PGA TOUR

Matsuyama becomes first Japanese to win Masters; Conners T8

Corey Conners
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 11: Corey Conners of Canada plays a shot on the first hole during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hideki Matsuyama delivered golf-mad Japan the grandest and greenest prize of all.

Ten years after Matsuyama made a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, he claimed the ultimate trophy Sunday with a victory in the Masters to become the first Japanese winner of the green jacket.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele’s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 11: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan celebrates during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth straight birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced off the hill left of the green and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. It added to a triple bogey, and his third close call in a major.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes, the first Masters champion with a final round over par since Trevor Immelman shot 75 in 2008.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

And that’s what he did, soaking in the moment with a few thousand spectators on their feat to celebrate a career-changing moment – for the 29-year-old Matsuyama, and he hopes for an entire country.

“Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” Matsuyama said.

Will Zalatoris, the 24-year-ld Masters rookie, holed an 18-foot par putt on the last hole for a 70 and was runner-up. It was the best performance by a first-timer to the Masters since another Dallas kid, Jordan Spieth, was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson.

Spieth had a few fleeting thoughts of coming from six shots behind except for too many missed putts early and missed opportunities late. He bogeyed his last hole for a 70 and tied for third with Schauffele, who shot a 72 with a triple bogey and a double bogey on his card.

Matsuyama finished at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He becomes the second man from an Asian country to win a major. Y.E. Yang of South Korea won the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine over Tiger Woods.

Canadian Corey Conners finished six strokes back of Matsuyama, tied for eighth with American Patrick Reed. The top-10 finish clinched his sport at next year’s Masters. Conners also finished in the top 10 at last year’s event.

There were moments, though, the native of Listowel, Ont., seemed poised to challenge for the green jacket.

Conners had a hole-in-one Saturday and sat in sixth after the third round. He climbed the leaderboard Sunday with a birdie on the second hole, but collapsed through the middle of the round with three bogeys and a double bogey before ending the day with a 2-over 74.

Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., finished in a six-way tie for 40th spot.

Returning to the 18th green for the trophy presentation, Matsuyama again put on the green jacket and raised both arms in triumph. Augusta National allowed limited spectators, believed to be about 8,000 a day, and most might have remembered him from a decade ago.

He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur to earn an invitation to the Masters, and he was low amateur — tied with defending champion Phil Mickelson that year — to earn a trip into famed Butler Cabin. He won in Japan as an amateur, and four times after he graduated college and turned pro. His first PGA Tour victory was at the Memorial in 2014, prompting tournament host Jack Nicklaus to say, “I think you’ve just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 to 15 years.”

That moment came Sunday.

Matsuyama is not big on emotion, and he speaks even less even when cornered after every round by the large contingent of Japanese media.

Most of the media was absent this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and Matsuyama had said on the eve of the final round that it has been a lot less stress.

There was plenty on the golf course, right from the start.

Matsuyama sent his opening tee shot into the trees right of the first fairway. He punched it under the trees from the pine straw, hit a soft pitch that rolled down the slope away from the pin and was happy to leave with bogey. Two groups ahead of him, Zalatoris opened with two straight birdies.

Just like that, the lead was down to one.

No one got any closer until the final hour. Matsuyama made birdie from the front bunker on the par-5 second hole. He didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 eighth, and it didn’t matter because no one could put any pressure on him.

Zalatoris misjudged the speed on No. 3 and three-putted for bogey from just off the back of the green. Schauffele was within three of the lead going to the third hole, only to go bogey-bogey-double bogey on the toughest three-hole stretch on the course.

Matsuyama delivered what appeared to be a knockout punch with a nifty up-and-down from right of the green on the eighth for a tap-in birdie, and a lob wedge to the dangerous left pin on the ninth that rolled out to 3 feet. That sent him to the back nine with a five-shot lead.

For the longest time, it looked as though Matsuyama couldn’t wait to get to Butler Cabin and see how he looked in green.

Schauffele, however, rammed in a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the 12th green. He two-putted from 10 feet for birdie on No. 13. He nearly holed out from the fairway for a tap-in birdie on the 14th. And with he nearly holed his greenside bunker shot on the par-5 15th for a fourth straight birdie.

