nothing else can.

For now, though, there's this strange distance between an impatient star cussing himself out and a patient crowd who's just happy he's in their midst.

 

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 10, 2015, 1:16 am

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — "What happened?"

Jordan Spieth stood in the rough to the right side of the fairway at No. 14 — "Chinese Fir" to you Augusta purists — and tried to figure out where his second shot had just gone. He was more than 180 yards from the hole, behind a few overhanging tree branches, and at first thought he'd flown the green. But the cheer from the crowd seemed suggest otherwise, and sure enough, Spieth had hit the flagstick. He followed that with a virtual tap-in to drop to eight under par. It was the signature shot of a signature round.

 

Golf is all about context. Had Spieth pulled off this miracle approach on a Sunday, it would vault into Masters lore and top-10-best-shot lists. But this is the first day of the 2015 Masters, and so Spieth's flagstick rattle is merely strut-worthy.

Golf is also all about metaphor. Just minutes after Spieth's gem, Tiger Woods, two holes and nine strokes behind, dunked his tee shot on No. 12 ("Golden Bell," but you knew that), the worst shot of an unspectacular 1-over round. It doesn't get much more obvious than that, does it?

Spieth roared into this tournament last year too young to even buy a cheap beer at one of the concession stands. He carried the lead into the final day, only to see it slip away.

"It's tough to sleep on a lead here, and I saw that last year," he said Thursday after carding an 8-under 64 that gave him a 3-stroke lead heading into Round 2. "But at the same time, I'm a lot more confident in the way that I can handle certain situations, and the patience levels I can have, having closed a couple of events out since [last year]."

His peers are taking note. In the midst of Spieth's birdie run — six in seven holes — playing partner Billy Horschel joked, "I need a tape recorder that just plays, 'Nice hole, Jordan,' on each tee box."

Ernie Els was even more effusive. “You just cannot see this kid not win many, many majors," The Big Easy said after his round, a 5-under 67. "I think he is by far the most balanced kid I’ve seen."

If Spieth isn't the future of golf, it's only because he's already arrived. His 8-under 64 is the lowest opening round at the Masters in 19 years. Only 14 players have ever gone that low or lower in a single round, and his finish was just one stroke off the low-score record not just for the Masters, but for all four of golf's majors.

Granted, there's a long way to go. Of those 14 low-scorers, only two ended up winning (Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and Gary Player in 1978). The last guy to go as low as Spieth in an opening round at Augusta was Greg Norman in 1996, and that round preceded what would be one of the ugliest collapses in all of sports history. And in the past 30 years, only one first-round Masters leader, Trevor Immelman in 2008, has gone on to win.

"It's Round 1," Spieth said. "It's just a lot of good breaks and good putting and chipping and short game. ... There's 54 holes left, and anything happens in a major."

So, yeah, there's work to do. But for almost every one of the last 80 or so rounds of the majors, the predominant question on everyone's mind has been "How did Tiger do?" On Friday, and perhaps for a long time afterward, the subject of that question will change.

What will Jordan do? No idea yet, but it's going to be fascinating to watch.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 11:43 pm

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Almost everything seemed to go Jordan Spieth's way on Thursday in the opening round of the Masters – even the bad shots.

The result: an 8-under 64, one off the course record at Augusta National. He'll carry a 3-stroke lead into Friday's second round. And the thing is, it could have been even better.

But back to everything going his way …

On the par-3 12th, Spieth walked disgusted toward the hole after stroking his putt, thinking his short birdie bid had missed on the right edge. It went in for birdie to get to 6 under.

A hole later, Spieth flared his tee shot on the par 5 to the right, thinking he would have trouble making a momentum-continuing birdie. Sure enough, a tree ricocheted his ball back into the fairway leading to another birdie.

Then on the 14th, Spieth found himself in trouble off the tee at the only bunker-less hole on the course. No problem. Spieth shaped a shot that hit the green, kissed the flagstick and stopped within gimme range for another birdie.

Spieth slipped on the 15th, bogeying the birdie-able par 5. He rallied for a birdie on the tough 18th to put himself at 8-under. Had he just parred the 15th, he'd have tied Greg Norman and Nick Price for lowest round (63) ever in the Masters.

Regardless, he has the lead, and at just 21 years, 8 months, that makes him the youngest ever to lead the Masters after 18 holes.

Trailing him is a quartet at 5-under: journeyman Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Jason Day, maybe the best player in the world never to have won a major.

If you're wondering, Tiger Woods sits at 1-over, putting him in danger of missing the cut depending on what happens Friday.

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 11:38 pm

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Once again on Thursday, Tom Watson showed off his incredible longevity, becoming the oldest player in Masters history to post an under-par round.

At age 65, Watson fired a 1-under 71 for his lowest round at Augusta National since an opening 5-under 67 in 2010.

Watson takes the record from 1967 Masters winner Gay Brewer, who was 63 when he shot 2-under 70 in the second round of the 1995 Masters. Sam Snead shot 1-under 71 in the first round of the 1975 Masters at age 62. Snead also shot consecutive weekend 71s in the 1974 Masters to finish tied for 20th place at 62.

