Golf Buzz

April 11, 2015 - 8:06pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Phil Mickelson
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Phil Mickelson hasn't been in contention much lately, but his game always seems to show up at the majors.

Saturday was Moving Day at the Masters. And it sure didn't disappoint.

Here's a look at five surprises during the third round at Augusta National.

5. Ian Poulter's 5-under 67
Talk about a score that came out of nowhere. One day removed from a round of even-par 72 -- one that included a crushing 34 putts -- Poulter bounced back with a 5-under 67 on Saturday that tied for low-round of the day honors.

If anything, that score should tell us this: the putts finally started to fall for Poulter.

The 67 was Poulter's lowest ever score in the Masters and has him sharing 12th place with 18 holes to play. It was just the sixth round in the 60s in his 11 Masters starts.

Overall, it was a fantastic bounce back for Poulter.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Photos | Hoffman's eagle hole-out

4. Tiger's hot start
For many, it was impressive that Tiger Woods simply made the cut this week after two months away from competitive golf and an injury-plagued 2014.

That wasn't enough for Woods, however. He showed flashes of his old self early in the third round with an impressive 4-under 32 on the front nine helped by three consecutive birdies, ending with a near-ace on the par-3 fourth hole where his tee shot settled just 10 inches from the hole.

Two bogeys canceled out two birdies on the inward nine and Woods wound up with a 4-under 68 to make it two consecutive rounds in the 60s at Augusta National.

The last time Woods accomplished that was in 2005 -- his last Masters win.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. Woods has a mountain to climb on Sunday. He'll begin the round tied for fifth at 6 under, trailing 54-hole leader Jordan Spieth by 10 shots.

Nevertheless, it will be fun to watch. Woods is paired with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy on Sunday.

We're never again likely to see the Tiger Woods who dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Saturday's effort was a step in the right direction in terms of finding a game that is at least competitive.

MORE: Complete Masters coverage | Videos | Course tour | Past winners

3. Phil Mickelson within striking distance after 67
A third-round, 5-under 67 is an excellent score, but Mickelson will no doubt be kicking himself Saturday night over a missed opportunity.

That missed opportunity was his failure to make par on the 17th hole. A par would have earned Mickelson a spot in Sunday's final twosome alongside Spieth and he would have been just four shots behind the 21-year-old.

Instead, Mickelson will be in the penultimate group, five shots behind Spieth at 11 under.

Regardless, this has been a spectacular week for Mickelson. The once dominate player -- week-in and week-out -- hasn't finished better than a T17 this season. And his best finish over the last two seasons was runner up at the 2014 PGA Championship -- his lone top 10 over that stretch.

The majors bring out the best in Mickelson... especially this one. He'll be firing at the pins no matter where they're tucked on Sunday.

2. Justin Rose finishes with fireworks
Like Mickelson and Woods before him on this list, it hasn't been a spectacular season to this point for the 2013 U.S. Open champion.

At points on Saturday, it very much looked as though Rose was just one of those players hoping for a chance to finish second on Sunday. But then something special happened as it often does at Augusta National.

Beginning on the par-5 13th hole, Rose managed to birdie five of his last six holes, including a holed bunker shot on No. 16, and punctuated the round by a curling birdie putt on the 18th to fire a 5-under 67.

That put Rose at 12 under for the tournament, four behind Spieth and earned him a spot in Sunday's final pairing.

A comeback win may not be likely given the way Spieth has played, but Rose has at least put himself in a position to have a chance if he can put together one more special round on Sunday.

Rose came from two behind in the final round when he won the U.S. Open.

1. Spieth sets 54-hole scoring record
Spieth is just a record-setting machine this week.

One day removed from setting the 36-hole Masters scoring record of 14-under 130, Spieth added the 54-hole record on Saturday with a 2-under 70 that moved him to 16-under 200.

On Sunday, he'll look to chase down the 72-hole scoring record of 18-under 270, set by a 21-year-old Tiger Woods in 1997.

Spieth will also be looking to join the foursome of Craig Wood (1941), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Raymond Floyd (1976) as the only players who have won the Masters from start to finish.

As we've said all week -- Spieth's play and the fact that he leads isn't surprising. Instead, it's the manner in which he has played and has led. Aside from that double-bogey hiccup on No. 17 Saturday, he has been absolutely dominant.

Any player would love to win the Masters. But if this is to be Spieth's first major win, in this fashion, with the names Rose, Mickelson, McIlroy, Woods and Johnson all currently among the top 10?

How special would that be? 

April 11, 2015 - 2:34pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods is off to a fantastic start in the third round of the Masters.

For many, Tiger Woods just making the cut at Augusta National this week would have been reason enough to think things are headed in the right direction for the 14-time major winner.

But, that probably wasn't going to be enough to satisfy Woods.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Spieth's 36-hole record | Masters photos

Early in his third round at the Masters on Saturday, Woods was off to a red-hot start.

After a par at the first hole, Woods rolled off three consecutive birdies, including this one -- a near ace -- at the par-3 fourth hole:


The fourth has played as the second most difficult hole through 36 holes at the Masters this week.

With the birdie, Woods moved to 5 under for the tournament and was tied for seventh at the time of this posting.

April 11, 2015 - 11:55am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Morgan Hoffmann
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Morgan Hoffmann is playing in his first Masters this week. On Saturday, he created a Masters memory he'll never forget.

Morgan Hoffmann, playing in his first Masters, created a moment on Saturday that he'll forever remember from his first trip to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Spieth's 36-hole record | Masters photos

After making the cut a day earlier at 1-over 145, Hoffmann got off to a hot start in the third round. Hoffman parred the first two holes before jarring this 123-yard shot for eagle on the par-4 third hole:


Hoffmann moved to 2 under for the day and 1 under for the tournament.