And then all that that worked ended when his ball disappeared below the surface of the pond.

Matsuyama could afford a few bogeys, and all that affected was the final margin. He is the Masters champion, a major that defines his elite status in the game and gives Japan the biggest week it has ever had in April. The week started a week ago Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Matsuyama wasn’t around to see it, but he was well aware of it. All he wanted was to follow her path and made Japan proud. His play spoke volumes.

PGA TOUR

Corey Conners sits 6th at Masters after hole-in-one; Matsuyama leads

Corey Conners
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10: Corey Conners of Canada reacts on the sixth green after hitting a hole-in-one during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hideki Matsuyama showed he could handle Augusta National when he first showed up as a 19-year-old amateur. Ten years later, the Japanese star put himself on the cusp of a green jacket Saturday at the Masters.

In a stunning turnaround after storms doused the course, Matsuyama had four birdies, an eagle and a superb par at the end of a 7-under 65, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead as he tries to become the first Japanese player to win a major.

“This is a new experience for me being a leader going into the final round in a major,” Matsuyama said. “I guess all I can do is relax and prepare well and do my best.”

Matsuyama was at 11-under 205, and no one could stay with him after the delay. It lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes because of dangerous weather and just enough rain fell that crusty Augusta National was a little more forgiving.

He hit what he said was his worst shot of the day right before the delay, a tee shot into the trees on the right. He punched a 7-iron out to 20 feet for birdie and was on his way.

The break brought the Masters to life, and at times it was hard to keep up.

Xander Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt across the 15th green to momentary join a four-way tie for the lead. Seconds later, Justin Rose holed a 25-foot birdie putt back on the par-3 12th to regain the lead. That lasted as long as it took Matsuyama to rap in his 5-foot eagle putt on the 15th to take the lead for good.

The entire sequence took no more than two minutes.

But after that, no one could catch Matsuyama. When the round ended, Schauffele (68), Rose (72), Marc Leishman (70) and Masters rookie Will Zalatoris (71) were all at 7-under 209.

Canadian Corey Conners was close behind at 6-under after shooting a 68. It was a mixed day for the Listowel, Ont., native. After a bogey on the fifth hole, he shot a hole-in-one on the sixth. Conners had five birdies and three bogeys on the day.

Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., recorded his third-straight even-par score to sit in a tie for 21st.

Jordan Spieth was within two shots of the lead despite a double bogey on the seventh hole, but he couldn’t keep pace and shot 72 to fall six shots behind.

Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele, a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.

Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele, a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.

That won’t eliminate all the pressure. His lone shot at a major was at Quail Hollow in the 2017 PGA Championship when he was one shot behind with three holes to play and missed a crucial par putt. He was in tears after that round, a player under enormous pressure in golf-mad Japan.

Matsuyama wasn’t the first Japanese star of his generation _ that was close friend Ryo Ishikawa _ but he is by far the most accomplished. Matsuyama has 14 worldwide wins, five on the PGA Tour. He has reached as high as No. 2 in the world.

He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur in 2010 that earned him a spot in the Masters the following year. He was the only amateur to make the cut, finishing on the same score (1 under) as defending champion Phil Mickelson.

A decade later, he is on the cusp of history. The only other player from an Asian country to win a men’s major is Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

Matsuyama wouldn’t have believed he could leave Augusta National on Saturday night with a four-shot lead. But he knew he was playing well, and he showed it. On a course that has played difficult all week, he delivered the first bogey-free round of the week.

The signature shot was his 5-iron to a left pin to 5 feet for eagle. Equally stellar was an 8-iron to the front right shelf on the par-3 16th to 5 feet for a birdie, and then his pitching wedge to 10 feet behind the hole on the 17th. His work still wasn’t through.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 10: Corey Conners of Canada reacts on the sixth green after hitting a hole-in-one during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

From a fairway bunker on the 18th, Matsuyama sent it soaring over the green and up the walkway toward the clubhouse, some 25 yards to the hole with little margin for error with a back pin. His chip bounced with enough spin to trickle out to 3 feet for par.

