Europeans making Masters resurgence
The Masters Tournament could be in the midst of another run of European winners.
Danny Willett of England and Sergio Garcia of Spain have won the past two green jackets, and there is another strong group of Euros this year.
As of Sunday, eight of the top 15 players in the world ranking are from Europe.
Europeans won four in a row from 1988-91: Sandy Lyle in 1988, Nick Faldo in 1989 and 1990, and Ian Woosnam in 1991.
“There are a lot of good players from all over, from everywhere in the world. We certainly have enough European talent to win a few here, but there’s no guarantee,” Germany’s Bernhard Langer said Sunday.
Langer, a Masters champion in 1985 and 1993, is a fan of England’s Justin Rose, the runner-up to Garcia last year and a former U.S. Open champion and Olympic gold medalist.
“When you have a swing and game like Justin Rose, you should be one of the favorites wherever you go,” Langer said.
Langer made his comments about Europeans while waiting to tee off on the 10th hole for a practice round Sunday. As he looked toward the first tee, he saw 23-year-old Jon Rahm, of Spain, walking toward the clubhouse.
“There’s one of the possible future stars from Spain right there,” Langer said.
Rahm is the top European in the ranking at No. 3. Rose is No. 5, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is No. 7, Garcia is No. 9, England’s Tommy Fleetwood is No. 11, England’s Paul Casey is No. 13 and Swedes Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson are Nos. 14 and 15, respectively.
“Stenson is still playing very well and you have Sergio,” Langer said. “There’s a whole bunch of other guys. Who would have thought Willett would have won?”
FIELD SET: With Ian Poulter’s victory in the PGA Tour’s Houston Open on Sunday, the starting field for the Masters is set at 87.
That’s six fewer than last year, and the first time the field has been under 90 since 2002.
The biggest field was 109 in 1962.
One reason for the drop is that regular Masters participants such as Ernie Els (23 appearances), Jim Furyk (21 appearances), Lee Westwood (18 appearances), Steve Stricker (16 appearances) and Brandt Snedeker (10 appearances) didn’t qualify this year.
And U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka withdrew because of a wrist injury.
WEEKEND WARRIOR: If you were asked which player in the field has made the most consecutive cuts in the Masters – but has never missed the cut – you might have guessed Tiger Woods. That would be wrong. Woods has made 18 consecutive cuts, but he missed the cut in his second start, in 1996, as an amateur.
The active leader is 2017 Masters runner-up Justin Rose, who has made the cut in all 12 of his appearances.
The record for consecutive cuts is shared by Gary Player (1959-1982) and Fred Couples (1983-2007) at 23. Unlike Player, who missed a cut (in 1958) before starting his streak, Couples never missed a cut until 2008.
So if Rose wants to beat Couples’ record of consecutive cuts made without ever missing a cut, he’ll have to make 12 more cuts in a row. That wouldn’t happen until 2029 if Rose were to play in the next 12 Masters.
MASTERS GREEN: Call it the $2 million question.
This could be the year the Masters champion earns a $2 million check for the first time.
First-place money last year for Garcia was a tournament-record $1.98 million.
Augusta National Golf Club has not followed any discernible pattern for when payout increases are made for the winner.
After three years at $1.44 million (2011 through 2013), it went to $1.62 million in 2014. It then stayed at $1.8 million in 2015 and 2016 before last year’s bump.
The answer to the $2 million question won’t be known until the eve of the final round, when the tournament payout is released. It totaled $11 million last year.
The Masters, which is run by Augusta National, had the second-highest payout to a winner of a U.S. tournament last year, behind the U.S. Open, which is run by the U.S. Golf Association. Koepka won $2.16 million.
The U.S. Open and Masters were followed last year by the Players Championship and PGA Championship, which both paid the winner $1.89 million last year. The British Open payout to Jordan Spieth was $1.845 million.
The highest winner’s payouts so far this season have come in the two World Golf Championships, where Phil Mickelson (the Mexico Championship) and Bubba Watson (the Match Play Championship) both earned $1.7 million.
EASY RIDER: England’s Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Race to Dubai winner last season, rarely shows any displeasure on the golf course. Even when he makes a bogey, Fleetwood will walk off the green with a bemused look on his face and sometimes even a smile.
“It’s something that I try to do,” he said. “You have to move on. I appreciate where I’m at and I have a great time going to tournaments and competing in such great events. I’m very fortunate. I made a bogey, get on with it. You have to remember it’s a privilege to be out here playing. Sometimes it’s more frustrating than others, but I try to keep a good positive attitude on things.”
Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton is on the other end of the emotional spectrum.
“We’re two different personalities,” Hatton said.