Gene Sarazen is the oldest player to shoot even par or better in a Masters, carding a 72 at the age of 67 in the second round of the 1969 Masters.

Watson's round is even more remarkable compared to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. When Nicklaus played in his final Masters in 2005 at the age of 65, he shot 77-76 to miss the cut. Palmer, who turned 65 in 1994, shot 78-77 that year. 

If Watson can back up his Thursday 71 on Friday, he'll become the oldest player to make a 36-hole Masters cut. Tommy Aaron, the 1973 Masters champion, holds that distinction now. He shot 72-74 to make the cut at age 63 in the 2000 Masters en route to a tie for 57th place.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 7:34 pm

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Charley Hoffman had himself a nice little Thursday at Augusta National.

First, he went to the first tee to watch Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player hit their ceremonial tee shots to kick off the Masters. Then, he shot 5-under 67 in Round 1 to take the early lead.

Hoffman, who was first off with Brian Harman, warmed up alongside the Big Three before they took the stage at the first tee. On the putting green, Hoffman, playing in his second Masters, decided to ask Nicklaus and Palmer for their autographs.

“I was sort of scared,” Hoffman said. “Should I ask them, should I not ask them?”

Hoffman will auction off the flags Nicklaus and Palmer autographed to benefit his foundation which helps kids in San Diego and Las Vegas.

Making his first Masters start since 2011, Hoffman didn't waffle on the course. He closed very strongly, making an eagle at the par-5 15th, hitting his 7-iron to 5 feet for birdie on the par-3 16th and sticking his 6-iron inside the leather at the 18th for a closing birdie.

Hoffman doesn't know if he'll be able to replicate this on Friday, but he's going to stick to the game plan that worked on Day 1.

“It worked today," he said. "Don't know if it's going to work tomorrow, or the next day, but I'm going to try to keep my game plans I have going into it.  If you hype this thing up too much, you're not going to play good because you'll let your nerves get the best of you.”


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 7:16 pm

Need we say more?

Gary Player joins "The 19th Hole Golf Show" to talk about the Big Three and why the Masters ceremonial tee shot is so important to him. Mr. Player also shares who he likes to win the Masters, dishes on the pressure Rory McIlroy is under to complete the career Grand Slam like he did and explains the importance of Tiger Woods playing well to the sport of golf worldwide.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 3:18 pm

A dream comes true for Erik Compton on Thursday at the Masters. Compton, who got into the field with his T-2 finish in the 2014 U.S. Open, will make his Augusta National debut.

For Compton, who is on his third heart after two prior transplants, he hopes the maiden Masters experience will go exactly how he drew it up as a kid.

Before his first round, the 35-year-old Compton shared a picture he drew as a kid of him playing in the Masters.

I drew this when I was a kid, and now the day is here. It was worth the wait! @TheMasters #DonateLife pic.twitter.com/JnAh6o70yy

— Erik Compton (@ErikCompton3) April 9, 2015

It looks like Compton was trying to draw the par-5 second, Pink Dogwood. Strangely enough, Compton's hole location is even pretty close to what he'll see Thursday.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 2:41 pm

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - The fog hadn't yet faded from Augusta's low-lying pines when Arnold Palmer, 85 years old, his back bent and his sore left arm hanging at his side, stepped up to the ball and nestled a perfect approach shot right up to the edge of the ninth green.

He was, alas, hitting from the first tee.

Palmer, along with fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, had just begun the 2015 Masters with the traditional ceremonial tee shot. It's intimately familiar ground for all of them. Combined, these men have 147 appearances at the Masters and 13 green jackets. From 1960-66, these three won every single championship at Augusta.

As a result, their every move here at Augusta is an echo of an earlier time. Everywhere the Big Three — and that's the collective name they go by here, like a band — walk, they walk in the footsteps of their  younger selves. Patrons pay homage as the three walk by. The green-jacketed members of Augusta National attend to their every need. Even popes and heads of state don't enjoy this kind of reverence.

The best part of all this? At the heart of all the pomp and circumstance are three extraordinarily fortunate guys who, 60 years on, still seem bemused by all the attention lavished on them. They jab and jibe at each other, their affection as evident as the rivaly that still exists between them. These are guys that remember not only jokes from half a century ago, but the clubs they used to beat one another, too. 

On this day, Player won the round, outdriving Nicklaus off the tee. None of the men opted to play another shot, instead heading to the press building for what's become an annual tradition: genteel yet pointed trash-talking.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nicklaus' second Masters win. Indeed, it's 50 years to the day that these three were tied at the end of the second round. And what do they remember of that day?

"I remember the wrong man won," Player laughed.

"I remember what the third round was," Nicklaus said, effectively dropping the mic: he'd posted a then-course record 64, running away with the tournament and marking the end of Palmer's run of major victories.

Their 25-minute press conference was like sitting at the table with old friends. The verbal jabs landed in 2015 as effortlessly as the golf shots in 1965.

