The Masters 2014: Grading the Performance of Golf's Top Stars at Augusta

Mike DudurichContributor IApril 14, 2014

The Masters 2014: Grading the Performance of Golf's Top Stars at Augusta

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    The passing of the green jacket from Adam Scott to Bubba Watson.
    The passing of the green jacket from Adam Scott to Bubba Watson.Associated Press

    Professional golf has evolved into the sport's best players setting up their schedules so their games are sharp four times a year: the majors.

    They know that ultimately they will be judged by how they perform in majors and how many they win.

    The perfect situation would be that all of the best players would be healthy and on their games for each major, but that doesn't always happen.

    That was the case at the Masters, the first major of the year. Tiger Woods is sidelined, Phil Mickelson didn't make the cut and Jason Day was feeling the lingering effects of a thumb injury.

    As it turns out, however, it was a great Masters without those players at their best.

    Here's a list grading how some of the game's best players performed at Augusta National Golf Club.

Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy made something of a comeback Sunday.
    Rory McIlroy made something of a comeback Sunday.Associated Press

    Driving: The stats say Rory McIlroy hit 67.9 percent of the fairways in his four rounds this week. That's a nice percentage even though Augusta National is where a bit of waywardness off the tee won't hurt a player as bad as other places.

    Iron play: The best part of McIlroy's game in the Masters was his iron play and approach shots to the greens. Hitting greens at at a 72.2 percent clip is a very good way to make yourself a contender in just about any tournament.

    Putting: Hitting the green only means something if you make some putts, and McIlroy didn't take advantage. He averaged 2.4 putts per green in regulation, and that's far too many to get into contention.

    Overall: McIlroy came into this 2014 Masters as one of a group of favorites, especially since he had seemed to have turned his game around in recent months. His first-round 71 was a nice start, but he blew up to a 77 on Friday, a score that included a pair of double bogeys. His comeback round of 69 Sunday loses some glitter, considering there was no pressure on him and it did little but put a T9 finish on his resume.

    Grade: C

Adam Scott

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    Adam Scott strikes the pose Sunday afternoon that he did last year when he won the 2013 Masters.
    Adam Scott strikes the pose Sunday afternoon that he did last year when he won the 2013 Masters.Associated Press

    Driving: The defending champion hit the ball all over the lot at Augusta National Golf Club, and while that historic layout is more forgiving from the tee than some courses, Adam Scott put himself in bad spots far too many times by hitting just 58.9 percent of the fairways.

    Iron play: Like the rest of his game, Scott was just average with his irons. His percentage of greens in regulation, 66.7 percent, was just a bit above the PGA Tour average of 65.62 percent. That's not nearly good enough to win on the tour, let alone at a major championship.

    Putting: Last year, Scott took some heat because he won the Masters using his long putter and anchored putting stroke. A lot of good that did him this week. He averaged 2.6 putts per greens in regulation—just not good enough for a guy trying to take over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.

    Overall: This would not be considered a good title defense by anyone. Scott got off to a rocky start Friday but came back with three birdies on the back nine to put himself into contention. He let it get away on Saturday with a 76 and played an even-par round of 72 Sunday.

    Grade: C-

Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson said he wanted to get the green jacket back and he did.
    Bubba Watson said he wanted to get the green jacket back and he did.Associated Press

    Driving: Bubba Watson didn't lead the Masters in driving distance, but he launched several long drives throughout his round. He hit one on 13 that was measured at approximately 340 yards, making the par five pretty easy for Watson. Not only did he hit it long, but he also found the fairway 71.4 percent of the time.

    Iron play: Watson had it all going on in Augusta. He found just under 70 percent of the greens in regulation, 69.6 percent.

    Putting: The putts he made Sunday at the second and fourth holes to match Jordan Spieth's birdies were critical, and the curling one he made on the ninth might have turned the Masters in his favor. He had 11 one-putts through 17 holes.

    Overall: Watson came to Augusta saying he wanted to get the green jacket back, and he did just that. Obviously, his strength and power give him an advantage, and when his innovation and creativity are dialed in, he puts on a performance like he did this week.

    Grade: A+

Matt Kuchar

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    Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt end their rounds with a handshake.
    Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt end their rounds with a handshake.Associated Press

    Driving: Matt Kuchar was very good off the tee, hitting 75.8 percent of the fairways, and with the length he has, that generally puts him in a good position. It did that again Sunday.

    Iron play: His iron play was pretty good, 64.7 percent of greens in regulation. On the few mistakes he made, his chipping made up for those.

    Putting: He managed to four-putt the tricky fourth green, the one on which Spieth holed out from a bunker. That experience had to shake him, and he didn't make a lot of putts the rest of the way out.

    Overall: Kuchar probably hates hearing it, but he's the second-best player on the tour without a major victory (only behind Jordan Spieth). Once again, he was a factor in the Masters, giving Spieth and Watson something to think about, but came up short. He bogeyed the 18th to finish with a 74.

    Grade: B

Jordan Spieth

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    There were disappointments, but Jordan Spieth proved he's a big-time player at age 20.
    There were disappointments, but Jordan Spieth proved he's a big-time player at age 20.Chris Carlson

    Driving: The kid did a lot of things right in his first Masters, something that didn't necessarily surprise a lot of people. Spieth hit 70.9 percent of his fairways, and that's always a key to success. Especially under the pressure of Sunday afternoon at Augusta, he drove the ball well.

    Iron play: He wasn't always thrilled with how he it his irons Sunday, but how does hitting 73.1 percent of the greens in regulation sound for a 20-year-old in his first Masters? He made mistakes, including a big one on the eighth hole that led to a bogey, but overall he was outstanding.

