Rory’s strategy, Bryson’s irons, Tiger’s walk: Stray Masters thoughts | Monday Finish

Rory McIlroy at the 2024 Masters.

Rory McIlroy at the 2024 Masters.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’ve just finished up a round at Augusta [Municipal Golf Course] and wanted to empty out a few parting thoughts from a week at the Masters. Let’s get to it!

1. Scottie Scheffler has a super power.

As the figurative confetti was still falling on Scheffler’s Masters victory, his caddie Ted Scott was asked what he thought Scheffler’s super power is. How is he so good? Scott’s answer was intriguing. This is golf. You can’t just be great at just one thing.

“What is he not good at? I don’t know,” he said. “I think his super power is people that are super powerful are good at everything, and he seems to be good at everything. He doesn’t really have a weakness.”

Pressed for a specific trait, Scott cited “discipline.” He talked about Scheffler’s intentionality, too. Everything is done with a purpose.

“I think with that mentality of like, ‘I’m going somewhere with all this. I’m not just doing it in place. I’m actually doing it for a reason.’ Then when he gets in a moment, he’s got all the tools.”

2. Ludvig Åberg’s prime starts now.

Ludvig Åberg finished second at the Masters in his first-ever major championship. At 24, he has his entire career ahead of him. But it’s also intriguing to think about where other pros were at 24, because the way we think about age and experience in golf can be weird.

Åberg was in college this time last year, which makes his rise to Masters contention feel meteoric. Then again, do you know how old Jordan Spieth was when he won his third (and most recent) major championship? He was 23. Do you know how old Collin Morikawa was when he won his second (and most recent) major championship? He was 24. Do you know how old Rory McIlroy was when he won his fourth (and most recent) major championship? He was 25.

I’m not even sure what my point is; I’m wildly impressed with Åberg and I’d guess his playing career will include multiple major wins. Watching him come off the 18th green on Sunday, his friends and family celebrated his runner-up finish like a victory, as they should have. There are also plenty of counterexamples of guys who have won majors later in their career — including the greatest post-Tiger major champs, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, whose first majors came at 27 and 34.

So there’s no rush for him to win a major this year. Golf careers are long. His shows nothing but promise. But this stuff can all be intensely fleeting, so win ’em while you can, Ludvig!

3. Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie treatment speaks volumes.

How good is Tommy Fleetwood? Good enough to play four rounds at Augusta National in brutal conditions without shooting over par. Good enough to finish T3 at the Masters, the sixth top-five finish of his major championship career. But he also seems to have a basic goodness in the way he treats people in his circle and an appreciation for the people around him. This week that was on display via the way he talks about his caddies.

Fleetwood’s caddie Ian Finnis — a fixture on his bag — is out for multiple tournaments with an illness; he’s at home receiving treatment. Here’s what Fleetwood said about his right-hand man early in the week:

“He’s not been well all year,” Fleetwood told reporters. “At the moment he’s at home trying to recover and get the right treatment. Hopefully he’ll be back out sooner rather than later. It’s definitely different being without him. Like, we’ve been together every tournament for the last eight years pretty much. So, we just wish him all the best.”

Fleetwood said that everyone had been asking after him, which is no surprise — Finnis is a beloved presence on Tour. But nobody misses him more than his boss.

“It’s definitely very, very different,” he said. “Last week [at the Valero Texas Open] was weird just going out there and doing so many things that he would do. There is definitely a huge comfort level when he’s out on the course with me. It’s just a bit weird, really. But I’m far more bothered about him getting better and his health being right. He’s definitely in the right place at the moment. I look forward to when he does get back out.”

Then there was the way Fleetwood described his time with this week’s looper, former Augusta National caddie master Gray Moore. He didn’t mention their high finish — just that he relished the experience.

“We had a great week,” he said. “I’ve known Greg since I first came to Augusta and I asked him to caddie this week. Yeah, it was always going to be a fantastic weekend when we made it through to the weekend together. It’s been absolutely amazing, and I’ve loved spending time with him on the golf course this week. I always enjoy seeing him and spending time with him at Augusta every time the Masters comes around, but actually being out with him was a real treat. I just hope he’s had as good a time as I have, with me as I have with him this week. It’s been great.”

4. Max Homa got a bad bounce.

I was behind the 12th tee for Max Homa’s tee shot peering over the shoulders of about 6,000 of my new best friends so it was a little tough to tell exactly what had happened when Homa’s ball flew the green other than it didn’t seem good. Once Homa started searching — and then measuring club lengths for a drop — it seemed extra not-good. But it wasn’t until I got back to the media center that I saw a replay of the bounce. What a rotten break! If it flies a yard further it hits the slope and comes back down. If it flies a yard shorter it doesn’t trampoline forward. A little left or right and it dodges that nasty patch of ivy. Brutal!

Turns out Homa felt the same way.

“The honest answer? Is it didn’t feel fair,” he said of the bounce. “I hit a really good golf shot, and it didn’t feel fair. I’ve seen far worse just roll back down the hill. But yeah, the professional answer is these things happen.”

These things do happen. That’s the game. But it’s tough when they happen while you’re in second place at the Masters on the back nine on Sunday, down one shot to the best player in the world. I’m not here to tell you that was the difference — even if you assume the bounce cost Homa two shots, he lost by seven — but it would have stretched the drama just a little longer.

5. Bryson DeChambeau’s irons story is insane.

Arguably the wildest storyline of the week. Let’s keep this very basic. As I understand it, for all of modern golfing history the faces on irons have been flat. Until this week.

