Masters Wrap: scant drama but plenty of compelling stories

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Scottie Scheffler took a sizeable lead at the Masters on Friday and never relinquished it for the rest of the tournament. Other than the opening holes on Sunday, nobody even came close to catching him and despite four-jacking the 72nd hole, there wasn’t much drama involved in his first major win. What was your takeaway from Scheffler’s performance and overall, from his streak of four wins in his last six starts?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I thought this was one of the most entertaining Masters of recent years. Not having watched much of Scheffler’s previous six starts, I didn’t know whether the guy had the intestinal fortitude to withstand the nerves and the pressure of Augusta on a Sunday.  But, boy, did he ever (notwithstanding the four-jack on 18).  The drama was, in fact, the lack of drama… like waiting for a car wreck at Indianapolis.  And of course, my heart broke for Cam Smith on 12, who had put up such a valiant show up to that point, and even redeemed himself on the last four holes.  My takeaway from the Scheffler’s performance?  This guy’s the real deal and is going to be in the mix for a long time to come.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Impressive Mr. Scheffler is. A very good run here we’re all watching. He is playing some amazing golf at the moment. Is it sustainable long term? I have some doubts (I’m not cheering against him), I’m just enjoying his golf right now, which is making a lions share of 8 footers and under.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I think he is the real deal. I’m not a fan of his footwork but it is gradually improving as he plays the tour and is influenced by the good swings surrounding him. His game reminds me a lot of Tiger’s style. A mediocre driver with plenty of length, very good irons, excellent short irons, a terrific pitcher and a great putter. There were two defining moments in the last round. Of course, the hole-out on #3 stopped Smith in his tracks. Smith also had a small opening on #10 when Scheffler missed his short putt. Had Smith made and then birdied #11, things might have been different. These two ‘turns’ made me think a lot of Tiger. Just when someone got into position, something snapped shut to take it away. It’s a gift you cannot practice but you have to be good enough to take advantage of when it happens. Tiger was and it appears as though Scheffler is too.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): To be honest, my takeaway is that he doesn’t do anything spectacularly well but just didn’t make many mistakes.  And he chipped as well as anyone I’ve seen in a long time.  Cameron Smith was lauded as having the best short game in the world coming into the tourney, but it was Scheffler’s chip in on 3 and Smith’s missed up and down that was the turning point in the final round.  He was rock solid from that point on.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It was shaping up to be very dramatic until Smith flubbed that wedge on #3. Aside from that wild foot action with driver and long irons, Scheffler’s short game and putting were astounding. And when he doesn’t have to bend it left — those attempts at big draws were the envy of contortionists everywhere — he really takes it deep and under control. It’s all there, and the fact that he’s been winning a tonne since he was a kid makes it look like, barring injury, he could keep this going for quite a while.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Scheffler’s backstory is almost as good as his 2022 record – golf nut as a kid, junior winner extraordinaire, collegiate winner – a certifiable golf nerd with incredible talent. The best part of his Masters performance would seem to be his coolness under pressure and an awesome knack for getting up and down from everywhere. Those traits carry you a long way on the PGA Tour and while the current hot streak is bound to fade, in the long run, I expect he’ll have quite a career.

Tiger Woods made his comeback 13 ½ months after his terrible car accident, made the cut and finished 47th, 23 strokes back of Scheffler. How would you characterize Tiger’s performance and when do you think we’ll see him play again?

Deeks: His performance was very courageous, and after watching him play (every single shot) on Thursday and Friday, I was thinking my prediction here last week (that he might actually pull off victory) was one of the only good predictions I’ve ever made.  Alas, it was not to be.  And you could see that he barely had the stamina to finish on Sunday, but he soldiered on, trying not to show the pain.  As I’ve said a million times before, I’m not a big fan of Tiger’s, but he sure jumped several points on my ratings ladder after this Masters, and after his very uncharacteristically charming post-game interviews.   When will we see him again?  Dunno.  But to be honest, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he announced his retirement this week.  Surely, he has nothing left to prove.

Loughry: I thought it went as planned. The fact he made the cut was a win in itself (some would say even playing). I hope he can get stronger and play 4 days without a limp. He had Tour ball speed and hit some spectacular shots. Let’s let that sink in and give him some more time. I think he doesn’t want to jeopardize missing the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, so I’m not sure he’ll play the PGA by the sounds of it and may skip the US Open too.