It was reminiscent of Spieth closing out his third round in 2015 with a tough par save on the 18th to take a four-shot lead into the final round. That’s what Matsuyama has on Sunday, with a nation watching.

He rarely can go anywhere on the PGA Tour without a dozen or more Japanese media following. Their numbers are limited this year because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“Being in front of the media is still difficult. It’s not my favourite thing to do,” Matsuyama said through his interpreter. “It’s been a lot less stress for me. I’ve enjoyed this week.”

A victory would give Japan a sweep this week. Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last Saturday.

PGA TOUR

Dustin Johnson’s Masters reign ends with missed cut

Dustin Johnson
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 09: Dustin Johnson of the United States reacts on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 09, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson is scheduled to be in Butler Cabin on Sunday evening, draping the green jacket over the shoulders of the Masters champion.

That’ll be his only official appearance at Augusta National this weekend.

Johnson – the world No. 1 player and reigning Masters champion – bogeyed three of his final four holes Friday and missed the cut by two shots. He’s the 11th defending champion to miss the 36-hole cut; it has happened 12 previous times, with Seve Ballesteros doing it twice.

“Obviously, I wanted to be around for the weekend,” Johnson said. “I like this golf course. I feel like I play it very well. I just didn’t putt very good. It’s pretty simple.

Johnson was the biggest – though hardly the only big name – to drop out.

Lee Westwood’s streak of 12 consecutive cuts at the Masters appearances is over; he was 5 over. So is Rory McIlroy’s run of 10 consecutive times playing the weekend at Augusta National; he was 6 over and his quest to complete the career Grand Slam will wait until 2022 at least. And Brooks Koepka is going home early for the first time in six Masters appearances.

The top 50 players and ties make the cut at the Masters; this year, that was 3 over, or 10 shots back of leader Justin Rose.

Koepka came to Augusta National less than a month removed from surgery on his right knee, to repair a dislocated kneecap and some ligament issues. If it wasn’t the Masters, he wouldn’t have played this week _ or for several more weeks.

This being Augusta, he took a shot. He shot 75 on Friday, missing the cut by two strokes at 5 over.

“How disappointed do you think I am?” Koepka said. “I worked my (butt) off just to get here, and then to play like this is pretty disappointing.”

Johnson’s absence is clearly the biggest surprise.

He shot a 74 on Thursday and left himself no margin for error down the stretch Friday _ then needed a miracle that never arrived. Johnson’s tee shot on the par-4 18th landed in a fairway bunker, his approach didn’t even make the green and his chip that he needed to hole out to play the weekend didn’t come close.

That was the end, though not the totality of the undoing.

Johnson reached the green at the par-5 15th in two – albeit temporarily, with the ball spinning back down the slope, into the water and leading to a bogey that put him right on the cut line of 3 over.

A tee shot into the pine straw on the 17th led to another bogey. Before long, it was official. After setting the Masters scoring record last November, finishing 20 under, his title defence came to an abrupt end.

“I just didn’t putt very well,” Johnson said.

Sergio Garcia, in 2018, was the most recent Masters champion to return the next year and miss the cut; that was the year he made a 13 on the par-5 15th hole, matching the highest score on any hole in Masters history.

Garcia missed the cut again this year, by just one shot, after making bogey on two of his final four holes.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing because I love the Masters,” Garcia said. “If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t care. You know, it’s just — it would be nice to get a little bit more love from the course sometimes, you know?”

Four of the world’s top 12 players _ Johnson, No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, No. 11 Koepka and No. 12 McIlroy _ all missed the cut. So did top-20 player Sungjae Im, who tied for second last year, and Dylan Frittelli, who was tied for fifth at Augusta National last November. Im wasn’t even close, shooting 77-80 to miss by 10 shots, and Cantlay was 8 over to miss the cut by five.

Some made it for the first time, including Matt Jones, who shot a 3-under 69 on Friday and got to 1 under for the week.

“To make the cut was always the first goal,” Jones said.

Such was the case for everybody. And for 34 of the 88 starters, it work out that way.

“That’s the way it is,” Garcia said. “Sometimes, things don’t want to happen.”