Player on Palmer: "He's got deep pockets and short arms, and never bought me a lunch."

Palmer, replying: "You wouldn't give the ducks a drink if you owned Lake Okeechobee."

"I've slept at Arnold's house," Player said. "Slept at Jack's house. The food was lousy."

"I'll tell [Jack's wife] Barbara you said that," Nicklaus replied.

As Palmer remembered driving up Magnolia Lane for the first time in a beat-up pink Ford, Nicklaus cackled. And after a dozen or so questions, Palmer declared, "Are we done here? I'm ready to go."

This is the positive side of a club and a sport enshrouded in — some would say paralyzed by — tradition. Augusta National doesn't hustle its legends offstage in an eternal pursuit of the new. Masters champions dine on their accomplishments year after year. And if that leaves said legends sometimes feeling a bit like they're trapped under glass like the remains of the recently fallen Eisenhower Tree, well, at least they're still getting their due respect.

It's a lesson not lost on many in golf's current generation. On the edge of the early-morning crowd watching the tee shots stood Bubba Watson, sporting his green jacket. Keegan Bradley was nearby, as was Rickie Fowler, up early even though he wouldn't tee off until the final pairing of Thursday. Sure, Watson could nearly outdrive all three of them combined. But that's not the point.

The most important element of the Big Three isn't that they're now stooped, creaking shadows of their iconic selves. It's that they're still vibrant and laughing with one another. Athletic skills wither and die, trees splinter and fall, but the best friendships persist forever.

"The greatest word that exists in any book of note is 'love,'" Player said, "and I think this is what we've had for each other."

It's entirely possible that 50 years from now, Watson and Fowler will be shuffling over to this same first tee to begin the 2065 Masters. (Badges will be selling for $100,000, but pimento cheese sandwiches will still be two bucks.) If we're all around long enough to see that, we'll be lucky. If we've still got our two best friends at our side, we'll be even more so.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 1:56 pm

No Masters contestant has ever won the traditional Par 3 Contest and then gone on to win at Augusta National on Sunday.

For the superstitious player, that means making sure they don't win on the short course. For Kevin Streelman, however, there was never a second thought about winning. 

Streelman shot 5-under 22 on the par-27 course on Wednesday, landing himself in a playoff with Camilo Villegas, who made two holes-in-one in his round to match the 2014 Travelers Championship winner. On the third extra hole, Streelman prevailed.

The win is special, but made even more so because of who Streelman had on his bag. 

Ethan Couch is 13 years old and has an inoperable benign brain tumor, learned two years ago when doctors tried to remove it. While doctors are managing Ethan's tumor, his mother, Jennifer, wanted to do something for her son, so, as ESPN reports, she asked him to name a wish. For Ethan, it was easy: go to the Masters.

Streelman connected with Couch through his local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Streelman called Couch not only to tell him that he'd be going to the Masters, but that he would be his Par 3 Contest caddie.

Truly indescribable dayThank u @couchie05 for allowing me to b your player.I'm honored and inspired to b ur friend🙏 pic.twitter.com/LIxO7mTZGk

— Kevin Streelman (@Streels54) April 8, 2015

It couldn't have worked out any better, could it?

The Par 3 Contest dates back to 1960. Eventually, someone will win it and the green jacket on Sunday. If karma had any say in the matter, Streelman would be the first.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 2:59 am

This may not come as much surprise, but Tiger Woods' daughter has a good putting stroke.

Sam Woods, along with her brother Charlie, served as caddie for papa Tiger on Wednesday at the annual Masters Par 3 Contest. For the 14-time major champion, it was his first appearance in the short-course contest since 2004, when he made an ace alongside Arnold Palmer. 

While it was great for Woods to compete on the eve of the big tournament, he made sure there was no way he could win. After hitting the green on the seventh hole, he turned the putter over to Sam to tap in a putt, which made Woods' score unofficial and disqualified him from winning.

However, the Woods' put up a combined 3-under 24 score. Not too shabby.

Woods smartly avoided having to deal with the curse of winning the Par 3 Contest. No player who has won on Wednesday has gone on to slip on a green jacket that Sunday.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 1:37 am

It's time for the Masters, and it's time to debate: is Augusta National the greatest golf course on American soil? Plus, what are the five greatest Masters traditions? We have all your answers right here.

This debate is part of Yahoo Sports' new ongoing Grandstanding series, in which Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk kick around every topic in sports. Check out the Grandstanding podcast, where we dive deeper into the day's big stories, and find us on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding. Thanks for checking it out!

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 9:27 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Yeah, yeah. Tiger Woods is back, and Rory McIlroy's got one of the dudes from One Direction caddying for him. Big deal. The largest, and most well-deserved, cheers of Wednesday at Augusta National Golf Club roared for none other than Jack Nicklaus, Masters G.O.A.T.

