Planet Golf — 07 April 2023 by GW staff and news services
Tiger ties Masters record for cuts made

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods has made history at the Masters.

Woods battled the elements on a rainy Saturday morning at Augusta National to make the cut on the number at 3-over 147. He ties Fred Couples and Gary Player with 23 consecutive made cuts at the Masters, most all-time. Woods hasn’t missed a Masters cut since 1996, playing as an amateur.

It wasn’t easy. As the conditions worsened Saturday, Woods closed his second round with back-to-back bogeys to surrender his cushion and leave his fate in the hands of others. Woods stood T51 as he completed his round, with the top 50 and ties advancing to the third round. Justin Thomas moved the line with a bogey on 17 to fall to 3-over; Thomas also made bogey on 18 to miss by one.

“I’ve always loved this golf course, and I love playing this event,” Woods said after signing his second-round card Saturday morning, while awaiting his cut-line fate. “Obviously I’ve missed a couple with some injuries, but I’ve always wanted to play here. I’ve loved it.

“I hope I get a chance to play on the weekend … I’m sorry, I got a chance to play on the weekend. I wish I get to play two more rounds.”

His wish was granted.

Woods began Saturday on the 12th tee as the second round resumed at 8 a.m. ET; he stood 2 over for the tournament at the time. He stuck his tee shot at the par-3 12th to 6 feet but missed the putt. After back-to-back pars, he extracted redemption with a 25-foot birdie at the par-5 15th, which ultimately proved crucial as he maintained his distinction of never missing the Masters cut as a professional, a streak that begin with his 12-shot victory in 1997, his first of five green jackets.

Woods’ third shot at the 15th rattled the flagstick before spinning back toward the front of the green. It might not have been the best break, but Woods knew it could have been worse.

“At least it didn’t go in the water this time when it hit the flag,” Woods quipped, referencing a 2013 occurrence. “So that was nice. Made a good putt there, and then just didn’t finish very well.”

He closed with missed fairways and missed greens on both 17 and 18, leading to the bogeys that made for an uneasy sequence in sweating out the number. With the cut settling at 3-over, though, he earned a 1:06 p.m. ET Saturday tee time for the third round, which will be played in threesomes off two tees.

Second-round play was suspended twice Friday afternoon, ultimately called for the day at 5:45 p.m. ET, requiring the cut to be made Saturday.

Woods carded 2-over 74 in the opening round at Augusta, and he played his first 11 holes Friday in even-par before the horn blew. There was also a 21-minute delay earlier Friday afternoon, with Woods on the eighth green.

Last year, Woods made the cut at the Masters in his competitive return from severe injuries to both legs suffered in a 2021 single-car accident. He finished solo 47th that week. After appearances at last year’s PGA Championship (made cut, WD after 54 holes) and The Open Championship (MC), he finished T45 at The Genesis Invitational in February.

After his round Thursday, Woods described the pain as “constant” and his right leg as “sore.” He battled through it, as he did Friday and again on Saturday morning.

Rain-suspended SECOND ROUND

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The notion that players who joined LIV Golf would risk being sharp and properly prepared for the majors doesn’t apply to Brooks Koepka. It never really mattered how much or how well Koepka was playing. The majors always seemed to bring out his best.

Based on two rounds at the Masters, they still do.

Gaining confidence and a bit of swagger in his step, Koepka breezed around Augusta National without a bogey on Friday for a 5-under 67, giving him the lead over U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett and allowing him to take shelter as the weather became a force.

Storms stopped play for 21 minutes. Less than an hour after it resumed, play was stopped again as gusts raged through the Georgia pines and felled at least three trees that crashed near spectators along the 17th tee.

The club said no one was injured, and roars soon were replaced by the rumbling motors of chain saws. Whether it was the cleanup or the storm cells, the second round was suspended until Saturday morning.

Jon Rahm was three shots behind through nine holes. Tiger Woods was hovering around the cut line at 2 over — his first shot Saturday in the chill will be from the tee at the par-3 12th. Woods has never missed the cut at the Masters as a pro.

Koepka played in the morning, and after making four par putts from about the 6-foot range through six holes, he was on his way. He was 5 under on the par 5s — including an eagle on No. 8 with a 3-iron to about 15 feet — and set the target at 12-under 132.