PGA TOUR

Rose clings to one shot lead at Masters; Conners, Hughes inside Top 25

Corey Conners
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 09: Corey Conners of Canada reacts on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 09, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Justin Rose was happy enough to still have the lead Friday at the Masters, even if only by a fraction on a day when Augusta National was more forgiving and he had to rally just to shoot par.

The two players right behind had reason to be thrilled just to be at the Masters.

One of them was Brian Harman, barely inside the top 100 in the world a month ago until two good weeks changed his fortunes. The other was 24-year-old Will Zalatoris, who just over a year ago was toiling in the minor leagues and still doesn’t have a full PGA Tour card.

I wanted to be here my entire life,” Zalatoris said after birdies on his last three holes for a 4-under 68.

Some people shy away from that, but I’m excited to be here. There’s no reason to feel intimidated now. I made it to here. And obviously, the job is not done by any means.”

The job is over for defending champion Dustin Johnson, who bogeyed three of his last four holes for a 75 to miss the cut by two shots.

For everyone else, it’s just getting started.

Ten players were within three shots of Rose, who had a 72 and was at 7-under 137. That group included former Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who is coming off a victory last week in the Texas Open and is starting to look like the Spieth of old, even at age 27.

“Having made a triple and five over-par holes through two rounds, I feel pretty good about being at 5 under,” Spieth said after a 68.

The group three shots behind included Si Woo Kim, who played the final four holes without a putter that he broke out of frustration. After a three-putt bogey on the 14th and a chip that nearly ran off the green at the 15th, he jammed the head of the club into the turf and damaged it.

Kim used a fairway metal to close with four pars and a 69. Asked if he had a backup putter, Kim replied, “No. I don’t want to answer anymore. Sorry.”

Rose was staked to a four-shot lead at the start of a warm, overcast day and it was gone after seven holes. He didn’t drop a shot the rest of the way, picked up three birdies on the back nine and salvaged the day.

Just a classic day at Augusta National when you’re slightly off,” Rose said. I kind of told myself going up the eighth hole, `You’re leading the Masters.’ Your frame of reference is a little bit different to yesterday. Four ahead is something, but you’re still leading. So just enjoy it and keep it going.”

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont, is the top Canadian at 2 under following a 69. Mackenzie Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., (72) is even par, while 2003 green jacket winner Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., (71) missed the weekend cut at 5 over.

The course played to an average score of 72.2, compared with 74.5 for the opening round. There were 35 rounds under par compared with 12 on the first day.

Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Tony Finau each had 66 to get within three shots. Marc Leishman had a 67 and joined Spieth just two shots behind.

Justin Thomas, who can returned to No. 1 in the world with a victory, missed a short par putt on the final hole and shot 67. He also was three shots behind.

The wild card in all this is Zalatoris, built like a 1-iron and already renowned for his ball striking. His late run began with a 9-iron to a back right pin on the par-3 16th to 10 feet and ended with a wedge from 138 yards on the 18th to 5 feet that put him in the final group on the weekend at Augusta.

Born in San Francisco, he grew up in Dallas and played some of his best when golf was shut down during the pandemic. Zalatoris was on the Korn Ferry Tour, and when golf resumed, he had five straight finishes in the top six, including his first victory.

That got him into the U.S. Open, where he tied for sixth. Now he has temporary PGA Tour membership and is among the top 50 in the world, getting him into the Masters. That’s why he talks of an “attitude of gratitude.”

Zalatoris also is a quick study with a long memory. He grew up with the kids of former PGA champion Lanny Wadkins, and took in tales of Wadkins and his 23 times playing the Masters. One story Zalatoris heard when he was 14 years old came in handy on the par-3 12th hole.

He just said that whenever it’s into the wind … it just doesn’t really affect the ball as much,” Zalatoris said.And when it’s downwind, that’s where guys tend to struggle.”

The wind was about 10 mph into him and out of the left, 153 yards to the hole. He hit a shot that normally goes 152 yards and it carried 150. It helped that he made a 35-foot putt for birdie.

