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Five things we learned at the Masters

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Patrick Reed is presented with the green jacket by previous winner Sergio Garcia after winning the 2018 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday in Augusta, Georgia. AFP

Five things we learned at the Masters

Patrick Reed won the Masters on Sunday, claiming his first major title in a tournament where Tiger Woods’s return to major competition dominated headlines.

Here are five things we learned from the 82nd edition of the Masters at Augusta National:

Woods moves the needle

Expectations that Woods could contend in his first major championship since 2015 fuelled an explosion in sports betting and a surge in television ratings.

Nearly 3 million viewers tuned in for ESPN’s telecast of the first round on Thursday, according to Nielsen Fast National data – up 40 percent from the Thursday average in 2017.

ESPN also saw significant growth across digital app and website usage compared to the opening Thursday of the tournament last year.

On ESPN.com, the golf section had a 41 percent increase in visits over last year.

CNBC reported that betting on this year’s Masters in Nevada is estimated to surpass $12 million – which would be a record.

Woods accounted for almost six percent of all bets on the 87-man field.

Tiger has work to do

Woods tried to temper expectations raised by his top-five finishes in two tune-up events, and it turns out he was wise to do so.

Suddenly struggling with his irons, the 42-year-old superstar effectively shot himself out of the tournament with rounds of 73-75 on Thursday and Friday.

He posted an even par 72 on Saturday, and his 3-under 69 on Sunday included a near ace and his first eagle of the week. But a runner-up finish in the Valspar Championship isn’t necessarily a good guide to major championship form.

“I think things are progressing,” Woods said. “It was a little bit disappointing I didn’t hit my irons as well as I needed to for this particular week. You miss it just a touch here, it gets magnified.

“But overall I’m five or six tournaments into it, to be able to compete out here and to score like I did, it feels good.”

Another major breakthrough

Patrick Reed became the latest player to claim a maiden major.

He’s the fourth straight first-time Masters winner, and since Zach Johnson won his second major at the 2015 Open Championship, nine out of 10 of golf’s biggest titles have been won by a first-timer.

The only exception was Jordan Spieth’s British Open win last year.

With a raft of talented players stepping up, Rickie Fowler left Augusta convinced his turn was coming.

Fowler endured another near miss, but his charging final-round 67, which left him one shot behind Reed, had him looking forward to the US Open at Shinecock in June.

“I feel like this is a year to knock off our first,” he said.

Spain’s world No3 Jon Rahm, 23, is knocking on the door too, playing the weekend 65-69 to finish alone in fourth, four shots off the lead.

US has good omens for Ryder Cup

Holders United States have not won a Ryder Cup staged in Europe since taking the 1993 edition at The Belfry in England, but the omens are favourable to the Americans from this week’s Masters ahead of next September’s team matchplay showdown at Le Golf National in France.

Patrick Reed became the fourth consecutive American to win a major title after Justin Thomas at last year’s PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth at last year’s British Open and Brooks Koepka at last year’s US Open.

And in the final two pairings on Sunday at Augusta National, fiery Reed finished with a one-under par 71 to win by a stroke, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy shot 74 to share fifth on 279 and Masters runner-up Rickie Fowler fired a 67, while Spain’s Jon Rahm shot 69. Had their scores been translated to match-play results, Fowler would have been 2-up over Rahm and Reed would have beaten McIlroy 1 up.

Golf can be humbling

Experience key at Augusta National, but it’s not a guarantee.

Defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia’s hopes of a title repeat unravelled rapidly when he hit five balls in the water en route to an octuple-bogey 13 at the par-5 15th on Thursday.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, tipped to contend after two victories this year, saw his eagle putt at the par-5 second on Sunday roll into a greenside bunker. Watson managed to salvage a par, but his three-under 69 left tied for fifth, six shots behind Reed.

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