April 10, 2015 - 7:05pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
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Expectations for Tiger Woods in this Masters were at an all time low. So far, he's exceeding them.

Weather was supposed to be the story of the day from Round 2 of the Masters, but luckily it held off and we were treated to another spectacular day of golf from Augusta National.

Along with the weather staying away, these were the five biggest surprises on Friday:

5. Phil Mickelson opens with two sub-par rounds
Mickelson's game has been far from stellar for the better part of two years now (the exception being a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship last August).

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Spieth's 36-hole record | Masters photos

He entered the Masters without a single top-10 finish this season, yet through two rounds, Mickelson is at 6-under 138 thanks to rounds of 70-68.

Like everyone else, Mickelson is well behind the leader, Jordan Spieth (14 under). But these first two rounds were significant for Mickelson.

The last time Lefty opened with two sub-par rounds at Augusta National was 2010.

He won that year.

4. Tiger Woods shoots 3-under 69
Expectations for Woods in this Masters may have been lower than ever before -- not necessarily from the 14-time major winner's perspective, but certainly by most golf observers.

His 1-over 73 on Thursday was a nice start, seeing as it was one of those rounds that very well could have been a 6-over 78. But still, it wasn't much to write home about.

On Friday, however, that short game that has been such a concern the last two months was sharp. Woods shot a 3-under 69, his first sub-70 round at the Masters since a 67 in the final round of the 2011 tournament.

Woods didn't miss the cut like many predicted he would. Instead, he will go into the weekend at a respectable 2-under, 142.

Yes, that's a whole 12 shots behind the leader, but a cut made -- in a major -- after a two-month layoff and a lost season a year ago has to give Woods some confidence.

3. Mark O'Meara shoots 4-under 68
At 58 years old, no one expected the 1998 Masters champ to go out on Friday and fire a sub-70 round. But that's exactly what O'Meara, who hasn't made a cut at Augusta National since 2005, did.

O'Meara's 68 on Friday was his first round in the 60s since a final-round 68 in 2001.

At 3 under for the tournament, O'Meara will easily be seeing weekend action at Augusta National for the first time in a long time.

2. Dustin Johnson's three eagles in one round
It's no secret that a bomber like Johnson feasts on par 5s. But what he did at Augusta National on Friday is something that's never been done before.

In just one round, Johnson played the four par 5s in an astounding 7-under par, collecting three eagles and a birdie. And all of that after making double bogey on the first hole.

The eagles came on Nos. 2, 8 and 15, while he birdied No. 13. Johnson finished with a 5-under 67. Along with Thursday's 70, Johnson is 7 under through 36 holes.

Until Friday, no player in Masters history had ever made three eagles in one round.

At the Masters, players who make an eagle receive a pair of crystal goblets etched with the Masters logo, the players name and his feat. Johnson snagged six of those beauties on Friday.

1. Spieth sets 36-hole Masters scoring record
Why?: Like yesterday, I'm not surprised Spieth is leading. I am surprised, however, with the way he's ripping the course apart and running away from the competition.

He backed up the incredible 8-under 64 on Thursday with a masterful 6-under 66 Friday to move to 14-under, 130 total. That's a new Masters scoring record, supplanting the prior mark of 13-under 131 set by Raymond Floyd way back in 1976.

Spieth's work the first two days has him five clear of his next closest competitor, Charley Hoffman. 

April 10, 2015 - 2:55pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
Jordan Spieth is one of four players to have posted a 130, 36-hole score in major championship history.

Jordan Spieth looks like a man on a mission at Augusta National this week and that mission is to win the green jacket come Sunday evening.

The 21-year-old backed up his magnificent 8-under 64 in Round 1 with a dazzling 6-under 66 in Round 2 on Friday.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Masters photos | Stenson snaps club

His 36-hole total of 14-under 130 is a new Masters scoring record, edging the mark of 13-under 131 that Raymond Floyd set in 1976. Floyd went on to win that year.

Spieth's 36-hole total at Augusta National also ties the record for 36-hole scoring in major championship history.

Nick Faldo first set that mark in the 1992 Open Championship at Muirfield (which he won). Brandt Snedeker matched the mark in 2012 at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes (he tied for second) and 2014 U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer added his name to the list of players with a 130, 36-hole total when he turned the trick at Pinehurst No. 2. 

April 10, 2015 - 2:33pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Henrik Stenson
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The Masters has a way of getting to the best players in the world... frustratingly at times. That's what happened to world No. 2 Henrik Stenson on Friday.

Henrik Stenson may not have a major championship on his resume, but he's three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam when it comes to club snapping.

A frustrated Stenson -- who hasn't been himself this week after a bout with the flu leading into the Masters -- let his anger get the best of him during the second round of the Masters on Friday.

RELATED: What's the rule on broken clubs? | Masters leaderboard | Photos

After knocking a ball into the pond on Augusta National's par-5 15th hole, the world's No. 2-ranked player proceeded to snap the offending club over his knee.

We don't have the official footage, but you can check it out here.

Stenson bogeyed the hole, which typically plays among the easiest scoring-wise. He was 1 over for the day and 2 over for the tournament to that point.

Friday's Masters club-snapping makes it three majors now in which Stenson has "Bo Jackson'd" a club after a less-than-desirable shot.

Here's video of Stenson from the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, where his temper got the best of him and he actually added injury to insult.


Click here and you can see a still image of Stenson snapping his club last summer at the Open Championship.  

Be on the look out at Whistling Straits this summer in the PGA Championship. A snapped club there and Stenson will complete the career club-snapping grand slam.