Magnolia Lane

The Masters is finally here. Starting Thursday, 94 players will battle for their chance at winning the coveted Green Jacket.

For this year’s event we have teamed up with our friends at No Laying Up to put together a Masters Pool. Make your picks and compete for your chance at winning great prizes from Callaway Golf and Holderness & Bourne as well as gear from the No Laying Up and Fried Egg Pro Shops.

Primed and ready to go

Georgia native Russell Henley surged on the back nine, making five birdies and tracking down 54-hole leader Sung Kang to win the Shell Houston Open and earn a spot in the Masters. Henley started the day four shots back of Kang, who saw his putter cool off on the weekend. After a torrid start, Kang fired weekend rounds of  71-72 to settle for a career-best second-place finish. Rickie Fowler and Luke List finished in a tie for third, with Fowler put together a thrilling Saturday run in which he made eight birdies to close in on Kang. But a bogey, double bogey finish put him three shots behind and a slow start on Sunday doomed his chances of a second victory on the season.

Takeaways

Who is Russell Henley?
Henley seems to be among the most underrated of the PGA TOUR’s young talent. A winner at every level, he became the second amateur to win on the Web.com Tour with a victory in 2011. After notching two more Web Tour wins in 2012, Henley went stupid-low at the Sony Open (63-63-67-63) to win in his first PGA TOUR start as a professional in 2013. This week’s win marks his third on TOUR (he also won The Honda Classic in 2014).

Henley’s professional career is off to a sneaky stellar start thanks to his great putting (sixth on TOUR in strokes gained this season). The 27-year-old from Macon, Georgia, can stack up birdies in bunches (he’s 12th on TOUR this year in birdie average) and has shown how well his putter can handle pressure when he gets in contention.

Putt for dough
Sung Kang turned heads by opening the tournament with rounds of 65-63 to take a seven-shot lead into the weekend. The club responsible for his outrageous start was his putter, as Kang made a remarkable 300 feet of putts in the first two rounds. Unfortunately for Kang, he only made 157 feet the rest of the weekend and not surprisingly his scores went up.

Meanwhile winner Russell Henley was sensational all week on GC of Houston’s pure greens, racking up 542 feet of putts for the week (over 90 feet every round) en route to finishing first in strokes gained: putting for the tournament.

Thinking of Augusta
The SHO offers a great opportunity for some Masters contenders to round into form before the season’s first major. A few things to note from the week:

• Rickie Fowler looks phenomenal and seems to be flying under the radar.

• Jon Rahm notched another top 10. While Rahm is an Augusta rookie, his worst finish in his past six starts is T16.

• Last year’s Masters runner-up and Olympic Gold Medal winner Justin Rose should be a popular pick. He notched his fifth top-15 finish of 2017 in just seven starts.

• Jordan Spieth missed his first cut of 2017, but I wouldn’t read much into it. The iffy weather forecast could have played a factor.

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson’s MC is a bit more alarming as it’s his second in a row. When you add his WD in Mexico, it is the third time in four starts he has failed to play the weekend.

An Architect Roundtable on Augusta National

Augusta National is one of the world’s most revered courses. Originally laid out by the great Alister Mackenzie in 1931, Augusta has seen its fair share of changes over the years and looks much different today than it did originally. We asked a couple of golf’s forefront architecture figures a few questions about what they loved, what they would change and what every course could learn from the beloved golf course. Read their answers.

The Not-So-Inspiring ANA

During the final-round of the LPGA’s first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, American star Lexi Thompson held a two-shot lead following the 12th hole on Sunday. Thompson was then informed that she would be assessed a four-shot penalty for failing to properly replace her ball from a putt that occurred during Saturday’s round. The LPGA was made aware of the infraction by an email from a viewer and after reviewing footage deemed that Thompson was guilty and would be assessed two shots for the infraction and two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard. The penalty led to tears from Thompson and a sudden two-shot deficit to Suzanne Pettersen. Despite the tears, Thompson was able to respond well to the penalty, birdieing the next hole and three of the final six to finish in a tie with So Yeon Ryu. The pair headed for a sudden-death playoff where Ryu beat Thompson on the first playoff hole with a birdie. It was Ryu’s second career major and her win brought more attention to the LPGA’s handling of the Thompson ruling.

While Thompson clearly failed to replace her ball properly, it's hard to think that she gained an advantage in doing so on such a short putt. The real issue is the process. Viewers should have no influence on rules infractions being called, especially when they come 24 hours after the infraction occurred. Yesterday’s fiasco mirrored that of Dustin Johnson’s at last year’s U.S. Open and situations like that are horrible for the game of golf.  They take away from the great golf on hand and put the focus on the rules, a common complaint of the game in general.

Quick hooks

Tiger watches himself win the 1997 Masters.

Petefish wins the Azalea Amateur.

Jimenez wins in Mississippi for the second consecutive year.

We will be updating the Masters Hub regularly with our latest content as well as the best from around the web.

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Masters prep

Soly welcomes on Kyle Porter to talk all things Masters. Listen on the NLU Website or iTunes.

Hats are back!

The NLU Shop has a new look, go check it out and get free shipping for Masters Week.

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