“I’m able to do everything I need to,” Koepka said. “And the confidence is there. The confidence was lost just because of my knee, and that was it.”

The real surprise was who was chasing him — Bennett, the Texas A&M senior, who had another 68 and posted the lowest 36-hole score at the Masters by an amateur since Ken Venturi in 1956.

He was four shots behind.

“I think I am prepared. The hard work’s done. I made the cut as an amateur. I kind of made my mark. I played steady golf,” Bennett said. “Now it’s time for me to go out and enjoy, soak it all in, be able to play the weekend at the Masters.”

The other surprise was Rory McIlroy, the No. 2 player in the world looked upon as one of the favorites to finally get the one major keeping him from the career Grand Slam. That likely will have to wait at least another year.

McIlroy, the loudest voice against the Saudi-funded rival league, was headed for an early exit. He has failed to break par in the Masters in six of his last eight rounds.

Jason Day was trying to hang with Koepka until playing his last four holes in 4 over and having to settle for a 72 that left him at 5-under 139. Another shot back was Phil Mickelson, who birdied his last hole for a 69.

Koepka was a force in the majors when he was healthy, winning four out of the eight he played in one stretch — back-to-back U.S. Opens (2017-18) and PGA Championships (2018-2019). Four of his first six wins on the PGA Tour were majors.

But he missed the 2018 Masters with a wrist injury and didn’t want to be left out again. That’s why he tried to play at Augusta in 2021, just three weeks after surgery to repair his shattered kneecap. He could only stoop over to read putts and missed the cut.

He missed the cut again last year, and he was so frustrated he said he tried to smash the back window in his courtesy car with his fist — not once, but twice.

That was a failure, too.

“Apparently, not strong enough,” Koepka said. “I guess Mercedes makes a pretty good back window.”

So much has transpired from then to now, most significantly LIV Golf.

Koepka signed for a reported $100 million, a big temptation for someone who wasn’t entirely confident his body — and his game — would ever be what it was. He was asked Friday if the decision to sign with LIV would have been more difficult had he not been injured.

“If I’m being completely honest, I think it would have been,” he said. “But I’m happy with the decision I made.”

He became the first player to win twice in the 10 events LIV has staged (each worth $4 million to him), and that has not gone unnoticed.

Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth (70) was seven shots behind and quickly acknowledged Koepka has slept on major championship leads more often than he has.

“Ideally it would be somebody who would care more and potentially be feeling different than maybe Brooks will be,” Spieth said. “But at the same time, it’s been a little while for him, too.

“He did win last week. I don’t know kind of the way that feels on the LIV Tour, but he did win there against really good players, and comes in playing in great control of his game and has dealt with pushing a lead already out here.”

Most telling of the turnaround for Koepka was on the par-5 13th when he faced a 30-foot putt from just off the green. Waiting his turn, Koepka crouched to study his line and stayed in that position for nearly a minute. Two years ago, he couldn’t have done that for a second.

“It feels really good, being able to just get down and not have to think about it,” he said.

Viktor Hovland, tied with Koepka and Rahm after Thursday, was 1 over for his round and at 6 under through 10 holes. Cameron Young put up nine pars and was still at 5 under. Those were the closest threats to Koepka among those who hadn’t finished their rounds.

Those are the kind of players Koepka once faced regularly until leaving for the 48-man league of LIV Golf and its 54-hole tournaments and guaranteed money.

He misses that competition — Koepka played a practice round with McIlroy on Tuesday to measure his game — and now only gets that in the majors.

“That’s what I think makes these majors so cool,” he said.

Koepka always thrived in them even in different times. Along with four titles, he has 12 finishes in the top 10 dating to 2014. Now he looks to be back on track.

He is walking — and talking — like the Koepka of old.

“The whole goal is to win the Grand Slam, right? I feel like all the greats have won here and they have all won British Opens, as well,” he said. “Look, I guess it’s one more box for me to tick to truly feel like I’ve done what I should have accomplished in this game.”


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Three players – Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka – are tied atop the leaderboard after shooting 65 on Thursday. But how they ended up there was remarkably different.

