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What it’s like to be at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Since the year’s first major is underway and you can’t be here yourself, here are my top moments from Wednesday at the Masters and the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner.


1. Entering the hallowed grounds through a secret door

My day began with the annual Golf Writers meeting in the Augusta National Press Center. Upon entering ANGC through a private gate and shuttling past the club’s own cottages – tournament patrons nowhere in sight – I arrived at the ENORMOUS Masters Press Center. Picture NASA Ground Control meets a drive-in theater. Very impressive.


2. Watching Lefty get his grind on

The first thing I did after my meeting was hit the practice facility, where Phil Mickelson was in the middle of a grind session with swing coach Andrew Getson.

A small tweak here and there, some words of encouragement – it’s fun watching how the world’s best practice and work with their coaches. Which is not dissimilar to how GOLFTEC students work with theirs!

By the way, parking yourself at the range is a must-do at the Masters (or at any Tour event for that matter), because there’s action happening in all directions. I could’ve sat there all day but, alas, had that famous golf course to explore.


3. Augusta National is different than it looks on TV

It’s often said Augusta National is hillier in person than it appears on TV. This is true. What’s not often said, however, is how much smaller the greens are in real life than they appear on the flat screen.

That goes to show just how good these players are, especially when you take into account that these greens are also significantly more sloped than they appear on TV — and as fast as any course on the planet.

Honma Releases Justin Rose’s Prototype Irons to Retail

When Justin Rose signed with Honma in January 2019, the obvious question for equipment fans was: “What model clubs will he use?” Rose quickly put speculation to rest with a Twitter post showing off never-before-seen T//World 747 Rose Proto MB irons.

Rose wasted no time notching a PGA TOUR win using the prototype irons; he won the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.

Equipment fans then began to wonder whether the “Rose Proto” irons would eventually hit retail. Honma has officially announced that the clubs are now available for purchase.

According to Honma, the irons – which are forged from S20C mild carbon -- were designed with “extensive input and direction” from Rose, who has been using the irons throughout 2019.

“The idea of having a hand in the collaborative design process for my set of clubs was extremely exciting,” Rose said in a press release. “Working with Honma master craftsmen to create an iron that felt and looked great for me was one of the biggest thrills of my career.”

Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters Victory Extends Bridgestone Golf Tour Hot Streak

Tiger Relies on Bridgestone Tour B XS Ball to Win First Green Jacket Since 2005, Giving Bridgestone Its 5th Win of the Season

(COVINGTON, GA) –There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Bridgestone Golf ambassador Tiger Woods put an exclamation point on one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, winning his 15th career major championship at the 2019 Masters tournament.  The victory, with Bridgestone’s TOUR B XS golf ball, marks Woods’ first return to the winner’s circle at Augusta National in 14 years and gives him an incredible 5 green jackets for his illustrious career, the second most in history. The win comes 11 years since Woods’ last major championship title, and remarkably it is the first ever in which he’s had to come from behind. Moreover, Tiger’s 2019 Masters triumph is the 5th win of the season for Bridgestone’s award-winning TOUR B golf ball family.

Using Bridgestone Golf’s TOUR B XS balls, Woods navigated the tight Georgia Pines and slick greens to card a final round 2-under 70 to win by one-shot over a virtual who’s who of top players in the world.  Woods recorded 22 birdies for the week to propel him to his tournament best 13-under par total.

“I thought it was interesting that Tiger commented that ‘it fits’ when he slipped on the Green Jacket in the Butler Cabin, and that’s basically exactly what he said when he first tried our TOUR B XS golf ball,” said Dan Murphy, President and CEO of Bridgestone Golf. “This victory is huge for the game of golf, but beyond what it means for the game as a whole, Tiger’s Masters victory is a tremendous exclamation point on an incredible stretch for our TOUR B series balls. Like we do for consumers, we go to great lengths to ensure that our Tour players have a ball that fits their game, and there is no question the TOUR B XS has been a great choice for Tiger.”

US Captain Tiger Woods Cracks Top 10 with Historic Masters Win

MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia – In arguably one of the greatest comeback in sports history, 2019 U.S. Presidents Cup Captain Tiger Woods secured his 81st career PGA TOUR title with a one-shot victory at the Masters Tournament for his 15th major championship title and first since 2008. The victory elevated Woods from No. 17 to No. 9 in the U.S. Team standings as he looks to become the second-ever playing captain and first since Hale Irwin in 1994.

The Presidents Cup will return to Melbourne, Australia and The Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the third time, December 9-15, 2019, when the International Team, led by Captain Ernie Els, will take on the U.S. Team led by Captain Woods.

Woods, an eight-time Presidents Cup participant, owns an overall Presidents Cup record of 24-15-1 and has the second-most match victories in Presidents Cup history behind Phil Mickelson (26). At Royal Melbourne in 2011, Woods posted a 2-3 record and secured the winning point with a 4-and-3 victory over Aaron Baddeley.

If Woods goes on to earn a spot on the 2019 team it would mark his first competitive performance in a Presidents Cup since 2013, where he also secured the winning point at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

Woods was one of six U.S. players to finish T5 or better at Augusta National, with each player currently no lower than 12th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele all finished T2 while Webb Simpson and Tony Finau finished T5.

Johnson reclaimed the top spot in the standings from Justin Thomas (T12) and Koepka jumped two spots to No. 4.