Now he heads into the weekend at a major that is up for grabs for so many players, minus Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Cantlay, who all missed the cut.

It has been 42 years since Fuzzy Zoeller became the most recent player to win the Masters on his first try.

Right there with Zalatoris is another Dallas resident – Spieth, finding his form at a major where he has a victory, two runner-up finishes and third place in seven appearances. He thought he could win at Augusta even before he won last week in Texas.

I’m in position now to think that for sure,” Spieth said.But at the halfway point, I would have been pleased with being two back.”

PGA TOUR

Rose torches Augusta for 4 shot Masters lead; Hughes, Conners inside top 20

Mackenzie Hughes Masters
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 06: Mackenzie Hughes of Canada plays a shot from a bunker on the second hole during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 06, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Even before the Masters began, it was obvious Augusta National in April was nothing like it was in November. Far less clear was which course Justin Rose was playing Thursday.

Rose made seven birdies and an eagle during a torrid 10-hole stretch for a 7-under 65 and a four-shot lead, his lowest score at Augusta National in one of its toughest opening rounds.

It started with a nice hop off the mounds left of the green on the par-5 eighth that set up a 10-foot eagle. Only two of his birdie putts were outside 8 feet. He holed a 12-foot par putt on the one green he missed. Not bad for a 40-year-old from England playing for the first time in a month while resting an ailing back.

His 65 looked even better on a day so tough only 12 players broke par, and the average score was 74.5.

“Listen, I didn’t know where my game was going into this week,” Rose said. “I’ve been working hard. I could have played the last two tournaments, but I was really trying to prepare hard for this Masters.”

Twice a runner-up, including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia four years ago, Rose tied a Masters record by taking at least a share of first-round lead for the fourth time. The other to do that was Jack Nicklaus. The difference? Nicklaus went on to win two of his six green jackets from that position.

Rose likes to say he’s only had one arm in the jacket.

Brian Harman, the last player to get into the 88-man field, and Hideki Matsuyama were wrapping up their rounds of 69 about the time Rose began on a course that was dry and crusty, on greens that were so fast there were splotches of brown.

Among those at 70 were former Masters champion Patrick Reed and Masters newcomer Will Zalatoris. Jordan Spieth overcame a triple bogey from the trees on No. 9 for a 71.

Missing were a slew of red numbers on the leaderboard in conditions so difficult that Garcia said after a 76, “I feel like I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield.”

Five months ago, in the first Masters held in November because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the turf was so soft that 53 players were under par after the opening round.

British Open champion Shane Lowry chipped from the back of the 15th green into the water in front of the green. He escaped with bogey and managed a 71. U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci hit a 60-foot putt from behind the ninth green that wound up 75 feet away on the other side.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who set the record last year at 20-under 268, failed to break par for the first time since the opening round in 2018. He three-putted for double bogey on the 18th for a 74.

“I feel sorry for the guys’ first Masters in November, and then they’re walking out there today wondering what the hell is going on,” Kevin Kisner said after a hard-earned 72.

This was no surprise. Augusta National has not had rain in more than a week, and players could not recall the last time greens were this fast during practice rounds, much less with a scorecard in hand on Thursday.

“It’s my 10th year, but I’ve never seen the greens so firm and fast,” Matsuyama said. “So it was like a new course for me playing today, and I was fortunate to get it around well.”

And what to say of Rose? Even in more forgiving conditions, he had never done better than 67.

“I didn’t feel like today was the day for a 65, if I’m honest,” Rose said.

Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., is the top Canadian after firing a 72. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont, shot a 1-over 73, and Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., – the winner of the 2003 green jacket – came in with a 6-over 78.

No one needed convincing, least of all Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy, among top players who struggled with the wind and had just as many problems when the ball was on the ground.

DeChambeau, the U.S. Open champion who has been licking his chops about bringing his super-sized game to Augusta National, didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole and shot 76, his highest score as a pro at the Masters. Patrick Cantlay hit into the water on both par 3s on the back nine and shot 79.

“Guys are going to shoot themselves out of the golf tournament on day one,” Webb Simpson said after a late double bogey forced him to settle for a 70.

