AUGUSTA (USA): Tiger Woods teed off in today’s final round of the Masters chasing his 15th major title, trying to capture his fifth green jacket to end an 11-year major drought.
The 43-year-old American superstar, back on form after 2017 spinal fusion surgery following years of nagging back pain, played alongside compatriot Tony Finau and Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the last group at Augusta National Golf Club.
Reigning British Open champion Molinari seized the 54-hole lead on 13-under par 203 with Woods and Finau two strokes behind.
Brooks Koepka, last year’s US Open, and PGA Championship winner, began three adrift with fellow American Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open, and England’s Ian Poulter four off the pace.
“It’s golf, so the favorite is probably the golf course out there waiting for us,” Molinari said.
“We’re all very close. It’s nice to be a little bit ahead, but you might just need one hole to change. You never know how it’s going to go, especially around a course like here.”
Augusta National advanced the final round to Sunday morning in a safety move with thunderstorms expected to arrive Sunday afternoon, when leaders would typically be battling for the Masters crown.
The storms, with hail and high winds producing tornadoes, led to three deaths and severe damage in moving across the southeastern United States.
The Masters, which has not had a Monday conclusion since 1983, decided to cancel its green jacket ceremony after the finish in order to hurry spectators to the exits faster due to the approaching storm.
Racing nature’s fury to finish on the weekend added more tension to the unfolding Masters’ drama, which centered on Woods and his chance to win his first major title since the 2008 US Open on the same course where he won his first-ever major in 1997.
“At 23, I had a lot more years in front of me,” Woods said. “At 43 I don’t. It’s just reality.”
Woods, who could move nearer Jack Nicklaus’s the all-time major win record of 18, contended last year at the British Open and PGA before snapping a five-year win drought by capturing the Tour Championship, his 80th career US PGA title leaving him two shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record.
Electrifying shotmaking this week at Augusta National cheered on by supportive crowds anxious to witness history, has Woods on the verge of a fairytale conclusion to a fightback from back pain so crippling he was unable to play with his children.
Woods has never fired so low in a Masters and not won the title but he has also never won a major title when not leading after 54 holes.
Plenty of rivals were in place to deny Woods his long-sought next major trophy.
Molinari, whose first Masters appearance was as a caddie to older brother Edoardo in 2006, outfought Woods last year at Carnoustie to win his first major title. The Italian then went 5-0 in a heroic Ryder Cup turn in France over an American team on which Woods went 0-5.
“The key for me is really going to go out and just do my thing. Staying aggressive,” Molinari said. “Hit the shots. Hit the middle of the clubface as often as I can and make smart decisions, and we’ll just take it from there.”
Finau, the US PGA’s first player of Tongan and Samoan heritage, leads the week in driving distance with 318.8 yards.
“I’m driving the ball nicely,” Finau said. “And on this golf course, I can attack the golf course if I’m hitting my driver well.”
Lurking as well is Koepka, who seeks his third victory in the past four majors — a success rate seen only by Ben Hogan’s three in a row in 1953 and the “Tiger Slam” four in a row by Woods in 2000-01.
“I’m pretty comfortable being up there on the leaderboard in a major come Sunday,” Koepka said. “I feel good and I like my chances.”
Tiger Woods awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods on Monday here at White House Rose Garden.
Praising Woods’ “relentless will to win, win, win…” the President held: “These qualities embody the American spirit of pushing boundaries, defying limits and always striving for greatness.”
President congratulated the Golfer on his amazing comeback and his amazing life and for giving sports fans a lifetime of memories: “We can’t wait to see what’s next, Tiger.”
Speaking on the occasion Tiger Woods said: “I have tried to hang in there and I have tried to come back and play the great game of golf again,” Woods said. “I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do it again.”
Presidential Medal of Freedom that was established by John F. Kennedy in 1963, is bestowed upon those who have made an ‘especially meritorious’ contribution to US security or national interests, world peace, cultural pursuits or other non-specified endeavors.
It is pertinent to mention here that Trump himself is a golfer who owns a number of golf courses all over the globe.
Golf: Stallings and Mullinax lead storm-hit Zurich Classic
NEW ORLEANS: The duo of Scott Stallings and Trey Mullinax finished their round with an 11-under 61 before storms and then darkness prevented the completion of the opening round of the Zurich Classic on Thursday.
Only 13 teams were able to complete their first rounds at TPC Louisiana following a weather delay that included lightning in the area. Play will resume at 7 am local time (12 noon GMT) today.
Martin Laird/Nick Taylor and Brian Gay/Rory Sabbatini were tied for second at 10 under. Laird and Taylor finished their round while Gay and Sabbatini still have four holes to play.
Another shot off the pace were the teams of Joel Dahmen/Brandon Harkins and Brice Garnett/Chesson Hadley, who were both able to complete their rounds.
Tournament officials said they are hopeful of getting the round completed today. “We’re going to play as much golf as we can today and finish up what we have to tomorrow,” said PGA TOUR rules official Gary Young. “Hopefully not into Saturday. But I think we’ll have enough time to get it done by tomorrow.”
The two-player team event includes Four-ball (best ball) rounds on Thursday/Saturday and Foursomes (alternate shot) on Friday/Sunday. The field will be cut from 60 teams to 35 following the second round.
Golf: Kupcho gives women Masterful magic!
AUGUSTA (USA): Forget such magical Augusta National moments as the Tiger Woods miracle putt, Phil Mickelson off the pine straw or Bubba Watson from deep in the trees to win the Masters.
For a generation of young women golfers who never before had an idol to emulate, it’s going to be about Jennifer Kupcho’s epic eagle in Amen Corner to win Saturday’s inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“That’s one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Kupcho said of her approach at the par-5 13th to set up the only eagle of the tournament.
“I knew I needed to make a big move. I never thought about laying up. That’s pretty cool to be the only person who did that.” The 21-year-old world women’s amateur number one went five-under on the last six holes in a five-under-par 67 final round to win by four strokes over Mexico’s Maria Fassi.
“This tournament shows how good we are and what younger girls have to look forward to,” Kupcho said. “To start a movement where we’re going to start getting followed, I think that’s a big moment.”
Kupcho, the reigning US college champion, won the historic first title for women at once all-male Augusta National, which didn’t have women members from its 1933 founding until 2012.
Crowds enjoyed a final-pair duel for the title that went down to the last of 54 holes, the first two rounds having been played at nearby Champions Retreat before the closer at Augusta.
“It probably won’t set in for a little while,” Kupcho said. “There were just so many people. Just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with all of those fans, it was an experience unlike any other.”
Two shots down with six holes to play, Kupcho hit an impressive approach at the par-5 13th hole to six feet and sank a tense eagle putt to equalize, then birdied the par-5 15th, par-3 16th, and par-4 18th to seal the milestone victory.
“To do it on this big a stage is probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever been able to do,” she said. “It was quite a day. It’s an amazing feeling.”
She and Fassi will now have greater attention when they make their LPGA debuts. “I know we’re going to have a great time out there next year in the LPGA,” Kupcho said. “That’s something everyone is going to look forward to watching.”
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