Hovland led for much of the morning thanks to a front-nine 31. He holed a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second hole and stuffed it close for birdies on the par-3 sixth and par-4 ninth. Then on the 11th he rammed home a 37-foot birdie. Mixed in was a supreme showcase of scrambling that kept bogeys off his card. Hovland missed the eighth green left but chipped to 10 feet and converted the birdie putt. An errant approach shot on the 10th left Hovland right of the greenside bunker with an uneven stance. Hovland knocked it to 4 feet and saved par. He short-sided himself again on the 18th hole but hit his shot from the right greenside bunker to 8 feet and made par. He was 5-for-5 in sand saves.

The ideal start from Hovland was not shared by Rahm, who walked onto the first green facing a 40-foot birdie putt and left with a double-bogey 6.

If a reminder was needed of all the trouble that lurks at Augusta National, Rahm’s four-putt provided it early Thursday morning. But what he did next showcased how quickly fortunes can turn at this course.

The Spaniard’s play over the next 17 holes was reminiscent of the dominant display he put on earlier this year, when he won three PGA TOUR titles in five starts to sit atop the FedExCup standings and the world ranking. Rahm played the final 17 holes of Thursday’s round in 9 under par, carding an eagle at the eighth and seven birdies to revive his round.

“If you can somehow make it through the first 6 1/2 holes, and what I mean is putting the ball in the fairway on 7, and you’re around even par, I think it’s a pretty good start,” Rahm said. “So if you can get through that, you have a short iron into 7, 8, 9 to maybe make some birdies and maybe get the round going. I was able to do that and took advantage of it the rest of the day.”

After running his birdie putt 8 feet by the first hole, he missed the comebacker and the 5-footer for bogey. A result that could normally derail a player’s chances seemed to re-focus Rahm. The No. 3 player in the world hit his second shot on the par-5 second hole to 14 feet and two-putted for birdie. He got back to even with a birdie on the par-4 third, hitting a 332-yard drive that left him just 17 yards from the hole. Then on the seventh, Rahm, who ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting this season, converted on a birdie putt from just off the green, about 20 feet from the hole. The shot of the day came on the par-5 eighth. Rahm stuck his second shot from 249 yards to just 4 feet, landing the ball on the front of the green and letting it feed all the way to the back-right pin location. He made the putt for eagle, his ninth at the Masters since 2017 and most of any player in that time frame.

He added birdies on both second nine par-5s, 13 and 15, then made an 11-foot birdie on 16 and hit his approach on 18 to 3 feet to close the round with one more birdie.

Then there’s Koepka, who slowly moved his way up the leaderboard through the afternoon. He birdied both par-5s on the first nine and added two more birdies on the third and seventh holes. His lone bogey of the day came at the par-5 13th when hit his ball into the left trees. That didn’t seem to fluster the four-time major champion though as Koepka bounced back with birdies on 15, 17 and 18 to close out his round.

The trio of Rahm, Hovland and Koepka hold a two-shot lead over a Cameron Young and Jason Day.


Woods opens in 2-over 74: Tiger Woods arrived at his 25th Masters with the intent of contending for his sixth green jacket, but also realistic about the condition of his legs in traversing Augusta National’s hills. Thursday’s opening round brought a mixed bag; Woods rallied from a 3-over start through seven holes to post 2-over 74, well within striking distance of the cut line, but also described his right leg as “sore” and the pain as “constant” after his round.

Woods finished the day nine strokes off the pace of his playing partner Hovland, but he was buoyed slightly by vintage Woods birdies at Nos. 15 and 16, and he remained optimistic in his chances to card some low numbers later in the week.

“Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be a little bit better, a little bit sharper,” Woods said. “This is going to be an interesting finish to the tournament with the weather coming in. If I can just kind of hang in there, maybe kind of inch my way back, hopefully it will be positive towards the end.”

It’s a testament to Scheffler’s current form, as well as his comfort level around Augusta National, where he four-putted the final hole in 2022 but still won by three strokes.

Last year, Scheffler arrived at Augusta as world No. 1. He came here this year with the same rank. His 68 on Thursday marks the lowest first round by a defending Masters champion since Tiger Woods in 2020, and he has now recorded eight consecutive rounds of par or better at Augusta National, the longest current active streak.

Scheffler needed 32 putts to navigate Augusta National on Thursday, including seven missed birdie putts inside 15 feet. He’s just three off the lead regardless.

If his putter heats up just a bit, that board could shift in a hurry.