In Bryson DeChambeau’s new iron set (more here), the irons don’t have flat faces; they have the bulge-and-roll profile you’d recognize from your driver. They weren’t approved by the USGA until the beginning of Masters week; DeChambeau’s team literally spent the weekend handcrafting them to pass inspection. And then DeChambeau — who has a poor Masters record — used these 3D-printed irons to shoot a first-round 65 to take the outright lead. He ultimately finished T6, which is significant for his career. But these irons feel like an even bigger story than that. And this week felt like the beginning.

6. Tiger Woods walked 72 holes.

After a terrific performance in the first two rounds to make his record-setting 24th consecutive Masters cut (with five shots to spare!), things took a negative turn on the weekend for Tiger Woods.

That’s been the story in Woods’ recent major starts. At last year’s Masters he made the cut and then withdrew on Saturday night. At the PGA Championship in 2022 he withdrew on Saturday night, too. And although he gritted his way to a 47th-place finish at the 2022 Masters, he hobbled through the final round using his driver as a walking stick.

So in many ways Woods’ 82-77 weekend didn’t feel like progress. But in terms of his body holding up for four days? It’s at least a step in the right direction. We’ll see whether that trend continues.

7. Rory McIlroy tried something different.

But maybe not as different as he’d have us think.

Rory McIlroy arrived on Tuesday of the Masters and was the final contestant to register. “I play 25 weeks a year, and there’s no point in doing anything different this week compared to other weeks, I guess,” he said. That was this week’s declared strategy.

The temptation, then, is to say that McIlroy tried not to take this week too seriously, but that’s not quite right either. He flew to Augusta two weeks before the event for a scouting trip. He flew from Florida to Las Vegas just to get a golf lesson. He added an event, the Valero Texas Open, to play the week before the tournament. And when he arrived at the Masters, he came with a skeleton crew — essentially just his caddie and his agent — got his practice in and skipped the par-3 contest while his family stayed home.

By the time McIlroy wrapped his second round he’d faded to four over par, inside the cut line but fully 10 shots behind Scottie Scheffler, who’d played in his group. Their third was Åberg, who’d wind up second. A ho-hum weekend left McIlroy T22, which is where he’s been spending this season; five of his six PGA Tour finishes in 2024 have been between T19 and T24.

“I guess it’s more the same of what I’ve shown this year. It’s not as if it’s been a down week in comparison to the way I’ve been playing. It’s just a matter of me trying to get my game in a bit better shape going towards the rest of the season,” McIlroy said post-round. He doesn’t feel far off, he added, because “all these disappointing weeks are 20ths, 25ths. They’re not terrible weeks by any stretch, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

McIlroy was the subject of more headlines away from the Masters than at the Masters; on Monday various sites ran with a report that he was considering an $850 million offer from LIV that spread like wildfire across social media. His manager Sean O’Flaherty ultimately denied the reports to the Irish Independent. “Fake news. Zero truth,” he said.

8. The defending champ didn’t like giving up the green jacket.

Jon Rahm is one of golf’s great competitors, so it’s not surprising that he’d be upset by the idea of giving up his green jacket. But as he put the finishing touches on a T45 finish he expressed some regret about not putting the fight to the World No. 1.

“There’s a lot of things that contributed to me not having my best week, and one of them I think was obviously on the greens, which is not easy. Never really had the pace of the greens, and a couple too many three-putts,” he said. Were there positives? Sort of. 

“It’s been nice to have some receptions walking up to some tees no matter what my score was and seeing the appreciation. But when you don’t have your best week, it’s hard to have to stay now to put the jacket on somebody else and never really ever have a chance.”

9. Xander Schauffele’s major consistency is remarkable.

His consistency in general is remarkable. Schauffele finished eighth at the Masters, his eighth top-10 finish in his last 11 PGA Tour starts. He’s finished outside the top 25 just three times in the last 12 months. He hasn’t missed a cut since the 2022 Masters. That’s two years ago! And his results at the majors have become shockingly predictable: In his last eight major starts (since that 2022 Masters) his worst finish is T18 and his best finish is eighth. Remarkable.

There are other words you could use besides remarkable. Schauffele used some of them himself after Sunday’s final round, his third 72 of the week, which he described as “not very good golf.” The pressure continues to mount on Schauffele to finish off a major, too, given his 11 top-10s and 19 top-20s without a win. So there’s some disappointment mixed in there, too, knowing what could be.

Schauffele moved to No. 3 in the world with the high finish, leapfrogging Rahm by a few hundredths of a point. It’s the highest mark of his career and this is the most consistent golf of his career. But he sounded energized by the idea of having mountains left to climb.

“I have a long way to go to catch someone like him,” he said, speaking of Scottie Scheffler. “I have a lot of work on my plate, and that’ll continue for quite some time.”

10. Tiger Woods addressed his PIF meeting.

These days every pro tournament is played against the backdrop of golf’s geopolitics, but this Masters delightfully escaped most PGA Tour vs. LIV chatter. It was remarkable, in fact, that Tiger Woods didn’t address his recent Bahamas meeting with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund until after his round on Sunday. Did he come away feeling like the sides are closer to a deal?

“I don’t know if we’re closer, but certainly we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “That was a very positive meeting, and I think both sides came away from the meeting feeling positive.”

What does that tell us? Not much. But it’s something to monitor as we spend the next few weeks hearing more about equity and about deal-making and about rumors and competing leagues — all while we wait for the next major to arrive.

We’ll see you next week!

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.