Did you know that the week after the Masters there’s professional golf? Suffering from Masters hangover like I do every year, I usually don’t track the pro golf tours a week or two following the Masters. But this past week had many interesting storylines, which I have some theories about with regards to the mental aspect of the game. Begin the unscientific study…now.
Masters Heartbreak to Great Performances
There are four specific players I’d like to discuss here. Those four are players who all competed in the Masters last week, but left without a victory or without even making the cut.
Lee Westwood had a solid Masters, finishing in solo 7th place, seven shots behind winner Bubba Watson. Westwood has left Augusta with no Masters or Major win on a yearly basis.
This past week Westwood smoked the field at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. I believe the term coined on the European Tour website was “Westwood Romps to Victory.“ What constitutes a romp or smoking the field? A seven shot margin of victory.
Matt Kuchar was tied for the lead on the 4th tee at the Masters during the final round. After four-putting that same hole, his hopes for the 2014 Masters win were crushed. Kuch finished T5.
This past week at Harbour Town Kuch was fantastic, holing out his bunker shot on the final hole for birdie to steal the win from Luke Donald. Final round: 64.
Speaking of Luke Donald, this former #1 player in the world is third of our four players. Luke missed the cut at the 2014 Masters. The following week he found himself leading at Harbour Town and nearly winning on Sunday, if not for an amazing finish by Kuchar.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Finally we have golf’s most interesting man in the world, the fabulous Miguel Angel Jimenez. Jimenez. Miguel had the lead in the 2014 Masters at one point. Very cool to see him atop the leaderboard at the Masters. He was close all week, finishing in solo 4th place just four strokes behind winner Bubba Watson.
This past week, the now 50-year-old made his first start on the Champions Tour at the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Duluth, Georgia. Jimenez took the lead immediately and led the tournament wire-to-wire, holding off the nearest competitor Bernhard Langer by two shots.
What Does This Mean?
As this unscientific piece continues, I think about the mental aspects of the game and playing under pressure. I can relate in my own small way. There are so many times where I felt like I was not able to handle the pressure (self imposed usually) of a tournament, event, or round. Once I figured I’d shot myself out of contention, the pressure was off and suddenly I played far better. No pressure, better scores.
The same, in my not-so-professional opinion, applies here. The four players above found the week after the Masters to be free of the pressure of a major championship. They found it much easier to be relaxed and perform well.
Sure you can make a “horses for courses” argument, especially with Donald and Kuchar at Harbour Town. Those two are two of the most accurate players in the world, and the course is best suited for that type of player, but still. These players were able to pull off wins or near-wins in my opinion largely in part because they did not have the high pressure of a major championship to deal with.
Now you could say that for these four players there are dozens who did not shine this past week and it would be a valid argument. But three of these four players had a shot at winning the Masters, Donald the exception, then followed up with wins the following week.
Last night was the second edition of the Golf Blogger’s Square Table Discussion, a live Google Hangout on air. This is a new thing I’ve been putting together in the hopes of producing some new, interesting content. Last night’s discussion was regarding the 2014 Masters Tournament, with a bit of 2014 U.S. Open thrown in. Participants in the chat were Doug Farrick from Golf Dash, Jay Flemma from Cybergolf and his own website, Rob Hayashida from Sandbox8 and myself.
Check it out:
I plan to do these at relevant times during the golf season, such as before and after all major championships. We may also talk equipment, apparel, the game, instruction, and other subjects at random times during the year so stay tuned.
I’m also using the hangouts for interviews, which is quite fun. Watch for more interviews coming soon.
This year’s Masters had quite a different feel to it, not because Tiger Woods was missing or because the 17th was missing the Eisenhower pine. The conditions seemed ripe for scoring, but the greens were so fantastically speedy and difficult it made low numbers and low scores tough to come by. The winning score by Bubba Watson, was -8.
One might have been able to say that Bubba Watson’s first Masters win was fluke, luck, or somesuch thing. That same person might argue we would not hear much from him again, or that he’d never win another major. Now that Mr. Watson (as Jordan Spieth called him) has two green jackets, one must call that a trend and not a fluke.
Bubba is obviously a freak player with perhaps the highest level of raw golf talent I’ve seen squeezed into one human body. Some guys are long. I know plenty of locals who can hit it as far or farther than Bubba does. Some guys (like me) can only putt. Some guys can only curve the ball, or can only curve it one way. Some guys can only perform well in the short game area. Bubba has it all: length, ability to curve the ball any direction, short game touch, creativity, great putting. He has the whole package. It doesn’t look all that great during the swing, but the results are indisputable. Perhaps the fact that he doesn’t have a swing coach and had little to no formal training, is what makes him able to even consider trying shots the average tour pro would not.
Choo choo! Join me on the Jordan Spieth bandwagon! How do you not like a 20 year old kid who nearly wins the Masters? He had a two-stroke lead with 11 holes to play. The hype is not hype. This kid is real and he will do some damage to the tour in the wins and the majors columns. Book it.
