Reading the Break: Schwartzel the Winner … along with Augusta

Andres Davidsson

Augusta National was at its best, and back to being a fair test of golf, which in return gave us an exciting day with the best golf we have seen for years at Augusta. After Rory had played the tenth hole it was up for grabs, and what a back-nine the players gave us with birdies, eagles, bogies and worse. Today had it all.

Charl Schwartzel is more than a worthy winner, with four birdies on the final four holes, and only dropping one shot in the final round. How come I didn’t name him in the pre-tournament pool of players? He is well known, a good, and an up-and-coming player. A super putter, he has had a reputation of being good only in his own back yard. But he sure took his game to a new level this week.

Our favorite to win before the event, Luke Donald started the day a little shaky by mis-judging the wind on the first hole. Still, a good chip and a putt got him settled, and he gave himself a chance with good, steady play on the front nine. Good birdie on the 10th hole, a near-miss for another birdie on eleven, and then disaster on the dangerous 12th. A poorly hit shot or a silly decision to go for the flag? He rebounded well with birdies on the remaining par-fives, the thirteenth and fifteenth. Another one on the sixteenth and he was back in the thick of things, but most of the players seemed to have problems with the new hole location on the 17th. For Donald it was over after a bogey on the pen-ultimate hole. The memorable chip-in birdie at the final hole capped off a good showing for him at this year’s Masters. We were close. I am sure he will forget the twelfth hole quickly, because as it turns out, making par there would not even have secured him a spot in a playoff.

A few words about McIlroy. He had the lead, alone or shared, for 63 holes and showed what he is capable of doing. However, he made a mental error on the tenth tee. He should never have hit driver there. A three-wood with a slight draw and the job was done there. And I also think he should have laid up in his third shot, instead of going for that difficult green with a fairway metal.

Looking at the leaderboard, we see that there is a new generation coming up in Schwartzel, Day and McIlroy, but don’t count the old dogs out just yet. Tiger gave us a good show and his new swing is almost ready. Cabrera and Ogilvy also seem back on track.

But I have a tendency to feel that the biggest winner here was the golf course. The course setup, the conditions, and of course the players, gave us the best Masters in years. It had been a long time since I enjoyed watching The Masters so much. I am so happy to have it back.

by Andres Davidsson, PGA Professional and swing coach

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Below you will find our previous daily blog from The Masters:

Day 3: Tracking Our Pre-Masters Picks: May the Force Be With You Luke

We are still keeping our eye on Luke Donald, The Golf Stream’s favorite to win before the event. He gave us a bit of a scare by winning the par-three contest on Wednesday, but no player has managed to win both in the same week. There is always a first for everything.

Donald is still in the hunt after carding a 69 today, but the man to beat is still Rory McIlroy. Donald’s performance today was strong, except for the two poor short shots he hit on the 13th hole. He showed maturity and rebounded with a birdie at fourteen. Over all a good performance.

Being five shots back, Donald still has a slim chance, but needs a round in the low 60’s to earn a green jacket. Is he capable. Yes, I think so. Other interesting players who may “steal” the title are Angel Cabrera and Adam Scott, who would then become the first Australian to win The Masters, since Norman never got the job done. Amazing fact, is it not?

Day 2: Rory the Man to Beat … and Ernie Needs a Belly-Putter

Another stunning day has gone by at Augusta. Conditions were ideal again and now the plot thickens. Young McIlroy showed another stellar performance, although holding a cold putter. McIlroy kept stiffing his irons – time and time again – very impressive. He is the man to beat.

We are still keeping track of our favorite picks to win prior to the event. Our main candidate, Luke Donald, played well today (68) and had an outstanding back nine. Yesterday we said he looked nervous – a feeling he confirmed in an interview with Sky Sports after his round today. Donald, as well as everyone else within six shots of the lead, still has a good chance.

From our picks, my biggest surprise has been Hunter Mahan missing the cut. He did so due to a poor finish yesterday. Graeme McDowell is also heading home, having failed to capitalize on the back nine. I thought this would be the course for him.

Matt Kuchar was cruising along nicely before he came to Amen Corner. He double-bogeyed the 12th hole and failed to recover on thirteen, fourteen and fifteen. We had previously warned that his otherwise consistent play could not afford slip-ups like that.

On the upside, Ernie Els used these same holes to earn himself playing rights over the weekend. He went eagle, birdie, birdie and made the cut on the mark. Well done Ernie, but how about that belly-putter we talked about. Have you thought about it?

Another player that made the most out of the two back-nine par-fives was Lee Westwood, who gained two shots to par on them. His bogey-free back-nine produced a good round of 67. I am still convinced that a European will win, but who will it be? I am sticking to Luke Donald, but will Rory run away with it. Looks like he’s ready.

Day 1: We Meant the Par-Three Contest

First day of The Masters, and what a day! Unreal conditions, easy hole locations and super scoring. Our favorite to win prior to the event, England’s Luke Donald, has at least won something this week – the par-three contest on Wednesday. Since nobody has ever won both the par-three and the main tournament, Donald seems to have jinxed himself.

Donald is still in it, but might be a little too far behind at even par. He had a rough front nine, but sported a great comeback on the back nine with birdie, eagle, birdie to save his round and hang in there. It looked like he was a little nervous in the beginning. He struck his irons poorly and was not putting the ball in the right places. But after all, this is a major championship and of course, they get to you more than the regular tour event. Donald is early out tomorrow and may be able to cover some ground in the better conditions, although you can be sure that the pins will be in tougher spots than they were today.

I’m afraid our second pick to win, Graeme McDowell, is out. Still, a score in the low sixties tomorrow could help him so at least he can play for the weekend and have an outside chance. However, he is playing late tomorrow so I don’t like his chances. I said that this was Europe’s time to win The Masters, and I still feel that way. Looking at the leaderboard with McIlroy and Quiroz, I am even more sure of that, but now comes the tricky part – to repeat the good golf for the second day.

Matt Kuchar looked good, played effortless golf. He was on our list as one of two consistent players that needed to stay away from trouble to have a shot at victory. We also featured Sean O’Hair as a dark horse in this race. I think this is going to be a very exciting Masters.

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