Elsewhere in the top 10 at the Masters, Rickie Fowler and first-time hopeful Patrick Cantlay both finished T9 and sit at Nos. 7 and 13, respectively, in the standings. 

LPGA 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup Winner

PHOENIX (AP) - Jin Young Ko channeled her inner Dustin Johnson to win for the first time in the United States.

After an even-par 72 left her five strokes back heading into the weekend at the Founders Cup, Ko talked to fellow South Korean player Jennifer Song about the top-ranked PGA Tour star.

"She told me Dustin hit so bad and he didn't get angry - put clubs in the bag and just walk," Ko said. "So, I tried like Dustin yesterday and today. I just tried no angry, no happy, just focus. "

It worked.

The 23-year-old Ko closed with bogey-free rounds of 64 and 65 at Desert Ridge to rally for a one-stroke victory Sunday. She birdied Nos. 14-16 and parred the final two to finish at 22-under 266, then won when third-round leader Yu Liu missed a 15-foot par putt on the par-4 18th.

Liu shot a 70 to tie for second with playing partner Carlota Ciganda and sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda. Ciganda closed with a 69, Jessica Korda eagled the two back-nine par 5s in a 64, and Nelly Korda shot 66.

Choosing to putt with the flagstick in the hole under golf's new rules, Ko made a 4-footer on the par-3 14th, two-putted for birdie on the par-5 15th and made it three in a row from 3½ feet on the par-4 16th.

"Lots of players thinks if there is a pin in the ball might hit the pin and come out," Ko said. "I think it's great to put the pin in because of it makes it easier for me to putt because it is a small target."

A 10-time winner on Korean tour, Ko won the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea to earn her LPGA Tour card and took the Women's Australian Open last year.

She broke through in the U.S. on Sunday in the event that honors the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour, a goal she said she thought about too much last year.

Liu Finishes Shy of First Win and More From Phoenix

LIU, CIGANDA COME UP JUST SHORT

Playing in the day’s final group, Yu Liu and Carlota Ciganda came up a heartbreaking one stroke behind Jin Young Ko at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Both players were looking for breakthrough wins – Liu for her first career LPGA Tour win and Ciganda for her first victory since she visited the winner’s circle twice in 2016. 

Liu started the final round with the lead for the first time in her young LPGA career. The second-year player played steady golf for 17 holes, making three birdies and, more importantly, keeping the mistakes at a minimum. Unfortunately, her one big mistake came at No. 18. Stepping to the tee in a tie for the lead, she left her approach just short of the green. After sending her chip past the hole, her comebacker for par just brushed the right lip, the ensuing bogey dropping her just short of that maiden win.

“On the last shot I didn't know what to expect because I don't know exactly where I stood, if I needed to make birdies or just save par and get to a playoff,” said Liu, who had fellow Chinese player Shanshan Feng waiting greenside for support. “So, I wasn't as focused as I would've liked. I think that's why I made bogey.”

Starting the day one stroke off Liu’s lead, Ciganda opened hot, carding birdies at four of the opening seven holes and pulling one stroke clear of Liu. But bogeys at holes 8 and 11 derailed her round, and a birdie at No. 14 was just not enough for the Spaniard to catch the surging Ko.

“The bogey on 11 killed me a little bit, but I tried my best,” said Ciganda. “I played aggressive, which is my nature, and made a bogey there. Then hit good shots. Just wasn't as control with my putting on the last few holes, so I didn't make any putts at the end.”


KORDA SISTERS TIE FOR SECOND 

Among Sunday’s hot rounds at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, none were hotter than those from the Korda sisters. Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda posted rounds of -6 and -8, respectively, and came just short of a victory, both finishing at 21-under 267.

Jessica, who has not competed since the 2018 CME Group Tour Championship, cared more about the opportunity to play again rather than the result.

“I'm always just so grateful to be out here, and obviously playing pain-free it shows,” said Jessica. “I'm so grateful and thankful to be back that whatever I did this week I'm just going to be happy with.”

Nelly was excited to see her sister out on the course again this week. “Obviously at the end of the day we're trying to beat each other, but I'm proud of the way she played this week her first week back, and I'm sure she is as well,” said the younger Korda.

Nelly, who was playing two groups behind Jessica on Sunday, said she was doing her best to keep up with Jessica’s pace. “I have a friend out here and right as I got on the tee on 10 she was like, ‘Oh, my God! Jess made an eagle,’” said Nelly. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Where did she make the eagle?’ I was trying to watch and I saw her at -21 and I'm like, ‘Oh, damn. Need to catch up a little.’”

Competing against Nelly, who already has a win under her belt at the 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, made Jessica a proud sibling. “It's been so great watching her. Just not being able to play, to be out here, just seeing how she carries herself and how she represents herself has been fantastic,” said Jessica. “She's one up on me this year so I got to put my butt in gear.”

In The Winners Circle - Jin Young Ko

Hometown/Resides: Seoul, Republic of Korea/Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea

Birthdate: July 7, 1995; currently 23 years, 8 months and 17 days

Qualified for LPGA Tour: Earned LPGA Tour Membership by virtue of her win at the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship

Turned Professional/Rookie Year: 2013/2018


VICTORIES

LPGA: Third career victory 

PREVIOUS LPGA WINS: 2018 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship (as a non-Member)


RACE TO THE CME GLOBE

With her win, Ko earns 500 points and is projected to move from seventh to second in the Race to the CME Globe with 1,032 points