By Paul Myers
As if The Masters needed any extra excitement, the run-up to the year’s first major has been filled with previous winners of the green jacket. With Bubba Watson and Adam Scott already having found a place in the winner’s circle in 2016, another past Masters champion jump into the conversation last weekend when Charl Schwartzel took home The Valspar Championship. While it looked like the trophy would end up in the hands of Bill Haas, Schwartzel finished with an impressive round on a tough course and walked away a winner.
Bill Haas began the final round with a five shot lead over Charl Schwartzel, but a round of one-over-par 72 opened the door for a comeback. Schwartzel was able to jump through that door with a brilliant 67 to finish in a tie with Haas at the top (two clear of third place finisher Ryan Moore). Playing his last six holes of regulation in three under par, Schwartzel caught Haas and was able to prevail on the first playoff hole when Haas made a bogey.
Bounce Back for Spieth
The early portion of the 2016 season hasn’t been anything to write home about for Jordan Spieth, the world’s number one player. While it is obviously far too early to declare anything wrong with Spieth’s game, he is definitely looking for a bit of form before returning to Augusta to defend his title. Although his overall finish at the Valspar wasn’t particularly notable – tied for 18th – he did bounce back nicely from an open 76 to make the cut and play well over the last three rounds.
Great Amateur Story
One of the best stories of the week came from a player who didn’t take home a single dollar at the end of the event. Amateur Lee McCoy, a member of the University of Georgia golf team, posted an incredible showing when he finished solo 4th for the week. Over the weekend, McCoy shot 66-69, which rocketed him up the leaderboard after shooting three over par for the first two rounds. Adding to the lore of his accomplishment was the story of what came next – and overnight car ride up to Georgia in order to compete in a college event on Monday morning. Even though there will be no check associated with his accomplishment, McCoy made a lifetime of memories in a single day on Sunday, including playing alongside Jordan Spieth – and beating him by four shots.
Moving into the heart of Florida, the Tour heads to Bay Hill for Arnold Palmer’s annual event outside Orlando. Officially titled the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, this event always draws one of the strongest fields of the year outside of the majors. Matt Every is the two-time defending champion at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and he will have to conquer an impressive list of top players if he hopes to take the title for an incredible third year in a row.