This week we a great learning experience for Spieth.
I’ll admit not knowing much about Jonas Blixt, until this week. I’m a fan now. He will be a force on tour. Book it.
On his 3rd hole Matt Kuchar shared the lead with Spieth. I started imagining him in a green jacket and I liked the look. Of all the players this past week, Kuchar impressed me most with his short game. His putting though, especially on the 4th hole where he four putted, had some issues. The four-putt was too much to overcome.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Guess who shot the lowest round of the tournament, by TWO shots? Yup, the most interesting golfer in the world, Miguel Angel Jimenez. Miguel was close to the lead for most the tournament and boy what a cool story that would have been if he managed to win at 50 years old.
Some day I hope to sit down with Miguel and have a glass of red wine and smoke a cigar with him. That would be one of life’s coolest experiences.
And how about those aviator sunglasses? No Oakley style wrap-arounds for this guy.
I gained a little more respect for Rickie Fowler this week. He showed quite a bit of grit and ended up tied for 5th on a course which I didn’t think really suited his game. And I was glad he didn’t go full-on traffic cone orange in the final round. The plaid pants were great.
Someone kill me now. I just commented on a player’s apparel selection. No really…kill me.
Rory McIlory was the favorite coming into the week. He barely made the cut, on the number. We haven’t seen his game at its best for quite a while now, back to around 2012 and the PGA Championship perhaps.
McIlory was “first out” on Saturday morning, not where a player wants to be. First out means last on the leaderboard. Since he was essentially a single as the field was whiddled down to an odd number, Rory had to play with a marker. The marker was a member of Augusta National Golf Club. McIlroy himself was humored, as was I, that the marker beat him by one shot with a 70.
When his game is at its best there is nobody in the world who can beat McIlory. When his game is not at its best, amateurs can beat him apparently.
Fred Couples had himself in contention most of the week, keeping the fans very happy. It seems to be a yearly thing now. Freddy’s length, even in his mid 50’s, is amazing. I don’t expect his back or his body to last all 72 holes, and he did end up out of the running when he knocked his 2nd shot in the water on the par-4 11th in the final round.
What an amazing group of players this year who missed the cut:
Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Graeme McDowell, Angel Cabrera, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson.
None of those missed cuts were as surprising as Phil Mickelson. Phil struggled with rounds of 76 and 73 Thursday and Friday. He mentioned that he might stay and watch the action as his “punishment.” I’d like to be punished by having to watch the Masters on Saturday and Sunday too. How can we make that happen?
Knowing Augusta like I do, having been there several times, makes watching from the comfort of the couch much more entertaining. It is as beautiful as everyone says, if not more. It is more hilly than anyone might imagine, and every blade of grass is perfectly cut. There is not a weed in 360 acres.
Watching the best players in the world deal with the amazing greens at Augusta National was a four day long treat. I gained great respect for the short games of the likes of Jonas Blixt, Bubba Watson, and especially Matt Kuchar. Kuchar hit a shot from the back of the par-5 15th on Saturday which was truly amazing. Though I’m a 2-handicap, I think I could have thrown a bucket of balls down back there and never gotten a shot that close.
The final round was a bit different, most of the excitement coming on the front nine this year, as opposed to the back nine. “The Masters doesn’t start until the FRONT nine on Sunday,” I suppose.
This tournament was free of idiots yelling “mashed potatoes” and free of the Back9Networks of the world posting their TMZ style pictures of hot tour wives. Now back to our regularly scheduled trash.
One positive, ending thought: Only 360 days until the 2015 Masters.
I decided to vary slightly on my Masters apparel script for this week. After three straight days the socks and underwear were getting just about as crusty as the Sunday greens will be at Augusta National Golf Club.
I decided to put a fresh shirt in play today, the new Nike Lightweight Innovation Color Men’s Golf Polo. Today is my first look at it. The fabric on this polo is amazing. Very soft and silky. The trim of the shirt and the detail areas are crafted with high precision.
My Sunday Masters apparel script shirt… click to see more
I noticed in early online broadcasts of Sunday’s final round of the 2014 Masters that Rory McIlory is wearing the SAME exact shirt. Rory obviously reads HOG and was so impressed with the sharp looks of this polo that he decided he’d wear the same one. Nice play Rory.
From Nike here’s a list of the features and benefits:
Dri-FIT fabric to wick away sweat and help keep you dry and comfortable
Fold-over collar and button placket for classic polo styling
Contrast sleeves and collar for style
Laser-cut chest pocket for storage and a streamlined look
FEATURED DRI-FIT TECHNOLOGY
This high-performance, microfiber, polyester fabric wicks sweat away from the body and moves it to the fabric surface, where it evaporates. As a result, Dri-FIT fabric helps you stay dry and comfortable.