    Putting: On Sunday, he putted very well, which helped him jump into the lead. But as the round went on and he started to press, the putts kept falling, and that's the reason he didn't win. He averaged 2.3 putts per greens in regulation.

    Overall: Spieth made it official Sunday at the Masters. He is for real and is not going anywhere. He knows how to win, he knows how to get into position to win, and the next time he's in that position, he'll have his great performance in the Masters to draw from.

    Grade: A

Rickie Fowler

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    Rickie Fowler exchanges congratulations with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
    Rickie Fowler exchanges congratulations with Miguel Angel Jimenez.Associated Press

    Driving: Based on his statistics, Rickie Fowler couldn't have possibly finished T5 at the Masters. He only hit 57.1 percent of the fairways for starters and, by comparison, Bubba Watson hit 71.4 percent.

    Iron play: He was worse in terms of greens hit in regulation, doing just 52.8 percent in that category. Those two categories together are not a real recipe for success.

    Putting: And since he averaged 2.9 putts per greens in regulation, yes, that's almost three putts on average. Yet he was able to make 13 birdies in four rounds, and that kept him on the verge of contention.

    Overall: Fowler is the heartthrob of young fans who follow the PGA Tour. He has style, plenty of power and the kind of wardrobe that makes him easily recognizable. Much has been expected of him since he came on tour, but he's produced just three top-10s in the 17 majors he's appeared in. And despite all that, he finished T5.

    Grade: B-

Lee Westwood

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    Lee Westwood's short game has always been his downfall in majors.
    Lee Westwood's short game has always been his downfall in majors.Associated Press

    Driving: Lee Westwood has become one of the better ball-strikers on the tour and performed very well in that category off the tee in the Masters. He wasn't necessarily long, but he did find the short grass 71.4 percent of the time. That's a stat that would rank him in the top 10 on the PGA Tour.

    Iron play: Westwood generally doesn't hit enough greens, which is why his short game has been exposed. He finished with a percentage of 65.3 percent in that category in Augusta and converted 58 percent of sand save possibilities.

    Putting: Short game and putting have been Westwood's major issues in majors, and he certainly didn't dazzle anybody on the greens this week. He averaged 2.5 putts per greens in regulation.

    Overall: Westwood has played in 64 majors and has a pair of second-place finishes. There are some guys who just don't have what it takes to win golf's four biggest events. Westwood seems to be one of those. He finished seventh this week, but there wasn't one time all week when Westwood looked like he was going to become a real contender.

    Grade: C

Jason Day

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    Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott walk off the 18th green Sunday.
    Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott walk off the 18th green Sunday.Associated Press

    Driving: Day was much too wayward off the tee. He was only able to find 57.2 percent of the fairways, down from the 60.82 percentage he has on the tour.

    Iron play: One of the strong points of Day's game has been his iron play. Not this week. He could find the greens just 61.1 percent of the time, down from the 73.02 he has performed at this year in regular tour events.

    Putting: Combine the low number of greens hit in regulation with the fact he couldn't get the ball in the hole, and you can see why he wasn't a factor. He averaged 2.8 putts each time he reached a green in regulation on average.

    Overall: Day came into the Masters as a favorite, with that tempered a bit by a thumb injury that has dogged him since February. Even with a couple of weeks off and rehab, obviously the thumb had an effect on his game. An opening-round 75 put him behind the eightball. Though he finished with more respectable rounds of 73, 70 and 72, he wasn't seen on the leaderboard and wasn't a factor.

    Grade: D

Henrik Stenson

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    Henrik Stenson couldn't get anything going in Augusta this week.
    Henrik Stenson couldn't get anything going in Augusta this week.Associated Press

    Driving: When Henrik Stenson was dominating golf the second half of last season, he hit the ball hard, long and straight. He overpowered courses, and coming into Masters week, it was assumed that he could do the same at Augusta. And he hit the short grass just 69.6 percent of the time this week. That's actually up from the 66.67 percent he's hit this year on the PGA Tour. So why did he shoot 73-72-74-70?

    Iron play: His iron play was pretty good, too, finishing with 65.3 greens in regulation—definitely nothing to look down at, but this week, it wasn't good enough.

    Putting: He obviously made a whole bunch of putts last year, but putting has never been his strong suit. It didn't help him much this week, either. He averaged 2.6 putts per greens in regulation, way too high a number to expect to compete.

    Overall: Stenson set the bar very high for himself last year with everything he accomplished. Maybe that was just one of those years he'll not be able to duplicate. He's still a very good player with the kind of game that should do well in major championships. He finished T14.

    Grade: C

Brandt Snedeker

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    Brandt Snedeker spent too much time looking through the Georgia pines.
    Brandt Snedeker spent too much time looking through the Georgia pines.Associated Press

    Driving: Not only was he short off the tee, averaging 261.4 yards, but he was also only able to hit 66.1 percent of the fairways—not a good combination. And that played a factor in him shooting rounds of 70-74-80-71 and earning a T37.

    Iron play: His inaccurate driving no doubt contributed mightily to his inability to hit greens more accurately than just 55.6 percent of the time. It's tough enough to navigate Augusta National's devilish greens from the fairways.

    Putting: All you need to know about what happened to Brandt Snedeker at the Masters is that, on the way to an 80 on Saturday, he five-putted the fourth green. The man once regarded as the tour's best putter is certainly not putting that way in 2014. He's ranked 110th on the PGA Tour in overall putting average.

    Overall: Snedeker came close in 2008, finishing T3, and last year when he finished T6. Overall, his game has been hampered by rib injuries that derailed him after starting the season as the hottest player on the tour in 2013. He's not there anymore.

    Grade: D