Playing in the traditional Par 3 Contest, Nicklaus fired a shot at the fourth tee that landed past the flag, then rolled gently back and dropped into the cup amid the delirious shouts of a crowd gathered 20 deep. An ace. An unbelievable, perfect hole-in-one. It was yet another magical, exceptional Masters moment for a man with a lifetime of them already.

Nicklaus, now 75, bent slowly and reached once, twice, three times before plucking the ball out of the cup. He touched his hands to his chest to acknowledge the crowd's cheers.

Nicklaus will next tee it up early Thursday morning to start the Masters with a ceremonial tee shot. Perhaps his success on Wednesday will convince him to play a shot or two past that.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 7:52 pm

 

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A ticket to the Masters is one of the toughest gets in sports. If you're lucky enough to get one, you need to make sure you don't violate one of the many rules that could get you booted right back out. Here, we give you 10 tips on how to ensure you enjoy the entire length of your stay at Augusta National Golf Club.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 7:26 pm

Tiger Woods grimaces as he tees off on the seventh hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Tuesday, April 7, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Tiger Woods was quite the showman on Tuesday, bringing a radiant confidence to his first press conference in several months and warming the hearts of gamblers looking to bet big on the onetime champion. Action on Woods to win the Masters has forced odds at Bovada.lv from 60-1 all the way down to 13-1.

Why? Because, even though Woods is more likely to take flight over Amen Corner than win, the sports books have to protect their own interests. Leaving odds high is a sure way to cause yourself some serious financial headaches if, in fact, a miracle does occur.

"As always, Tiger is a huge liability for the book, nothing new," Kevin Bradley, Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager, told Yahoo Sports.

Jay Rood, Vice President of Race and Sports, MGM Resorts International, notes that he too has seen a significant uptick in action on Woods. "He is a big loser for us at this point," Rood said. "I would love to see him play respectable, but down the leader board."

Woods has not won a tournament in more than 18 months, and has tumbled out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings. But he's won four green jackets, and he knows his way around Augusta National. Should he hang around late on Sunday, it's likely there will be an awful lot of sports books watching with nervous anticipation.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 7:22 pm

If you're not at the Masters this week, good luck getting your hands on some official merch. You'll need a buddy on the ground at Augusta National to take your order.

However, one of the best parts about the Masters is that so many companies come up with Masters-inspired wares that are typically only available for the week. We wanted to share some of them with you.

Ashworth Golf limited-edition Jefferson Polo ($100): The folks at Ashworth have done a nice job the last few years in producing a simple, but equisite Masters shirt that staffer Fred Couples wears on Thursday of the tournament. This white shirt with green trim is named after the Jefferson Park Golf Course, near Couples' boyhood home in Seattle.

59 Belts made this 2015 Masters buckle

59 Belts limited-edition buckle/strap combo ($150): The guys at 59 Belts do great work for the Masters and the U.S. Open, and they've knocked it out the park again with this buckle. The crown-shaped, aluminum buckle has the green-yellow contrast, and there are only 59 of them.

Dustin Johnson Masters-themed logo hat ($25): If you're a Dustin Johnson fan, or named D.J. and like golf, then this hat is for you. It's a simple white cotton snapback with Johnson's D.J. logo in either Masters green or yellow.

These are some sweet-looking Masters-themed @FootJoy Hyperflex shoes. Niiiice. pic.twitter.com/rIAxZENC30

— Ryan Ballengee (@RyanBallengee) April 4, 2015

FootJoy Masters-themed Hyperflex shoes: Finding a pair of these might be like finding a unicorn. We do know 2,500 of these babies were made, but they're hard to track down. If you can, buy 'em.

Cleveland Golf limited-edition wedges: Ben Crenshaw is saying goodbye to the Masters as a player this year, and the folks at Cleveland Golf are having a contest to give away five limited-edition 588 RTX 2.0 wedges, complete with Masters-themed Lamkin grips.

I went and played nine holes this afternoon; returned to a box of azalea-print goodies from adidas Golf. pic.twitter.com/Z6IswQXBkP

— Ryan Ballengee (@RyanBallengee) April 3, 2015

adidas Golf azalea-print clothes: Most companies go with a yellow-green color scheme for their Masters gear. adidas took a different route, creating azalea-print T-shirts, shoes, socks, polos and hats for this year's Masters. 


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 6:48 pm

Rory McIlroy looks very different compared to the more doughy-looking kid who gave away the 2011 Masters. 

He's fit, strong and has the confidence of a four-time major champion not only vying this week to complete the career Grand Slam but win a third-consecutive major title.

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The Ulsterman and his sponsors haven't been shy in showing off his physique and fitness regimen. Nike released a video documenting McIlroy's workout and his near obsession with exercise. Bose followed suit, showing McIlroy on an early morning jog. McIlroy even appeared shirtless on the April cover of Golf Digest.

However, that approach -- like with Tiger Woods before him -- has invited criticism from some in the sport who believe McIlroy is working out too much. The likes of Gary Player call that rubbish, but Woods' former teacher Butch Harmon cautioned McIlroy about getting too bulky.

“You can almost hurt yourself in the gym if you get too bulky,” Harmon said on an Irish radio show last month.