Schurman: Woods has already told us his future. Last month he said he would never play a regular schedule again. Instead, he would play a few high-profile events just like Hogan did. He might have trouble repeating Hogan’s record in 1953 when he played six events won 5 (three of them Majors) and finished 3rd in the other. However, that happened 4 years after Hogan’s accident and Tiger is only 14 months after his. Regardless of when he plays, I love his new style of dissecting a course instead of ‘bomb and gouge’.

Rule: Well, it was pretty impressive to make the cut in such trying conditions.  He obviously got tired and faded on the weekend and you have to think that was to be expected.  His gait was noticeably different heading into the clubhouse on Sunday than it was on even Friday afternoon.  His body will need some rest, and I wouldn’t be surprised if St Andrews is the next time we see him.  But hopefully we see him at Southern Hills too.

Quinn: Sure, it was remarkable that he was able to walk 72 holes after what he’s put his body through, but it didn’t have to be the media event of the year. It was a relief — after the longest exit from a green in the history of the game, topped off by the family (minus girlfriend) hugs — when the slavering CBS crew could return to the tournament. It’s a toss up whether he’s working harder on rehabbing his game or his image. So far, the new image is ahead.

Mumford: Nice to see him back in action and hitting the ball extremely well. Appears to be an amazing recovery given the condition his leg was in after the accident. However, his appearance at the Masters is not the Second Coming nor was his performance good enough for a future made-for-TV movie. You have to win for that. Mostly, while I’m happy to see him recovering, I resent the inordinate amount of time devoted to telling and re-telling and just in case you missed it, telling again the story of his so-called miraculous recovery. If that’s what viewers want, tune me out. Maybe I’ll catch him again at St. Andrews but only if the euphoria has died down.

Scheffler’s Masters victory and Tiger’s return to play certainly dominated the headlines this past week. What other story should be getting some attention?

Deeks: Well, back here in the frozen north, I think we should be giving Corey Conners some cred for his top ten finish in yet another major.  In four seasons on Tour, he’s had 16 top tens, and one victory.  If those numbers combined don’t put him in the top five of Canadian tour professionals of all time (behind Brooke Henderson, Mike Weir, George Knudson, and Sandra Post), it’s gotta be pretty darn close. He’s certainly getting his fair share of compliments from other players, and even some of the announcers have noticed him.  Unfortunately, the director in the TV truck doesn’t seem to have picked up on Corey, but I think that guy is just anti-Canadian.

Loughry: Cam Smith was in the neighborhood again. Granted he fell short, but he was right there in the final round yet again. A second side note, the coverage was amazing (second to NONE) including their social media coverage. I hope everyone caught some of that.

Schurman: Cam Smith darn near pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Corey Conners has the game suited to win at the Masters. What a stellar venue Augusta National is. Tiger sure can suck all the attention out of everything so much so there was little if any left for Phil. I heard a lot of references to both going ‘down’ Magnolia Lane and ‘up’ Magnolia Lane. I wondered if there is a correlation to the performance according to the individual’s perspective. Adam Scott says ‘down’. Rory says ‘up’. BTW It’s flat

Rule: From a Canadian standpoint it’s easy, it’s Corey Conners with his third straight top 10 in the Masters, improving his position each year.  He’s primed to win one of these eventually, just needs a hot putting week.  Not sure how his putting was last week as we barely saw him despite him finishing T6, but we’ll see much more of him in the future.  I need to get down there next year on Sunday to see Scheffler drape the green jacket over Corey’s shoulders!

Quinn: Scheffler’s four brain farts on the 72nd distorted the scores a bit, but the real story was the weather and what it did to the players, the scores, and what traditionally used to be thrilling shots. Who knows what the new normal is, but if Georgia is going to be windswept and cold in April — what the hell is a stocking cap, anyway? — then the annual drive down Magnolia Lane ain’t going to be as fun as it was. Until Sunday, the brutal weather didn’t make for fun playing or viewing.

Mumford: Cam Smith and Corey Conners – both great stories. Rory with a back-door runner-up is a nice ending but a better story is where the hell was he for the first three rounds. For me though, we ought to be examining pre-tourney predictions. What happened to all the so-called favourites? Sure, Scheffler and Smith came in as the current hot hands, but Jordan Spieth has as much positive experience here as anyone; Brooks Koepka is a Major machine; Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau are both ranked in the Top 10. All missed the cut. Then there’s 2020 winner Dustin Johnson, 2021 FedEx Cup champ Patrick Cantlay, Players Champ Justin Thomas, former World #1 Jon Rahm and 2-time major winner Collin Morikawa. None of them contended although Morikawa did have a back door Top 5 thanks to a final round 67. Those are the guys we expect to see on Major leaderboards every time out. At this Masters, they did spot duty on the second page but never threatened anyone.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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