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Amen Corner proves pivotal as Scottie Scheffler's closest pursuers falter in final round of Masters

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LA Post: Amen Corner proves pivotal as Scottie Scheffler's closest pursuers falter in final round of Masters
April 14, 2024
DAVE SKRETTA - AP

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Amen Corner brought Scottie Scheffler's closest pursuers to their knees on Sunday.

That famed three-hole stretch on the back nine at Augusta National, where history has so often been made in the Masters, is where Ludvig Aberg, Collin Morikawa and Max Homa put their prayers of winning into the water and the shrubs.

The trio had been briefly tied with Scheffler while he was playing the eighth hole in a final round fast building in drama. But the world's top player answered their challenge with three consecutive birdies, and each of them faltered: In a span of 10 minutes or so, Aberg and Morikawa found the water left of No. 11 and Homa hit into the bushes behind No. 12.

Each took a penalty stroke, made double bogey and watched his hopes of wearing a green jacket disappear.

By the time the shadows were growing long among the Georgia pines, each had had become a footnote. Scheffler was left with another Sunday stroll up No. 18 with a big lead, and he tapped in for a four-shot victory and his second Masters title.

Scheffler's final-round 68 left him 11 under for the championship. Aberg bounced back from his errant shot at the 11th with two birdies down the stretch and finished at 7 under. Homa and Morikawa joined Tommy Fleetwood in third at 4 under.

It was a disappointing ending to a memorable week for three players with something to prove.

Aberg arrived a relative unknown beyond the golfing establishment. The 24-year-old Swede won in Europe and the United States after turning pro last year, and he used a string of top-10 finishes, including a second at Pebble Beach, to climb to No. 9 in the world. For a while, it looked as if Aberg might make some history by becoming the first Masters debutant since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win the year's first major.

Then came the par-4 11th, known as White Dogwood for its flowering trees. Aberg hit the fairway off the tee, but his approach from 207 yards bounced off the edge of the green and into the pond guarding the left-hand side.

“Obviously it wasn’t ideal to hit it in the water,” said Aberg, who might have known something bad would soon happen when a fan, bumping fists with him heading to the 10th tee, knocked the bar he was eating right out of his hand.

“It was a good example of just keep playing, just to make sure to keep the ball in front of you,” Aberg said, “and there’s a lot of holes left to be played. I think me finishing well after those couple holes were pretty encouraging to see.”

Playing in the group behind Aberg was Morikawa, trying to capture the third leg of the career Grand Slam. After winning the PGA Championship in 2020 and the British Open the following year, the 27-year-old largely disappeared from the world stage, only to reappear at Augusta National with his game suddenly looking as good as ever.

Morikawa also hit the fairway at No. 11 and had 202 yards left to the green. His approach shot landed with a splash, and he said it was his fault for trying to hit the shot too close.

“Greed got the best of me,” he said.

Then there was Homa, who endeared himself to fans all week with his quick wit and unvarnished honesty. He was trying to prove he could contend in the majors — his best finish had been a tie for 10th at the British Open a year ago.

Homa got through No. 11 just fine, playing his approach shot well right of the pond. His trouble came at the next hole, the par-3 12th known as Golden Bell, where he flew his tee shot to the back of the green and it one-hopped into a shrub. Homa had to take an unplayable lie, left his chip on the collar of the green and eventually made a 5-footer for double bogey.

Homa at least proved he could contend, even if he wasn't able to win.

“It’s bittersweet, I guess, because I feel accomplished, but I feel like it doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “The rhetoric on me — and this is from myself, as well — is I have not performed in these things, and I performed for all four days. I didn’t throw a 65 in there and sneak my way in. I had to sleep on this every single day, this feeling and kind of this monkey on my back. For me, I think it’ll change some things, and then in other ways it’ll change nothing at all.”

The name Amen Corner, for the unfamiliar, was coined by the sports writer Herbert Warren Wind, who was trying to describe that picturesque corner of the property where so many crucial Masters moments have happened. It was inspired by the Mildred Bailey jazz tune, “Shouting in that Amen Corner.”

On Sunday, it had three of golf's best singing the blues.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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