McIlroy, needing a green jacket to complete the career Grand Slam, hit his father with a shot on the seventh hole. That was about the most interesting moment in his round of 76. Lee Westwood, who had a pair of runner-up finishes in the Florida Swing, had a 78.

Rose looked as though he might be headed that direction. He made a soft bogey on No. 1. He three-putted across the green on No. 7. He was 2 over, though not ready to panic. He knew it was tough. He also knew he was headed in the wrong direction.

“You can’t win the golf tournament today. Even with a 65 you can’t win it today,” Rose said. “You can only probably lose it today, obviously. I reset just prior to that and thought if I can get myself back around even par, that would be a good day’s work.”

He hit 5-wood into 10 feet for eagle and a 9-iron to the dangerous left pin on No. 9 to 4 feet for birdie. He holed a 25-foot putt on the 10th and hi 8-iron to 6 feet on No. 12. It never stopped. Even from the first cut of rough on the 17th, his wedge settled 4 feet from the hole.

He finished going over the details of that incredible stretch, smiled and said, “Sounds easy.”

Champions Tour European Tour Korn Ferry Tour LPGA Tour PGA TOUR Symetra Tour

Golf Canada Leaderboard presented by Titleist

Golf Canada Leaderboard presented by Titleist

Below is a list of how Canadian golfers fared across the major professional tours the week prior.

PGA TOUR

Hideki Matsuyama almost squandered a six shot lead with bogeys on three of his final four holes before holding on to win the Masters by a single stroke, becoming the first Japanese winner of the green jacket. He becomes the second man from an Asian country to win a major after Y.E. Yang of South Korea won the 2009 PGA Championship. Will Zalatoris finished second – the best performance by a first-timer to the Masters since Jordan Spieth was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson. Xander Schauffele put on a late charge with fourth straight birdies on the back nine only to see his title hopes end with a triple-bogey on the par-3 16th. …Corey Conners made the weekend cut for the third straight time as a pro (he missed in his first appearance as an amateur). He had the 6th hole in one at the 6th hole in Masters history – the first one in 9 years. It was also the first hole in one by a Canadian since Sandy Somerville at the very first Masters tournament in 1934. By finishing in the top-12, Conners earned an invitation back to next year’s tournament. …Mackenzie Hughes, playing in his 2nd Masters, made the weekend cut for the first time. Has yet to shoot under par in six career rounds at Augusta. …Mike Weir was making his 22nd start at Masters. He missed the cut for the sixth time in the last seven appearances.

POS SCORES TOTAL
T8 Corey Conners 73-69-68-74 -4
T40 Mackenzie Hughes 72-72-72-76 +4
MC Mike Weir 78-71 +1

NEXT EVENT: RBC Heritage  (Apr. 15)

CANADIANS ENTERED: Corey Conners, Michael Gligic, Adam Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes, Nick Taylor

MACKENZIE TOUR-PGA TOUR CANADA

Patrick Cover started the final round in a four-way tie for the lead but a 5-under 65 was enough to give him a three stroke victory at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament in Georgia. With the victory, Cover has full membership for the 2021 season. Alexandre Fuchs, who finished runner-up, along with Ben Wolcott and Daniel O’Rourke are all exempt through the first half of the season. Five players who tied for fifth went to a playoff for the final two exempt spots. Luke Schniederjans, with a birdie on the first extra hole, and Austin Morrison – who needed three more playoff holes – secured the final spots. …Golf Canada Young Pro Squad member Joey Savoie was the top Canadian, finishing in a tie for 10th and earning conditional membership.

