It’s been a while since my last blog entry and you could say that a lot of good things have since happened. Personally, I could not be happier after adding a fifth green jacket by winning the Masters Tournament. It was a pretty amazing final round with a lot of great players in contention and I’m fortunate that I finished on top.
Since playing in the Masters for the first time in 1995 and then winning it two years later, Augusta National has meant so much to me and my family. To be able to win there again, especially with my kids, Sam and Charlie, my mom and close friends there to share it with me, is something I’ll always remember.
Earning my 15th major after 11 years from the last one and my 81st PGA Tour win capped a long, winding, hard road that included a tremendous amount of uncertainty. As you know, I’ve dealt with health challenges due to my back and there were times when I wasn’t sure if I could lead a normal life, let alone play competitive golf. I feel truly fortunate that I have won the Masters again and I guess everyone saw what it meant to me.
With the victory, I’ve jumped into ninth place on the latest U.S. Team standings for the Presidents Cup which will be held at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia from December 9-15. While I’ve already got an important role as team captain, I have made it very clear that I also want to be a playing captain when we face the International Team led by Ernie Els. Qualifying automatically as one of the top-eight players would prevent me from being put in a tricky spot when my captain’s assistants and I sit down to decide on our four picks.
Speaking on assistants, another piece of exciting news happened during my Foundation’s event at the Genesis Open where I announced Freddie Couples, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson as my three captain’s assistants. With Freddie and Stricks on board just in case I make the team and have to play, it's going to make things a lot easier for me. These guys have led our teams to victories before with Freddie winning at Royal Melbourne in 2011.
Zach is going to be a fantastic captain someday. He has a competitive fire that matches anyone that I’ve been around. His strategy on the golf course is obvious. Remember, he won at Augusta National laying up on all of the par-5s and played them in 12-under-par and also won at St. Andrews which is one of the longest courses out there. I’m going to rely on these guys for a lot of support and insight. Our team is certainly in great hands.
“With a mix of veteran experience and young talent, I see this team as being one of the strongest ever from top to bottom.”
There’s nothing like match play, and my three U.S. Amateur Championship victories remain part of my career highlights. Last month, I competed in my first World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play since 2013 and was disappointed to lose in the quarterfinals to Lucas Bjerregaard after progressing from the group-play format which included Aaron Wise, Patrick Cantlay and Brandt Snedeker, and then beating Rory McIlroy in the Round of 16.
I certainly enjoy competing under this type of pressure knowing I just need to beat the guy standing in front of me. The way Aaron and Patrick play are two more reasons why U.S. golf is going to be in a good place for a long time. I remember watching Aaron when he was at Oregon playing under my old teammate Casey Martin. He’s an amazing talent who has already proven himself after winning the Byron Nelson Classic last year. Patrick is in the same boat. He’s already a winner on the PGA Tour after overcoming injuries of his own and we also saw how he moved into the final-round lead on the back nine at the Masters.
I was thrilled to see Kevin Kisner win the Match Play since he lost to Bubba Watson in the finals last year. He’s another one of those guys who seems to enjoy the pressure that match play presents. I was able to get to know him during my time as a captain’s assistant at the 2017 Presidents Cup and it was cool to see him do well under the pressure of playing in his first Presidents Cup while partnering with Phil Mickelson. He’s definitely someone who will have my attention as we approach the end of the season.
Seeing Matt Kuchar’s play of late has been impressive. For someone who has won the Match Play before, Kuch will be the first to tell you that advancing to the Championship Match is a big accomplishment. With two wins already on the PGA Tour this season, he’s playing some of his best golf and is already in a great spot to qualify for the team. He not only brings consistent golf to the team, but he’s one of the personalities that we love having in the team room.
Looking at the final leaderboard at the Masters, it was great to see a strong U.S. presence with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele sharing second place and Tony Finau, whom I played with in the final round, and Webb Simpson tying for fifth. Along with Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Phil, who are all in the current top 10 of our standings, these guys can be important for this team. With a mix of veteran experience and young talent, I see this team as being one of the strongest ever from top to bottom.
It’s going to be fun when we get to Royal Melbourne in December and I encourage fans to get their tickets now on www.presidentscup.com. I’m told they’re selling fast.
Bye for now.
U.S. Team Captain Playing Captain (and reigning Masters Champion).