McIlroy isn't hitting the gym, though, just to build up glamour muscles. The Ulsterman and world No. 1 is doing it to protect his back from what he described to PGATour.com as a degenerative back condition. 

"It's about longevity, injury prevention, trying to prolong my career as much as I can," McIlroy said Tuesday at Augusta National. "That's the reason I got into working out was because I had a bad back and there was reasons for that: because I didn't go in the gym and I didn't have the core strength and I didn't have the stability that I needed. I would hit the ten drivers on the range and I would feel it.  It enables me to practice more and it enables me to play better, to feel more stable over the ball."

McIlroy appeared gassed in the final round at Augusta four years ago, but he now finishes tournaments out with energy. He'll need all the stamina he has to hold off a world-class field and overcome the pressure on him to win yet another major this week.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 2:35 pm

It's almost time. The Masters starts in less than 24 hours, and the ponies are lining up at the gate for the first men's major of the year.

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With 98 players in the field, there are a lot of choice picks to slip on a green jacket on Sunday, but there can only be one winner. The Yahoo Sports golf team goes on record with their picks. 

Kevin Kaduk, lead blogs editor: Jason Day -- The Aussie faltered down the stretch in 2013, bogeying two of the last three holes to open the door for countryman Adam Scott. Day will finally break through at Augusta this year, though. He's been playing some great golf so far this season, including a win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. 

Jay Hart, senior editor: Dustin Johnson -- Never mind that DJ hasn't fared too well in his five Masters appearances (T13 is his best finish). He's back from "personal issues" and he's playing well. Really well.

Jay Busbee, on the ground in Augusta: Adam Scott -- Sweep the putter! Scott, the 2013 champ, is one of an array of players with a decent shot this year, but Scott is drawing a bit of heat because he's still using the broomstick putter. It'll be outlawed for pros next year, but as of this moment it's legal, so why not use it? Not like they'll put a big asterisk on the back of his green jacket.

Ryan Ballengee, Devil Ball Golf contributor: Jordan Spieth -- How can you pick against Spieth? He's been in the final group on Sunday in his last three PGA Tour starte, notching a win in Tampa and back-to-back second-place finishes the last two weeks. He had the lead on the first nine on Sunday here a year ago, and he's the best putter on the planet right now.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 2:23 pm

Since the first Masters in 1934, only one player has won the green jacket in his first try: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. 

The likes of Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods aside, it takes experience to win at Augusta National. Webb Simpson, who is playing this week in his fourth Masters, hopes he'll be able to capitalize this week on lessons learned from years past.

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"The more you learn it, the more comfortable you are there," Simpson said last week in a telephone interview.

The 2012 U.S. Open champion hasn't broken 70 in three appearances and eight competitive Masters rounds. He's missed the cut the last two years and finished T-44 in 2012, just months before his won his first major at The Olympic Club.  Simpson said he's got one-third of the recipe for Masters success down, but is still missing two parts.

"The things I've done really well the last three years there are: I've hit the ball well, and that's it. What you have to do there is hit well, putt well and think well," he said. "I take pride in my mental game, and for some reason, I've been mentally off each year, so I hope this year to plod myself around the course better."

Simpson arrives at Augusta National wielding a short putter for the first time. He made the switch cold turkey before starting 2015 at the Sony Open in Hawaii, then went out and shot 62 in his first PGA Tour round with it. Since then, he's slipped to 149th on Tour in strokes gained putting, but Simpson believes the switch will actually help him at Augusta National.

"I'm thankful to have made a relatively smooth transition," he said, admitting there's little conversation among his fellow Tour players facing or who have already made the switch from the soon-to-be-banned anchored putting stroke. "I'm glad I did it because I'm already more comfortable with the short putter than I ever was with the belly putter.

"I putted poorly at the Masters the last three years, so I think the short putter will help me. The greens are so fast, have so much slope, and I certainly have more feel with a short putter."

Simpson, who wears Izod clothing, is excited about his looks for the Masters which match the colors and styles with the natural beauty of Augusta National.

"(Izod) always take into consideration where I'm playing and what time of the year it is, so they're great," he said.

However, if Simpson makes the cut, you won't see him wearing purple on Sunday. For a little while, Simpson had tried to turn that into his signature final-round color of choice. He's gotten away from that, and for good reason.

"Now I don't have anything that I wear every Sunday," said the father of three.

He joked, "What started to happen is I would spill a bottle or a drink on my shirt, and I'd only have one purple shirt packed."


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 2:14 pm

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Going to the Masters is great. Playing in the Masters is spectacular. Winning the Masters is unbelievable. Imagine how Bernhard Langer feels, then.

Langer is a two-time winner of the the Augusta National Invitation, enjoying the experience of slipping on the green jacket at two very different parts of his life.

There are two perks that come with being Masters champion that probably captivate the public's attention more than the others. During a private event with Adams Golf in March, Langer shared his memories of both the green-jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin and the annual Champions Dinner the following year.