NEXT EVENT: Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada Q-School-CANADA West 3 (May 24)

CANADIANS ENTERED:  TBA

LPGA TOUR

NEXT EVENT: LOTTE Championship (Apr. 14)

CANADIANS ENTERED: Brooke Henderson, Alena Sharp, Jaclyn Lee, Anne-Catherine Tanguay (reserve)

KORN FERRY TOUR

NEXT EVENT: MGM Resorts Championship (Apr. 15)

CANADIANS ENTERED: Taylor Pendrith, Adam Svensson, Stuart Macdonald (alternate)

SYMETRA TOUR

NEXT EVENT: Casino Del Sol Golf Classic (Apr. 15)

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PGA TOUR

Corey Conners, Mackenzie Hughes, Mike Weir set to represent Canada at Masters

Mackenzie Hughes at The Masters
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 06: Mackenzie Hughes of Canada plays his shot from the third tee during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 06, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Three Canadians will tee it up in the first men’s golf major of the year today.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont.; Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont.; and Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., are in the field for the Masters at Augusta National.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 07: Corey Conners of Canada talks with his caddie Danny Sahl on the third hole during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 07, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Weir gets in by virtue of winning the 2003 edition of the tournament.

Hughes is in after qualifying for last year’s Tour Championship, while Conners gets his berth for tying for 10th at last year’s Masters.

The event is back on its traditional April date after being moved to November last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conners is 43rd in the world men’s golf rankings, Hughes is 51st and Weir is 808th.

PGA TOUR RBC Canadian Open

St George’s Golf and Country Club will host 2022 RBC Canadian Open

18th-Hole-St-Georges-Golf-&-Country-Club
18th Hole of St. George's Golf and Country Club

TORONTO – Golf Canada and title sponsor RBC have confirmed that the membership of St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto have strongly supported the hosting of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open, with nearby Islington Golf Club serving as the official practice facility for the tournament.

St. George’s and Islington re-committing their involvement for the 2022 RBC Canadian Open follows two years of cancellations due to international travel and government restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 RBC Canadian Open was scheduled to be held June 7-13.

“I am so pleased that the membership of St. George’s Golf and Country Club as well as Islington Golf Club will join us in hosting the 2022 RBC Canadian Open,” said Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum. “We are already looking forward to the return of the PGA TOUR  to Canada and so grateful that both clubs including their respective membership and our host volunteer committee continue to work towards the celebrated return of the RBC Canadian Open.”

“Together with our partners at RBC and the PGA TOUR, we welcome both clubs to be a part of what is sure to be a special moment in Canadian golf.”

“RBC is proud to be title sponsor of Canada’s National Open Championship, one of the oldest events on the PGA TOUR schedule with a strong history of celebrating the importance of golf to Canadians,” said Mary DePaoli, Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, RBC. “We are looking forward to welcoming back defending champion Rory McIlroy, our Team RBC golfers, and inspiring the next generation of golf talent at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open.”

St. George’s Golf and Country Club has previously hosted the RBC Canadian Open on five occasions, dating as far back as 1933 and most recently in 2010.

“We are proud to continue along the path that we dedicated the club and our membership to for 2020,” said RBC Canadian Open Tournament Chair Mark Teskey. “With more than 200 volunteer members having devoted countless hours and many others lending their support in a meaningful way, we are excited to continue with those efforts to make the 111th RBC Canadian Open a great success.” 

“Islington Golf Club is very happy to be partnering with Golf Canada and St. George’s to deliver a fantastic experience for players, volunteers and Canadian golf fans at the RBC Canadian Open,” said Tournament Co-Chair Chris Tortorice. “We are very excited to welcome the PGA TOUR back to Toronto in 2022.” 

Part of the FedExCup Regular Season and conducted by Golf Canada for more than a century, the RBC Canadian Open provides an opportunity for Canada’s top talents to compete against the world’s best golfers while also creating a positive impact in the event’s host community. Established in 1904, Canada’s national open golf championship is the third-oldest national open golf championship worldwide next to the British Open and the U.S. Open. The RBC Canadian Open is proudly sponsored by RBC, Audi, Acushnet, Steam Whistle, Hilton, Levelwear, Sargent Farms, Coca-Cola and the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada. The RBC Canadian Open is proud to support the Golf Canada Foundation as the event’s official charity partner.

LPGA Tour PGA TOUR

Canadians Conners and Henderson look to capitalize on past success this week

Brooke Henderson watches tee shot
CARLSBAD, CA - MARCH 28: Brooke Henderson of Canada looks on the 14th tee box with her sister and caddie Brittany Henderson during the Final Round of the KIA Classic at the Aviara Golf Club on March 28, 2021 in Carlsbad, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Canada’s top two professional golfers are returning to tournaments this week where they were atop the leaderboard the last time they played in the event.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., won the Valero Texas Open in 2019 and, because the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is considered the reigning champion. As a result, every room key at the players’ hotel for the PGA Tour event this week has his picture on it.

