Posted by & filed under Blog, Masters.

He thought he’d never play again. Now Tiger Woods is a Masters champion again. And catching Jack Nicklaus is back on the table, writes Mark Townsend from our partner National Club Golfer.

 

Now go and get Jack’s record

tiger woods jack nicklaus

One day they’ll make a film about this. One day they’ll show a man in his forties having his back fused, his fourth surgery in recent years on this part of his body. One day they’ll show a man sniggered at by all and sundry, they’ll show a man who can no longer chip and, because of his body breaking down, a one-time legend, maybe the best ever, who had to resort to putting out tweets of himself making a series of creaky swings.

Then they’ll show the same man doing what, at one point, not even he could dream of – Tiger Woods, at the age of 43, winning the Masters for a fifth time. The same Woods whose four previous victories here had all come in his twenties out-thinking and out-playing a stellar cast. A host of players all came and went but he stuck it out the longest and the best over the four days.

At one point in the last century they tried to Tiger-proof Augusta National, over 20 years later he was winning here again.

Just over a year ago he was still slowly dipping his toe back in the water – “I didn’t really have a golf swing yet. I was still trying to figure out how to play. My body is so different than it was then, and my equipment is so different than it was then, too, as well, because of my body and because of my swing.”

It’s always worth reiterating that he barely played from August 2015 to the end of 2017 and when he did it was painful viewing on every level. He’s missed three of the past six Masters – he’s often remarked that he’s only travelled to Georgia to take his place at the Champions Dinner. One year he could barely sit properly due to the shooting pains in his leg. In 2020 he’ll be hosting again.

 

The talk before and during the tournament

This year we mumbled about his putting, his neck, the lack of ‘reps’ and his age. Given who we were talking about the buzz was very different about Tiger just six and a bit months on from his Tour Championship win.

Rory was the form horse, Rose was the course specialist and DJ and Brooks were the ones capable of bringing a sodden course to its knees.

Then, on weeks like this, it all comes flooding back as to how off-the-planet a player he really was and still is.

Last year the closing celebrations were a little muted for one reason or another, or just one reason. This time it was maybe the best we’ve ever seen here. The dream, other than simply to be healthy and be able to swing a club again, was to win a big one in front of his kids.

When things settle down a little, which maybe never, how sweet a feeling that will be for the dad of two.

He’s never come from behind to win a major and, for part of the day, we thought Francesco Molinari, who he played with at Carnoustie when the Italian broke through and Woods fell away, would par them all into the ground before striking on the par 5s.

Molinari’s hopes got wet twice and then we had a barrage of young guns thrusting forth but getting over the line is a very different matter. For Woods it had been a day of one step forward and another one back but, like the previous three days, his distance control was always sublime. At the 7th his approach from 146 yards was stone dead, two holes later he hit one of the best lag putts of all time to close out a front nine of 35.

If there is a time to hit your straps it’s the back nine at Augusta and, from the right of 11 onwards, he put his foot down.

 

Tiger’s surge to victory

A 43-year-old man who had to get up at 3.45am to get his mind and body ready for the Sunday showdown was doing what many people of a certain age will never have seen before, timing his run to ruthless perfection. As his closest rivals came unstuck by the gusts at 12, and were heading for the drop zone, Woods played the smart shot to the middle of the green and was heading to the Hogan bridge twirling his putter.

While there was the odd bit of fortune – his driver went through a collection of tree limbs before settling in the middle of the fairway at the next – he then took full advantage.

And from there on he would rely on a power fade off the tee – his ability to shape his irons and a mind and course knowledge is still so sharp that it’s frightening – to pick up three shots in four holes including, having just taken the solo lead at the Masters for the first time since 2005, nearly holing his tee shot at 16. And it could have been even more comfortable with great opportunities slipping by at 14 and 17.

A third bogey of the day added up to a 70 but none of that mattered a bit as golf’s greatest story came to a close.

Cue the credits, the tears, the fist pumps, the back slaps and congratulations from a collection of your peers, past and present, who will all tell their grandchildren that they played in this tournament. The 2019 Masters, the one that Tiger won.

 

The future looks bright

Coming up we’ve got the PGA at Bethpage Black, where he won the US Open by three in 2002, then we’re onto Pebble Beach where he won the 100th US Open by the most ridiculous 15 shots in 2000.

So god knows where we’ll be when Royal Portrush comes around, it’s hard not to let your mind drift to 15 becoming 16 and then even beyond…

When he won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines on one leg we thought Jack’s 18 majors would be a formality. Eleven years on we’re still thinking the same thing.

Given how this all played out, it was worth the wait.

Posted by & filed under Blog, Masters.