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For as long as I can remember, the Butler Cabin ceremony is the most awkward thing about the Masters. A lot of things make it strange. It's just dawning on the champion that they've won and how much it might change their life or mean to them to achieve a dream. The defending champion is disappointed, but corralled into the room, too, so he can do the first of two slip-ons of the jacket to the new winner. Jim Nantz is the anchor, but he's not really calling the shots because the man next to him, the Augusta National chairman (now Billy Payne), is. CBS airs the Masters each year on a one-year, handshake-type agreement that's a break-even source of pride for both parties. In exchange for getting CBS to work at cost, Augusta National gets to call the shots on every facet of the broadcast -- including inserting themselves into the winner's interview.

Langer described the immediate whirlwind of both his Masters wins similarly. Suddenly, he was whisked away to Butler Cabin and thrust on camera to answer God knows what kind of questions Nantz or the chairman might have.

Back in 1985, Langer's head was spinning. He was just 27 and winning the Masters was the crowning achievement of nearly a decade as a pro. Langer's sitting in the winner's chair, next to '84 champion Ben Crenshaw, when chairman Hord Hardin asked him what he was thinking as he was turning to the second nine.

Langer vividly remembered saying, "I was thinking, 'Jesus Christ, how am I four shots behind Curtis Strange?!" Langer birdied four of the final seven holes, while Strange, who was up three with six to play, made three bogeys to lose by two.

The German now recalls the absolute volume of mail he got from angry fans, incensed he used God's name in vain.

Eight years later, when he won again, Langer had become a more devout Christian. This time, he was asked about the magnitude of his win and earning a second Masters. Langer again referenced Jesus Christ, but this time, it was in gratitude. He swears -- wrong word, probably -- that he is the only winner to drop J.C.'s name in separate Masters wins.

Then there's the Champions Dinner, which Langer hosted in 1986 and '94.

In '86, Langer wanted a home-cooked meal, so he served a slate of German food, including wiener schnitzel and spaetzle. For dessert, he ordered up some black forest cake.

"It's the best German food I've had in the States," Langer said.

Did he have to provide recipes or hire someone to help?

"All I had to do was tell them what to make, and they made it amazing," he said.

In fact, the black forest cake rivaled what his grandmother could make at home.

The second time around, Langer went with the all-American meal. He served up Thanksgiving dinner.

"It's my favorite meal in America," Langer said. "And I thought it was appropriate to be giving thanks."

Nowadays, Ben Crenshaw, playing this year in his final Masters, is the host, taking over from the late Byron Nelson. Langer said not much has changed about the Tuesday tradition started by Ben Hogan in 1952. Crenshaw and chairman Payne are gracious, encourage great conversation and usually dig up some unique facts about the tournament and its history that still wow the champions.

And Langer knows where he will sit every year. Next to buddy Sandy Lyle.


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 8, 2015, 1:42 pm

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 07: Niall Horan of One Direction performs during the 'On the Road Again' World Tour at Allianz Stadium on February 7, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for HJPR)AUGUSTA, Ga. - It's not often that a player gets upstaged by his own caddy. But it might just happen on Wednesday at the Par 3 contest at Augusta National, when Rory McIlroy will play with none other than Niall Horan of One Direction* carrying his clubs.

(*-No, we didn't know who he was either. But roll with it.)

"He's excited to come here," McIlroy said Tuesday afternoon. "He's never been to Augusta. I caught up with him at the end of last year and he was really excited, and I said, 'If you're available Wednesday afternoon and you want to carry the bag for nine holes, you're more than welcome."

Augusta National is known for its shouts; there's nothing quite like the wave of sound that rolls across the course in the wake of a great shot. But it's never seen anything quite like a One Direction fan's shriek. That Par 3 should be an interesting one, to be sure. Arnie's Army has nothing on the Directioneers.

____
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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 7, 2015, 10:27 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – When he was a kid practicing his chips and putts, Tiger Woods listened to music on a portable CD player.

When he won his first tournament, he beat Davis Love III using a driver made of persimmon wood, a style you’re now more likely to find in an antique store than anywhere near a course.

When he won his first Masters, current world No. 4 golfer Jordan Spieth was, in Woods’ words, "still in diapers."

Tough as it is to believe, the sun is setting on Woods’ generation. The new breed of golfer is bigger and stronger. The new style of golf course stretches longer. The new regard inside the ropes for Woods is merely respect, not awe, and certainly not fear.

On Tuesday afternoon, Woods, sporting an azalea-pink Nike shirt and an unworried grin, made his first public appearance since walking off the course at Torrey Pines two months ago. If Woods’ life were a “Rocky” movie, we’d be at the start of the third act. The montage has just ended, and now the old dog is back in the ring for One More Shot At The Title.

It's been more than a year since he finished inside the top 10 in any tournament, a span in which he's withdrawn three times and missed the cut in another three.

Thursday's round at Augusta will be his first since withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in February.

“I worked my ass off,” Woods said when asked what he did to get back into playing form. While his routine to return to competition didn’t exactly involve hauling logs across a Siberian snowscape, he was nonetheless playing, in his words, “sunup to sundown.”

