The Masters: Eagle puts Casey in the lead, Tiger prowling at Augusta

By Sports Desk November 12, 2020

Tiger Woods made a promising start to the defence of his title and Paul Casey took an early lead in The Masters on Thursday

Woods sensationally won a 15th major title at Augusta last year and the legendary American was just two shots off the lead through 10 holes in his first round.

The 44-year-old birdied the 13th, 15th and 16th after starting on the back nine and moved to four under with another gain at the first after play was suspended for almost three hours due to heavy rain in Georgia.

Casey jumped to the top of the leaderboard on six under with an eagle three at the second, the Englishman's 11th hole of his opening round.

He set that up with a magnificent booming drive off the tee, sending his second shot to around four feet of the hole and then making no mistake with the putter.

Four birdies in his opening seven holes on the back nine had left Casey well poised early on before he replaced Webb Simpson as the leader.

Simpson was five under through 14 holes, while Lee Westwood, Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen were just a further stroke back alongside Woods.

Rahm dropped shots at two of his first three holes but made an impressive recovery, while tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau - playing in the same group as the Spaniard - was one under having similarly rallied after double-bogeying the 13th.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are among the big names due to go out later in the day and facing the prospect of having to return on Friday to complete their first rounds due to the miserable morning weather.

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    The 47-year-old 2000 and 2004 RBC Heritage champion carded a two-under 69 to set another record for lowest 54 holes with an 18-under 195.

    Cink had broken Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson's 36-hole 129 mark after back-to-back 63s on the opening two days.

    The American held a five-shot lead after day two but bogeyed on the third on Saturday before successive birdies on a steady round where he preserved his advantage.

    Cink has a two for 12 record in closing out final day leads on the PGA Tour but said he would embrace the challenge.

    “I've certainly been nervous and thrown up on myself and I've also played great in that situation," Cink said.

    "You know, I think it's a lot better to embrace it and enjoy it and feel the tingle as opposed to trying to act like it's not there.”

    World number four Collin Morikawa moved into second with a four-under 67 to be 13-under, one shot ahead of Argentine Emiliano Grillo.

    Canadian Corey Conners had been second but slipped to equal sixth after carding a one-over round of 72.

    Day one leader Cameron Smith continued to slide with a three-over 74, while last week's Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris shot 71 to be off the pace.

    Englishman Matt Wallace and American Webb Simpson were the movers, with rounds of 65 and 64 seeing them both climb up to equal fourth and sixth respectively.

  • Cink breaks 36-hole record to earn five-shot lead at RBC Heritage Cink breaks 36-hole record to earn five-shot lead at RBC Heritage

    Stewart Cink made history after moving five shots clear in his pursuit of a third RBC Heritage title.

    Two-time champion Cink carded a second successive 63 to set the 36-hole record at Harbour Town on Friday.

    Cink sits at 16-under 126, five strokes ahead of Corey Conners – eclipsing the previous best midway score of 129 set by Phil Mickelson (2002) and Jack Nicklaus (1975).

    The 47-year-old Cink also became the oldest player to hole the 36-hole lead at the RBC Heritage – his last 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour was at the 2008 Travelers Championship.

    Cink has catapulted himself to the top of the leaderboard alongside his son and caddie, Reagan.

    "He's not just my son caddying, he's a professional caddie doing an excellent job," he said. "He could caddie for any player in the world right now."

    Canadian Conners posted a seven-under-par 64 to be outright second, a stroke ahead of Emiliano Grillo (64) heading into the weekend, while overnight leader Cameron Smith (71) fell seven shots behind.

    "I think the golfing gods got a few back on me today," Australian Smith said.

    Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris shot a four-under-par 67 to be tied for 11th position, nine strokes adrift of Cink.

    World number one Dustin Johnson climbed 27th spots following a second-round 67 as he sits 11 shots back.

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  • Matsuyama's Masters win has changed golf and Olympic gold could follow, says former caddie Matsuyama's Masters win has changed golf and Olympic gold could follow, says former caddie

    Hideki Matsuyama's history-making Masters triumph has changed the face of golf, according to the 29-year-old's former caddie.

    Matsuyama claimed the famous green jacket on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese man to win a major tournament in the process.

    His victory came in thrilling fashion, Matsuyama seeing off competition from Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele to finish 10 under par at Augusta.

    Before Matsuyama's achievement, female stars Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's British Open) and Chako Higuchi (1977 LPGA Championship) were Japan's previous golf major winners.

    Daisuke Shindo caddied for Matsuyama between 2013 and 2018, and he believes Matsuyama's win will lead to a change in the sport not only in Asia, but across the globe.

    "He has made history, not only in Japan but also Asia and the world. I think it was a moment that changed the world of golf. I think it was such a great achievement," Shindo told Stats Perform News.

    "I think that is huge. We grew up watching Tiger Woods when we were young. I grew up watching Jumbo Ozaki and Shigeki Maruyama. I still admire them now.

    "I think it was a great inspiration for all the children who saw Hideki win the Masters, and not only the children but also the professional golfers.

    "I think Hideki's victory had a great impact on people who don't play golf. For the past a couple of days, I've been hearing 'golf, golf' anywhere all over town. It's amazing. I've never heard ordinary young people talking about golf. I think it's amazing."

    Shindo also backed Matsuyama to win another major this year, as he believes his ex-university classmate has finally delivered on his promise after previously managing five PGA Tour wins.

    "Every player is really hard on themselves. That's why they keep the position as top athletes," Shindo added.

    "But if you're too hard on yourself, you're not going to be able to relax and you're going to get frustrated. Golf is a sport [in] which you have to accept mistakes, but it's very important to find a balance. I think Matsuyama accepted his mistakes this time and played golf in a very positive way.

    "Even in a tough situation, he didn't panic, and even when the flow of the game was bad, he was always patient. He didn't look frustrated, he wasn’t shaken at all and looked calm.

    "I still play golf and have dinner with Hideki when he comes back to Japan. We are more like brothers in arms than former partners.

    "I was really happy. I saw how he was always fighting, with all the pressure from Japanese supporters. At the moment Hideki was finally rewarded, I really cried."

    One certain way to cement golf's growing popularity in Japan would be with a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, with Shindo foreseeing a rise to world number one.

    "I think it has boosted the confidence of not just Matsuyama but all the members of 'Team Matsuyama'," Shindo said.

    "It's a great way to build momentum as a team. Now Hideki has that confidence. I think the team will be strong when that happens. I am confident that he will win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

    "For Hideki, it's better for him to have a little pressure. He is such a strong and big guy. I think he's going to do well at the Olympics and he's going to be number one in the world ranking.

    "When I was on tour with him, his highest ranking was two, but I think he will rise to number one."

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