Conners said that although his photo is everywhere at the event in San Antonio, he still enjoyed some anonymity when checking in with a hotel clerk thanks to the mask he was wearing upon arrival.

“She had no idea who I was, but I made a funny comment about it being embarrassing for the guy who’s got to look at himself on the room key every day for the whole week,” Conners said this week.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – APRIL 07: Corey Conners of Canada puts on the Champion’s boots after winning the 2019 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course on April 07, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“I obviously had my mask on and a hat and I think a sweatshirt, so she probably didn’t put two and two together.”

Conners won in 2019 after entering the field as a Monday qualifier. He’s ranked 41st in the world this week after a hot start to the season.

He believes he’ll be a different player when he tees off on Thursday compared to the man who won the Texas Open in 2019.

“I think my game’s gotten a little more polished over the last few years, a little more consistent,” said Conners.

“I’ve always known the good stuff was really good and was in there and proved that winning the tournament two years ago, but I would say my level of consistency has definitely improved.”

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., tees off on Thursday at the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the LPGA Tour season. It was last held in September 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Henderson was tied for first with American Nelly Korda and South Korea’s Mirim Lee at 15-under after four rounds at last year’s ANA Inspiration. Lee won the tournament with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

The 23-year-old Henderson, who has the most professional tournament wins in Canadian golf history, said she has learned from that playoff defeat.

“I think it’s really important to take away the positives from that week because I played really well and there’s a lot of good things that happened,” said Henderson. “Unfortunately I didn’t lift the trophy but I was tied for the lead when we finished 72 holes. So that’s a lot of confidence and that’s a great feeling.”

David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., as well as Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., are the other Canadians in the field at the Texas Open.

The winner, if not already qualified, gets a spot in the Masters, the first major of the men’s season, next week in Augusta, Ga.

Hamilton’s Alena Sharp is the only other Canadian in the field at the ANA Inspiration.

Canada is coming off a big week on the PGA and LPGA feeder circuits.

Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., won the Korn Ferry Tour event last week, while Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., tied for second at the Symetra Tour tournament.

PGA TOUR

Michael Gligic records career-best T4 finish on PGA TOUR

Michael Gligic
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - MARCH 28: Michael Gligic of Canada warms up before playing his shot from the first tee during the final round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on March 28, 2021 in Punta Cana, . (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – Joel Dahmen won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, avoiding a playoff when the wind pushed playing partner Rafael Campos’ final birdie try to the left.

Dahmen closed with a 2-under 70 on the windswept seaside course. The American started fast with birdies on three of the first four holes and added another on the par-5 seventh, then played the last 11 in 2 over with bogeys on par-3 11th and par-5 14th and a series have hard-earned pars.

The 33-year-old Dahmen finished at 12-under 276. He didn’t get into the Masters with the victory because the tournament was played opposite the WGC Match Play event in Texas, but did wrap up a PGA Championship berth and a spot at Kapalua in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Campos, the Puerto Rican player whose family has long had a home in the Dominican, had a 71. Winless on the tour, he bogeyed the par-3 17th to drop out of a tie for the lead and watched the wind move his 15-footer off-line in the last few inches on the par-4 18th. His only birdies came on the two front-nine par 5s.

Sam Ryder had a 67 to tie for second with Campos.

Graeme McDowell, the 2019 winner, and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., tied for fourth at 10 under. McDowell closed with a 69, and Gligic shot 71.

It was a career-best finish for Gligic, who was in the mix until two late bogeys took him out of contention.

The 31 year old said he made some mistakes on day one, but played “pretty solid all around.”

It’s an experience Gligic hopes to build off of as he continues on the PGA Tour.

“I can definitely use this next time and hopefully I can finish a little stronger. Those finishing holes are pretty tough,” he said.

Defending champion Hudson Swafford (70) and Emiliano Grillo (71) were 9 under.