The great exhale has begun.
The Masters is just one week on the professional golf schedule but it dominates the landscape well in advance. By late Sunday evening, the decompression is in full force.
It continues this week at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town where the Spanish moss and South Carolina Lowcountry charms offer an ideal respite.
With the Masters as the baseline, it’s time to consider what’s ahead for some of the key figures involved last week:
Everything changed for Matsuyama with his Masters victory, particularly in his home country of Japan as he is sure to find out this week being back there.
A major championship was the one gap in Matsuyama’s résumé and he had quietly gone nearly four years without winning a tournament. He’s always been an exceptional ball-striker but he’s never been a great putter.
Winning the Masters doesn’t make Matsuyama a great putter but nothing is more valuable in golf than confidence. And a green jacket brings it. His short game last week was Olazábal level and it made the slender difference.
He’s still just 29 but the Masters victory had a career achievement feel to it because he’s such a familiar presence. If he can chip and putt like he did at Augusta, Matsuyama won’t stop with one major.
It’s likely he won’t play again until the Wells Fargo Championship in three weeks and it will be interesting to see what we get from him at Quail Hollow.
McIlroy was a mess at the Masters. The addition of Pete Cowen as a second instructor seems like a good move but the missed cut at Augusta had to raise questions. McIlroy said he was already making progress, the addition of Cowen wouldn’t require taking a step back to take two forward, but two tree-rattling rounds at Augusta were not reassuring.
It sounds simplistic but maybe McIlroy needs some quiet time. That’s what the next few weeks can provide.
Last week, Schauffele talked about how he reacted to having a share of the lead on the 15th tee Sunday in 2019, admitting to what he called a rookie mistake by getting caught up in what could happen.
So how to explain the triple bogey at the 16th hole Sunday when he was filling Matsuyama’s rear-view mirror with four straight birdies that had narrowed his deficit to two strokes?
Schauffele insists he “pured” the 8-iron that landed short of the green and kicked into the water. The wind got it, Schauffele said. Maybe it did or maybe he made another big mistake on a hole where getting the ball on the green is the first priority.
With seven top-10s in his last 10 major championship appearances, Schauffele has what it takes to contend. Finishing remains the challenge. At some point, do the missed chances become a burden more than a boost?
He played four tournament rounds at Augusta National last week and broke 75 exactly once.
It’s not a place that rewards players who try to impose their will on the golf course. He’s learning that the hard way.
Whether DeChambeau changes his approach at Augusta remains to be seen. He can point to the 67 he shot on Friday as evidence he knows what he’s doing, it’s just a matter of execution (which has become a tired phrase in the pro game – just say you hit a lousy shot).
It’s like he tries to play Augusta National with a computer rendering when the place asks for a watercolor.
After committing to play the RBC Heritage this week at tight Harbour Town, DeChambeau withdrew Monday. His brain might need the rest.
He’s Jordan Spieth again, which is the best thing that has happened in the 2021 season.
He rolled into Augusta coming off his first win in nearly four years and with a stack of strong finishes to reinforce his return to form. If he could replay the par-4 ninth hole on Thursday at the Masters, he might have won a second green jacket but that triple bogey left a stain he couldn’t fully get out.
Spieth keeps tamping down the notion that he’s back to hitting it like he did in his prime and he would know the difference. It’s still a work in progress, he insists. And maybe it is but there’s reason to believe in Spieth again.
He became a star before he became a full PGA Tour member (which he still is not).
It was fair to assume he had the game to handle Augusta National but wonder if he had the seasoning to get through a weekend in contention at the Masters.
The answer is a resounding yes. Zalatoris seemed thrilled by the moment, not intimidated by it. He leaned into it and embraced it, something not every player can do.
Unless he wins a tournament, Zalatoris will not qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs because he is playing as a special temporary member with unlimited sponsor exemptions allowed. He will crack the top 125 and get his full card for next season which raises another question – could he make the U.S. Ryder Cup team in September?
Yes, he could.
Top: Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. Photos: Courtesy Augusta National
© 2021 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?