“Every day the sun came up,” Woods said, “and by the end of the day, I should be a better player. The goal was to get better incrementally.”

Cue the ‘80s training montage music.

“People would never understand how much I put into it to come back,” Woods said. “Whenever I had free time, I’d be playing. When the kids were asleep, I’d be doing it. When the kids were at school, I’d be doing it.”

There were setbacks. Woods acknowledged that there were “a few clubs that flew, that slipped out of my hand. Traveled a pretty good distance, too,” he said with a grin. “I’d have moments where it would come, where I’d be dialed in for 10 minutes and then lose it for an hour. Then I’d have an hour of having it and 10 minutes of losing it. I got to the point where it was just there.”

“It,” of course, being that elusive, ephemeral competitive ability – not spirit, ability – that’s seemed beyond Woods’ grasp these last 18 months. So here we are, back at Augusta, back at the site of so many of Woods’ finest moments. The bell is ringing, and if this isn't Woods' final shot at rehabbing his game, that day is now within sight.

He’s got one hell of a challenge ahead of him. Start with the fact that in 2015, he’s played exactly two rounds and 11 holes of competitive golf. He hasn’t won a tournament of any stripe since August 2013, and he’s going on seven years without a major and ten years without a fourth green jacket. He’s ranked 104th in the world, a free-fall plummet

Getting back to anything approaching tournament-winning form would be difficult in and of itself. But combine Woods’ fall from grace with other golfers’ ascent, and this isn’t like climbing a mountain. This is like scaling a skyscraper under construction, as Spieth, Rory McIlroy and others continue to build ever-higher floors above him.

Woods says he'll win, of course. What else is he going to say? From the moment he first drove up Magnolia Lane, he wasn't satisfied with just making the field. But this is a very different world than 1997, even if the azaleas and the clubhouse remain the same.

"The game has gotten bigger," Woods said. "Competing is stil the same. I’m trying to beat everyone out there. That hasn’t changed."

He talks like he believes he can. He'd have to understand if few others do.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 7, 2015, 6:14 pm

A recently released survey of Bubba Watson's PGA Tour peers shows he's not well-liked, and the two-time Masters champion takes that as a challenge to be a better person.

"I take it as I need to improve as a man," Watson said Tuesday at Augusta National. "I take it with pride. I need to get better. And I think over my career, since my rookie season to now, I've gotten better. But obviously there's more room for me to improve as a man."

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He added, "So if it's a bad thing and people don't like me, then I've got to improve and prove them wrong."

ESPN.com surveyed 103 PGA Tour players, with 23 of those players saying the player they wouldn't help get out of a parking lot fight would be the defending Masters champion. Patrick Reed came in second place.

Watson's had his share of gaffes in his career, from an on-course disagreement with Steve Elkington, to sounding like an ugly American in overseas tournaments, to poor on-course treatment of caddie Ted Scott, to deciding not to compete in the revived PGA Championship long-drive contest despite his prodigious length.

Despite the anonymous feedback from his peers, Watson maintained he has no enemies on Tour.

"There's nobody I dislike on Tour," he said. "I dislike them if they beat me, but I don't dislike them as a person."


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 7, 2015, 6:10 pm

If Rory McIlroy is to complete the career Grand Slam at this week's Masters, he's going to have to do it playing alongside a three-time champion for the first two days.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy draws three-time winner Phil Mickelson and Ryan Moore for the opening two rounds at Augusta National, starting Thursday at 10:41 a.m. 

Tiger Woods gets the penultimate Thursday tee time with Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson and two-time 2015 PGA Tour winner this season Jimmy Walker. They play at 1:48 p.m. in Round 1.

Jordan Spieth, who many have pegged to win here, has a 1:41 p.m. tee time on Thursday with Henrik Stenson and FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel.

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The tournament committee may be trolling Ian Poulter a little bit, too, pairing him with Ryder Cuppers Patrick Reed and Keegan Bradley. They start at 9:02 a.m. on Thursday.

Meanwhile, defending champion Bubba Watson draws Justin Rose and U.S. Amateur champion Gunn Yang at 9:25 a.m. for Round 1.