It is the victory many of us thought could never happen. In his darkest moments, Tiger Woods must have felt that way too.

Fourteen years since his last Green Jacket, 11 since his last major title – No. 15 has improbably arrived for the greatest player of all time after a dramatic final round at the Masters.

For there can surely now be no doubt to his status as the best to have ever played the game.

Yes, Jack’s got 18 majors and who is to say that Tiger can’t now bear down on that record with renewed determination.

It wasn’t much more than 18 months ago, though, that the 43-year-old didn’t know if he’d even be able to play a few holes with his kids.

So stricken had he been with back pain, a constant agony that required his spine to be fused, that he couldn’t sit in a buggy without discomfort.

Now, he has a fifth victory at Augusta National.

Where the Masters was won

Francesco Molinari gave him the opening. The Italian had been almost robotic over the first three days – cool and unflappable.

It’s a cliché to say the Masters only begins on the back nine on Sunday but it couldn’t have been truer today.

Standing with a two shot lead on the 12th, on the hole that’s sunk so many Augusta dreams over the years, Molinari found the water and his lead was gone.

Worse was to come for the Open champion.

He clipped the branches of the trees on his approach on the 15th, met a watery grave once again, and his challenge was at an end.

One by one they stepped up to make their claims: Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson. At one point down the stretch they all hit the summit. A surging Bubba Watson was just behind.

But wearing that iconic red shirt and black trousers, the uniform that was the symbol of so much glory, Tiger looked like he’d stepped straight out of 2005. It brought back so many evocative memories.

And as he played those pivotal closing holes on this most famous of courses, it was absolute vintage.

As in the third round, he had his share of fortune. The tee shot at 13 took too much off the left and somehow found its way through a dozen trees to make the fairway.

The approach, though, was precision – as it was at 15 where Molinari’s nightmare, and Woods’ birdie, pushed him into the sole lead.

 

The dramatic finale

Then came the moment at 16. An arrow of an iron, the perfect spot on the green, and the delicious few seconds where the ball trickled down to the hole.

Another birdie and, with the pressure racheting and the moment at hand, he striped his drive down 17 and threw a dart onto the green.

There were nerves on the last, an approach that left a tricky chip but was handled with relative aplomb as he putted out for a 70, a 13-under total and a one shot win over DJ, Schauffele and Koepka.

There was unbridled joy at the finish – a reaction the like of which we have never seen from Tiger on a golf course.

And that’s as it should be, for this achievement was monumental – a victory that will surely be remembered as one of sport’s greatest revivals.

Tiger is back.

 

This article is courtesy of our partner National Club Golfer.

Posted by & filed under Blog, Golf Equipment.

National Club Golfer equipment editor James Savage was fitted into the G400 SFT last summer but is eyeing a switch to the G400 Max. Find out why

Our Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max driver test took place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach.

We used Trackman 4 to gather the data and hit premium range balls.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The methodology

 

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

I was fitted into the Ping G400 SFT last summer and used it out on the course at the back end of the 2017 season.

It produced great numbers for me in my initial review but I did struggle with it a bit out on the course as I was missing fairways to the left 90 percent of the time.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

That’s as much to do with my technique but the SFT technology – a tungsten weight in the heel was perhaps closing the face a bit quickly on me and contributing to that tuggy, hooky left miss.

Another thing I found was the slightly smaller 445cc head didn’t fill me with as much confidence as the TaylorMade M2 which I used for the most of the 2017 season.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

But I loved the feel off the face and was getting superb ball speed numbers from the G400 SFT.

I was all ears when Ping introduced the G400 Max as it seemed to be ticking all of the boxes I was looking for in a driver.

So we thought to would be good to put both drivers head to head with the exact same shaft to see which produced the best results.

From my initial review of the G400 Max, I had a good idea of the way this was going to go…

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The technology

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

One of the reasons both the G400 driver have such a good sound and feel is the forged face.

It’s also a lighter, faster and thinner face to get those great ball speed numbers.

We’ve got Turbalator technology on the crowns of these clubs to help them move faster through the air.

Ping G400 SFT Driver review – mid-handicap

The main difference between the G400 SFT and the G400 Max is the former has a tungsten weight in the heel and the Max has a tungsten weight right at the back of the club.

This helps improve the MOI and the forgiveness.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The results

As you can see here with the G400 SFT the good shots are really good but there was a bit of a drop off in ball speed when I missed the middle.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

 

With the G400 Max it just seemed like there was barely any drop-off at all.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

If you really want to pick the bones out of the numbers you’ll struggle to make a case to say one is better than the other though.

 

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – NCG verdict

Some people will no doubt prefer the more compact shape of the G400 drivers.

But for me I think the Max is ticking all the boxes.

