2011 Masters: 20 Things We Learned from This Year's Championship

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIApril 11, 2011

2011 Masters: 20 Things We Learned from This Year's Championship

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    The 2011 golf season began just after the first of the year, over three months ago.

    Really?

    I think it started over the weekend at Augusta National.

    Great theater brought golf back to the forefront, something it desperately needed. After a dismal 2010 for golf ratings, the first major of the year has promised greener links for a 2011 season.

    Here's the top 20 things we took from the 2011 Masters.

Sergio Garcia Is Still Alive and Kicking

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    The reports of Sergio Garcia turning into the next David Duval have been greatly exaggerated. At least for now. Garcia came out of golf obscurity and had a nice little week at Augusta. Okay, let's not get carried away.  He tied for 35th.

    Still, good for him.

    (Although team Europe is hoping he reclaims his new cheerleading job next year at the Ryder Cup)

Martin Kaymer Does Not Like Augusta National

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    The world's No. 1 player in the world heading into the year's first major is clearly not a big fan of Georgia's pride and joy.

    Four Masters, four missed cuts. At least he's consistent.

South African Golfers Are Cool Customers

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    It started with Gary Player. Throw in Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and now Charl Schwartzel.

    Cool as the other side of the pillow.

American Dominance of Masters Is a Thing of the Past

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    At one time, it was a tournament only Americans could win.

    No longer.

    Although Europeans still seem mystified by the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, not so much South Africans and South Americans.

    Recent non-American winners, in addition to Mr. Schwartzel over the weekend, have included Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir.

Olazabal Wins the Ryder Cup Captain Battle

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    In the mini-battle of next year's Ryder Cup captains. Olazabal came out on top. Both missed the cut. Olazabal six over, Davis Love III eight over.

Never Trust Someone Who Makes Paddy Harrington a Favorite of a Golf Tournament

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    Although it isn't something I normally do, I checked a few different "outlets" last week for the odds on the Masters.

    One thing that jumped out at me was the fact that a few places had Paddy Harrington listed as one of the top 10 favorites. One went as far as to give him the fourth-best odds of anyone in the field.

    After watching Harrington stumble around Augusta and miss the cut, as anyone who knows golf knew he would, it makes me wonder if I missed my calling.  I should move to Vegas and start setting odds for golf tournaments.

Avoid Crytal Balling

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    I can't even count how many articles I read last week telling me who was going to win the Masters. 

    I was told without a doubt sure Rory McIlroy would don the green jacket. I was told Phil Mickelson could in no way lose. I was told this was finally Lee Westwood's time to win a major. I was told Martin Kaymer would show us why he is No. 1 in the world in finally mastering Augusta.

    Didn't read anyone telling me Charl Schwartzel would win the darn thing.

    Avoid the crystal balling...

    Tip: Use the word could instead of will. Little less egg on your face afterwards.

Australia Defies Odds

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    There are about 312 million people in the United States. Australia has a population of about 21 million.

    Australia had three golfers finish tied for fourth or higher in the 75th Masters (Adam Scott and Jason Day second; Geoff Ogilvy tied for fourth). The U.S. had one (Tiger Woods tied for fourth).

    What's up with that?

A Lot of Really Good Golfers Will Never Win a Major

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    One thing that logjam at the top of the leader board at The Masters makes you consider, there can be only one winner.

    So many guys deserved to win this tourney. McIlroy, Woods, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, K.J. Choi, Angel Cabrera and a few others.

    Four majors a year. Consider the amount of very good golfers in the world right now. There just isn't enough major titles to go around.

Golf Is Alive and Well

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    Things could not have gone much better at the first major for the game of golf than they did.

    Tiger Woods' resurgence and his Sunday charge brought, no doubt, huge ratings for CBS. And the game is better off for it. Tiger didn't need to win for golf to gain a victory from this jump in viewership.

    Fans who may not have tuned in got to see some incredible theater and some great young golfers on display at Augusta on Sunday.

    Golf needed a boost in a big way, and it got a big one.

Japanese Golf Has a Big Future

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    Not only did Ryo Ishikawa prove he belongs on the big stage already, at just 19 years of age, but so did fellow country man and fellow 19-year-old amateur Hideki Matsuyama.

    Matsuyma was the only amateur in the field to make the cut.

    Ishikawa finished in a tie for 20th at -3, and Matsuyama in a tie for 27th at -1.

    These two will be competing atop the leader boards of majors for the next couple of decades.

Lee Westwood Still the Best Golfer to Never Win a Major

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    It continues. Westwood still is without a major.

    The Englishman finished in a tie for 11th at -5. Not bad, but still not good enough.

    Westwood,now 38, played in his first major at the British Open 16 years ago. He is now 0-53.

    He has time, and most likely, it will happen. But then again, if it doesn't happen in the next couple of years, it won't be any easier on the other side of 40.

Augusta National Lay out Still Incredible Theater

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    Every year, April brings two certain things—taxes and a great stage for the first major golf championship of the year.

    The Alister Mackenzie design of Bobby Jones' vision is still an incredible stage for drama on Sunday afternoon.

    You either have it or you don't. Augusta National has it in droves.

Tiger Woods Knows This Golf Course

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    Numbers don't lie. The last time Tiger Woods finished outside the top 10 at The Masters was 2004. That is seven years in a row in the top 10. In the last 15 years, he has finished outside the top 10 only three times and his worst finish in those a tie for 22nd.

    Woods has won four times.

    Think he likes the course?

Fred Couples Is Going To Have Another Big Year

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    Fred Couples had a strong Masters once again, perhaps another indication that he is once again going to dominate on the Champions Tour.

    Couples, at age 51, finished in a tie for 15th. This is just a year after he managed a top-10 finish (sixth). Couples had missed the cut at The Masters two years in a row before these last two strong showings.

    Couples won the tournament back in 1992.

Young Americans Absent from the Leader Board

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    Just wondering where all the young Yanks were?

    The top six Americans were Tiger Woods (35), Bo Van Pelt (35), Ryan Palmer (34), Steve Stricker (44), Brandt Snedeker (30) and Fred Couples (51).

    Not a 20-something in the group.

Rory

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    Hard to let this one go.

    Seems the tendency today, a day after the Normanesque performance by McIlroy, is to not be too hard on the young chap. He's only 21, for goodness sake. 

    I say he's fair game. A horrible performance is still a horrible performance, no matter how you try and justify it. This one, to me, was different than his 80 last year at St, Andrews the day after shooting his remarkable 63. At least that one was wind related and didn't come with the pressure of the final round of a major. It was in the second round.

    Clearly, this performance by Rory was awful, and there is no other way to look at it.

    Choking is a word that comes to mind.

    But can he move on from here? Of course he can. He'll be fine.

Tiger

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    You want Tiger on the wall. You need tiger on that wall. Good to have him back.

It Is Charl Not Charles

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    We learned how to say Oosthuizen last summer; this one should be easy.

Great Start to the Year

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    They tell me 2011 golf has been going on for a few months now. They are wrong.

    Golf started over the weekend. And what a start it was.