2015 Masters first and second round tee times

Round 1

7:45 a.m. -- Charley Hoffman, Brian Harman
7:56 a.m. -- Larry Mize, Danny Willett, Byron Meth
8:07 a.m. -- Tom Watson, Gary Woodland, Camilo Villegas
8:18 a.m. -- Mike Weir, Ben Crane, Corey Conners
8:29 a.m. -- Vijay Singh, Russell Henley, Darren Clarke
8:40 a.m. -- Jose Maria Olazabal, Brendon Todd, Kevin Na
8:51 a.m. -- Jonas Blixt, Kevin Streelman, Stephen Gallacher
9:02 a.m. -- Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter
9:13 a.m. -- Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood, Anirban Lahiri
9:24 a.m. -- Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Gunn Yang
9:35 a.m. -- Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Antonio Murdaca
9:57 a.m. -- Morgan Hoffmann, Steve Stricker, Matt Every
10:08 a.m. -- Ben Crenshaw, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner
10:19 a.m. -- Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey
10:30 a.m. -- Charl Schwartzel, Joost Luiten, Sang-moon Bae
10:41 a.m. -- Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore
10:52 a.m. -- J.B. Holmes, Martin Kaymer, Brandt Snedeker
11:03 a.m. -- Ian Woosnam, Erik Compton, Marc Leishman
11:14 a.m. -- Trevor Immelman, Kevin Stadler, Scott Harvey
11:25 a.m. -- Ben Martin, Robert Streb, Cameron Tringale
11:36 a.m. -- Sandy Lyle, Seung-yul Noh, Bradley Neil
11:47 a.m. -- Bernhard Langer, Bernd Wiesberger, Geoff Ogilvy
12:09 p.m. -- Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els
12:20 p.m. -- Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Matias Dominguez
12:31 p.m. -- Mark O'Meara, Chris Kirk, Shane Lowry
12:42 p.m. -- Padraig Harrington, Ryan Palmer, Thomas Bjorn
12:53 p.m. -- James Hahn, Mikko Illonen, Hunter Mahan
1:04 p.m. -- Matt Kuchar, Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell
1:15 p.m. -- Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel
1:26 p.m. -- Fred Couples, Branden Grace, Thongchai Jaidee
1:37 p.m. -- Luke Donald, Victor Dubuisson, John Senden
1:48 p.m. -- Tiger Woods, Jamie Donaldson, Jimmy Walker
1:59 p.m. -- Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler

Round 2

7:45 a.m. -- Ian Woosnam, Erik Compton, Marc Leishman
7:56 a.m. -- Trevor Immelman, Kevin Stadler, Scott Harvey
8:07 a.m. -- Ben Martin, Robert Streb, Cameron Tringale
8:18 a.m. -- Sandy Lyle, Seung-yul Noh, Bradley Neil
8:29 a.m. -- Bernhard Langer, Bernd Wiesberger, Geoff Ogilvy
8:40 a.m. -- Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els
8:51 a.m. -- Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Matias Dominguez
9:02 a.m. -- Mark O'Meara, Chris Kirk, Shane Lowry
9:13 a.m. -- Padraig Harrington, Ryan Palmer, Thomas Bjorn
9:24 a.m. -- James Hahn, Mikko Illonen, Hunter Mahan
9:35 a.m. -- Matt Kuchar, Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell
9:57 a.m. -- Jordan Speieth, Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel
10:08 a.m. -- Fred Couples, Branden Grace, Thongchai Jaidee
10:19 a.m. -- Luke Donald, Victor Dubuisson, John Senden
10:30 a.m. -- Tiger Woods, Jamie Donaldson, Jimmy Walker
10:41 a.m. -- Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler
10:52 a.m. -- Charley Hoffman, Brian Harman
11:03 a.m. -- Larry Mize, Danny Willett, Byron Meth
11:14 a.m. -- Tom Watson, Gary Woodland, Camilo Villegas
11:25 a.m. -- Mike Weir, Ben Crane, Corey Conners
11:36 a.m. -- Vijay Singh, Russell Henley, Darren Clarke
11:47 a.m. -- Jose Maria Olazabal, Brendon Todd, Kevin Na
12:09 p.m. -- Jonas Blixt, Kevin Streelman, Stephen Gallacher
12:20 p.m. -- Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter
12:31 p.m. -- Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood, Anirban Lahiri
12:42 p.m. -- Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Gunn Yang
12:53 p.m. -- Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Antonio Murdaca
1:04 p.m. -- Morgan Hoffmann, Steve Stricker, Matt Every
1:15 p.m. -- Ben Crenshaw, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner
1:26 p.m. -- Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey
1:37 p.m. -- Charl Schwartzel, Joost Luiten, Sang-moon Bae
1:48 p.m. -- Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore
1:59 p.m. -- J.B. Holmes, Martin Kaymer, Brandt Snedeker


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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 7, 2015, 4:54 pm

Tiger Woods will play in the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday for the first time in 11 years.

Woods' friend and 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara told Golf Channel Tuesday that the four-time Masters winner will play on the short course for the first time since he played with Arnold Palmer in 2004.

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It's expected Woods will play the course with his children Sam and Charlie alongside, perhaps caddying for him in what's become a tradition in the pre-tournament contest. Woods will probably also have his children hit a few putts for him, making his score unofficial. That's a good thing since no Par 3 Contest winner has ever gone on to win the Masters in the same week.

Woods explained his decision not to play in the annual contest in 2008, saying, “It’s changed over the years. It’s a little bit distracting to try to get ready for the tournament.”  

However, Woods has been all smiles this week at Augusta National, rekindling old friendships -- including one with O'Meara -- and seemingly enjoying the experience. Perhaps this new, softer Tiger Woods is kind of guy who will feel comfortable enough to contend for a fifth Masters title.


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Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: April 7, 2015, 4:48 pm

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