Why wouldn’t you want maximum forgiveness and stability?

Maybe you want to shape the ball a bit more and might find the G400 head a bit easier to do that with?

Either way, it’s the G400 Max all day long for me and it’s the driver I will be using at the start of the 2018 season.

It’s not always about the numbers, it’s about feeling happy when stood over the ball as that’s when I know I’m far more likely to hit a good drive.

More information can be found on the Ping website.

Posted by & filed under Blog.

There seemed to be only one thing missing from golf – a brilliant impressionist.

Well, we finally seem to have one.

Conor Moore released a video on Twitter of him impersonating the likes of Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter ahead of The Masters

It’s safe to say it went down pretty well. So far, the video has had more than 5,000 retweets and 15,000 likes, with many of the biggest stars in golf taking notice.

 

Garcia himself particularly enjoyed it…

Capture

 

As did Beef Johnston…

 

Capture2

 

 

And former One Direction star and friend of golf Niall Horan enjoyed it…

Niall

Which impression do you think is the best?

 

We think Ian Poulter’s can’t be beaten…

Posted by & filed under Blog, Debates, Feature Articles, Masters.

It is officially Masters week. But is it your favourite major? Mark Townsend and Alex Perry from National Club Golfer lock horns.

Yes, says Mark Townsend

Most sporting occasions lose quite a lot of their lustre as the years go on. The FA Cup, back in the late ’70s and ’80s, was once upon a time the greatest day of the year with blanket coverage of the big day on both channels. These days I’m not sure I could name the last three winners.

Likewise any Test match. Even basketball on Channel 4 was sensational as a 14-year-old.

These days I struggle to get juiced up for very much. I love the Open Championship and all that goes with it, next the US Open and Ryder Cup and then take your pick. But right at the top of the pile is The Masters which, since 1983, has routinely left me as a whimpering wreck for all four days.

It does help that we have to wait around 250 days since the last major and that we actually know not only the holes but the names of the holes but those first few glimpses of the course and then every last drop of the action is like nothing else.

If I were to be given the chance to play any major course I would head to Augusta National. If I were to be given the chance to watch any major, I would head to Augusta National. Given the chance to watch any major, from the comfort of my sofa, I would switch on The Masters.

Jose-Maria Olazabal

It stirs me into remembering the great nights of watching Sandy and Ollie slipping into their Green Jackets and Harry Carpenter and Alex Hay on the veranda. It reminds me of when I was young and my dad and I were dancing round the lounge when Woosie won.

I enjoy all the silliness that goes with it – the honorary starters, the soft music to accompany the scores, the dreadful handing over of the Green Jacket after a nauseating few words with the ‘low amateur’.

The Masters makes me a bit weepy for all sorts of different reasons, it gets me punching the air for all sorts of different reasons.

I love it.

No, says Alex Perry

I love The Masters. Like, really love it. Like, shut down my life for four days love it. As I type this, I have no idea what Mark has written, but he’s definitely said it makes him uncontrollably emotional, hasn’t he? He’s cooed about “Sandy” and “Ollie” and “Woosie”, hasn’t he?

I get that. I really do. In fact, I feel the same, in so many ways – except for Sandy, Ollie and Woosie read Faldo, Tiger, Lefty. But it just doesn’t stir my affections the way the Open Championship does.

The original major, our major, and, perhaps most importantly, the links major. The finest and truest form of golf. The way the game was meant to be played.

I was lucky enough to play the Old Course at St Andrews in 2013, and five years on I still cannot find the words to describe how it made me feel standing on that 1st tee in front of golf’s most famous building. Even just walking down from my hotel and turning onto Golf Place sent shivers down my spine and almost decimated my ability to walk.

Just thinking back to the days when it was blanket coverage from sunrise on Thursday to the final putt on Sunday, days where I would rarely leave the house unless it was to go over to a friend’s to watch the golf, makes me feel a little bit gooey inside.

I’m certain I have earlier memories than this, but the 1990 Open was when my love for golf’s oldest major, for St Andrews, and for the game itself truly began.

Just a couple of months shy of my 8th birthday, we were at my uncle’s hotel on the North Cornwall coast for Sunday lunch. Except I had no interest in eating, I wanted-slash-needed to see if Nick Faldo, my first ever sporting hero, could see out victory. So I snuck off to one of the unoccupied hotel rooms and camped out there for a few hours.

When they found me, my mum, fighting back the tears, held me tightly and told me the whole family was “worried sick” because they didn’t know where I was. They had people combing the beach for me and everything.

I don’t remember if she actually used the phrase “worried sick”, but it’s definitely something she would say.

It was completely worth it. Sorry mum. Can I have a yellow Pringle sweater for my birthday?

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.