The 2017 US Masters Review
In many ways, the 2017 Masters provided the ideal sporting story. America Golf considers the Masters one of the special moments of sporting history but even by Augusta National standards, 2017 was a special year.
The usual names were in contention prior to the start of the tournament but there was drama before the first player stepped up to the tee on Thursday morning. Dustin Johnson, the world number one, was forced to retire from the 2017 Masters having suffered a fall and injuring his lower back the day before the event started.
The American tried his best to take part in the tournament but it was evident on the first tee he would have to withdraw. Johnson was considered a huge favorite to win the 2017 Masters, having won the first major title of his career at the 2016 US Open but it wasn’t to be. Johnson’s loss was the fields gain and every other player in contention of winning the tournament must have felt their chances had significantly improved.
Jordan Spieth, winner in 2015 and runner-up in both 2014 and 2016, was hotly tipped to put the disaster of last year’s final round behind him and claim a second green jacket.
There was always a chance the young American could suffer on the 12th hole during his final round, as he did in 2016 but first he would need to get himself in contention. However, it was fellow American golfer, Charley Hoffman who made all the early running.
Hoffman carded a 7 under par 65 to open a four-shot lead over his nearest rival, William McGirt. None of the big names in the early betting came close to Hoffman on the first day, with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia the pick of the players on 1 under. The course was proving difficult for many players, especially after the adverse weather of the day before, which saw the par-3 contest cancelled.
Thomas Pieters was looking good heading into the back nine but dropped away and Spieth recorded a nine on the par 5 15th hole before ending his round ten shots behind the leader. Hoffman on the other hand, birdied four of this last five holes to take a remarkable lead into the clubhouse on day one.
The conditions didn’t show any sign of improving on Friday and Hoffman found it difficult to replicate his heroics of the day before. Despite shooting a 3 over par 75 he remained in contention at the top of the leaderboard. Ricky Fowler enjoyed the second hole, recording an eagle before finishing with a score of 65. Friday also proved profitable for Pieters, with the young Belgian shooting 68 and Garcia, who carded a 69, despite some confusion regarding his scoring on the 10th hole.
There was bad news for the reigning champion, Danny Willett, who failed to make the cut, which was set at 6 over par. Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open champion also failed to make the weekend and the Swede was joined by Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson, both previous winners at Augusta. One former Masters champion was making headlines for the right reasons was Fred Couples. The 57-year-old American shot a 2 under par 70 to sit T6 after two rounds, just three shots off the leaders.
The weather improved for Saturday’s third round and Justin Rose took full advantage. The Englishman ripped apart the back nine to record a round of 67 and a share of the lead with Garcia. Both players were delighted with the way they had played but one man was lurking ominously behind them, just two shots adrift and that man was Spieth. His round of 68 was only bettered by Rose and left him in a great position to challenge on the final day.
With Spieth and Fowler breathing down the necks of Rose and Garcia, we were set for a potentially thrilling Sunday of golf. Unfortunately, neither of the two American golfers were on top form and carded 75 and 76 respectively, to leave themselves well adrift in the final reckoning.
So, it was down to the two Ryder Cup team mates and what a spectacle they produced. Upon reaching the 6th hole, Garcia had opened a three-shot lead but Rose hit back and birdied the next three holes, to level things up. Garcia began to miss-fire from the tee and he fell two shots behind before hitting a horrible shot on the 13th hole, which left him with an unplayable lie. The Spaniard miraculously made a par, with Rose having failed to make a birdie and this seemed to energize Garcia.
Some great golf from Garcia saw him draw level with Rose heading to the 16th and despite Rose’s birdie, Garcia kept his cool to level things up once again on the 17th and the 2017 Masters came down to the final hole. It was Garcia who made himself an opportunity to win the famous green jacket but he missed his putt, meaning a play-off was required to determine the winner.
Many onlookers thought Garcia’s missed chance to win the tournament would see him crumble but it was Rose who fell under pressure, striking a wayward shot off the tee. Garcia found the middle of the fairway and produced an accurate approach shot to within 8 feet of the hole. This time Garcia made no mistake and sent the ball home to win his first major golf tournament.
The late, great Seve Ballesteros would have been celebrating his 60th birthday but the man who played with Garcia as a 16-year-old amateur at the 1996 Open Championship would have been looking down with a smile on his face. The nearly man of golf had finally come good.