“Got a lot of good looks and I thought I was hitting a lot of good putts, just hitting a lot of edges, which happens,” Scheffler said. “These greens are not easy to putt, and you can’t expect to make everything. I was doing a good job of controlling my emotions today and staying in check, and I didn’t get too frustrated on the greens.”

A stacked leaderboard: A glance down the top 15 on the leaderboard should yield plenty of memories of big moments. Of the 16 players at 3 under par or better, 10 have won major championships. There’s young guns like Rahm (-7), multi-time major champions in Collin Morikawa (-3) and Jordan Spieth (-3) and older players in Adam Scott (-4), Justin Rose (-3) and Jason Day (-5) that are looking to add another after years of waiting.

Among the contenders who haven’t won a major: Hovland, Young, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, Tony Finau and U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett.

Not bad.

They say the cream rises to the top during major championships. It’s not often it happens after just one round, though. There’s 82 combined professional wins among those 16 players. Which is to say, there’s plenty who know how to close golf tournaments that are ready to battle for a green jacket. It should make for great theater over the next three days, and the weekend weather forecast should only add to the intrigue.

Rory starts slow again: Rory McIlroy would probably skip Thursdays at the Masters if he could. In search of the career Grand Slam, McIlroy struggled once more with an even-par round of 72. McIlroy has not shot under par in the first round at the Masters since 2018.

“I’m probably two or three shots behind how I’d like to be, considering how I played today,” McIlroy said. “I think, if I had gotten the most out of my round, I would have shot 68 or 69. So a few shots back, but nothing that’s not insurmountable.”

The five-time major champion called his round “untidy” as he struggled to string together stretches of good play without mistakes. He birdied the second hole but bogeyed the third after his approach shot came up short and he failed to get up and down. McIlroy made a double-bogey on the seventh after he airmailed green, dumped a flop shot in the bunker and then missed his 5-foot bogey putt.

He bounced back with birdies on 8 and 10 to draw back to even par, but a subsequent three-putt on the 11th led to another dropped shot. It looked like McIlroy would register an under-par round after back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 but an errant drive left on 17 led to his third bogey of the day.

“The back nine was really, really good golf, and I putted really, really well on the back nine,” Couples said. “It was like every 8-footer I had or 10-footer, I made.”

The only exception came on 18 when Couples narrowly missed a 39-foot birdie putt and then missed the hole on his 3-foot par putt to close with a bogey.


Cameron Young (67): Young missed the cut last year in his only Masters appearance. He birdied his first three holes to fuel a stellar opening round. He finished runner-up at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in his first event with caddie Paul Tesori and now is back in the mix.

Jason Day (67): Five birdies, no bogeys for Day, who missed last year’s Masters after falling outside the top 50 in the world rankings. The Aussie has four career top-10 finishes at this event.

Adam Scott (68): The 2013 Masters champion is without a top-25 finish this season but notched an eagle and three birdies to card the lowest first round score of his career.

Xander Schauffele (68): Still searching for his first major, Schauffele has flashed form in recent weeks and continued it with a 4-under first round.

Shane Lowry (68): Following a T3 at last year’s Masters, Lowry carded five birdies, including at the tough ninth and 18th.

Sam Bennett (68): The U.S. Amateur champion became the first amateur to finish in the top 10 after the first round since Ryan Moore in 2005. The Texas A&M product opened birdie-eagle and added another birdie on the sixth before finishing with 12 consecutive pars. It’s the first bogey-free round by an amateur since 1992.


130: That’s how many stroke-play tournaments Jon Rahm had gone without making an opening double-bogey before he made a 6 on the par-4 first Thursday.

1: The number of top-20 major finishes in Viktor Hovland’s career. He finished T4 at last year’s Open Championship after playing alongside Rory McIlroy in the final group. Hovland’s opening 65 is his first round in the 60s at Augusta National, and he did it while playing alongside Tiger Woods.

8: Consecutive rounds under par by Scottie Scheffler at the Masters, the longest active streak of any active player.

11: Every champion since 2006 has been inside the top 11 after 18 holes. There are 12 players at 4 under or better.

4.59: The scoring average on the par-5 15th, the easiest hole in Round 1

4.3605: The scoring average on the par-4 11th, the hardest hole in Round 1


Driving accuracy: Jon Rahm, Bernhard Langer, Hideki Matsuyama (14 of 14 fairways)

Driving distance: Rory McIlroy (334.5 yards)

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