Len Ziehm: Takeaways from 88th Masters

It was a long, strange week for Bryson DeChambeau at the 88th Masters after opening with a 7-under par 65, he disappointed many fans in Liv Golf Nation by finishing T-6, nine strokes back of winner Scottie Scheffler.

OCALA, Florida – The 87th Masters in 2023 was a big boost for the LIV Golf League. This year’s 88th, not so much.

It’s inevitable, given the ongoing rivalry between LIV and the PGA Tour, that there are player comparisons any time both circuits have players in the same tournament. A year ago, in what surprised many, LIV players had co-runner-ups Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka behind champion (and now LIV colleague) Jon Rahm in the Masters with Patrick Reed tying for fourth.

This year the only real LIV highlight was Bryson DeChambeau taking the first-round lead with a 65. He wound up in a tie for sixth place with Cameron Smith. That’s the best LIV could do.

So what should we make of that?

Not much, really. It was DeChambeau’s best showing in eight Masters but he was too caught up in the moment after his low first round.

The top two finishers at the Masters – Scottie Scheffler (r) and Ludvig Aberg – will be competing this week in a signature PGA Tour event at Harbour Town Golf Links at RBC Heritage Classic April 18-21.

“It’s a weird thing to say,’’ he said, “but it was almost like goosebumpts – and it was early in the week, too. It was like, whoa!, I’ve got to calm that down. It was too quick, too early.’’

The week was by no means a total loss for LIV. The fledgling circuit only had 13 players in the field and seven made the cut. DeChambeau and Smith, nine strokes behind champion Scottie Scheffler, earned a return to next year’s Masters by finishing in the top 12. Tyrrell Hatton (tie for ninth) and Reed (tie for 12th and a past champion) also figure to be in the field in 2025. Mickelson (tie 43rd) and Rahm (tie 45th) are also past champions.

Koepka, who defends his PGA title in May, was no threat at this year’s Masters, finishing in a tie with Rahm. Two-time winner Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia – also past champions – missed the cut with Johnson the only glaring disappointment. Sad say my official pre-Masters pick to win, Johnson, shot a most uncharacteristic 78-79. Poland’s up-and-coming Adrian Meronk was the other LIV MC.

LIV moves on to Adelaide in Australia, which should be uplifting for Smith. The Rippers captain expects huge support with his all-Australian team and is predicting “a magical week.’’ The tourney is April 26-28.

The PGA Tour moves on to the RBC Heritage Classic in Hilton Head, S.C., this week. I can’t imagine this being an uplifting week golf-wise for Scheffler, with his wife expecting their first child any day. He shared lodging with friend Sam Burns at the Masters. Burns’ wife was also expecting their first child. Burns shot 80-73 and went home. Both top players face the same distractions this week.

Tiger Woods finished the Masters on Sunday with a record he could do without, walking off the course with a 16-over 304, his highest 72-hole score in a career that spans three decades.

Granted, waiting out the birth of a child – especially the first one – isn’t easy but Scheffler and Burns are both on this week’s entry list with the Heritage having a limited field with no cut, a purse increased to $20 million and more FedEx Cup points available.

A few other post-Masters thoughts:

The Tiger Woods’ spotlight seems to always shine, merited or not. He was dead last among the Masters finishers this time, but his performance wasn’t without merit. He made the cut for the 24th consecutive time, a record as his streak surpassed that of both Fred Couples and Gary Player.

Similarly impressive, in my book, was Vijay Singh making the cut at age 61. The oldest is Couples, who broke Bernhard Langers’ record when he played all 72 holes in 2020 at age 63. Langer had planned to make 2024 his last Masters but couldn’t compete after injuring his Achilles playing pickleball.

LIV-PGA issues won’t go away, and the status of negotiations remain a secret. Latest “development’’ is a London newspaper reporting that Rory McIlroy, one of the loudest of LIV critics, may be on the brink of changing tours after being offered $850 million. If he doesn’t take it the next LIV target is Viktor Hovland. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Len has been covering golf for over 56 years. He was the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 41 years and has been in the same role for the Daily Herald and several regional newspapers since 2009... Len is also a regular contributor to the Chicago District Golfer magazine and his travel pieces are regularly published in Pro Golf Weekly, New England.Golf, eSouthernGolf and the Ohio Golf Journal. His works for all publications are available at LenZiehmOnGolf.com. It is in its 15th year of operation and has been enhanced by the photography provided by his partner Joy Sarver... An inductee into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 (for his reporting and youth coaching, not as a player), Len was also inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2019. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Network of Golf, is a lifetime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America.

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