1. Zach Johnson. A surprise but not a fluke. He’s been dominant on every tour he’s played — Prairie, Hooters, Nationwide — and now he’s beginning to settle in on the PGA Tour. Expect this flinty grinder to be a regular factor at the majors, where tougher setups perfectly suit his controlled game. And, by the way, success couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
2. Hootie Johnson. He’s gone but not forgotten. The pugilistic ex-chairman was always obsessed with protecting par, and the monster golf course he built was as much a story as Zach’s breakthrough victory.
3. Rory Sabbatini. He got a little nervous on the final nine, but his Sunday charge sent a jolt of electricity across Augusta National. As a display of talent and imagination and courage, his big-breaking eagle putt on No. 8 was in the same league as Tiger Woods’s famous chip-in on 16 in ’05.
4. Retief Goosen. Like his countrymen Sabbitini, Goosen was flawless until he had the lead, and then the putter got a little wobbly. But the one-time member of the Big Five — remember that term? — has been a non-factor since his self-immolation at the ’05 U.S. Open, so his big push weekend counts as major progress.
5. Nick Faldo. Working his first Masters in the broadcast booth, he called it early on Sunday that Woods was looking vulnerable, and the insight about the course from a three-time Masters champ was invaluable. All we need is McCord and CBS would really have an Augusta dream team.
1. Tiger Woods. There were physical and mental errors galore during one of Woods’s sloppiest performances ever at a major. Combine that with the yipped gimme that led to his ouster at the Match Play, and suddenly Woods is looking downright human.
2. Phil Mickelson. As Sunday charges go, starting with a triple bogey on a waterless hole is not exactly the ticket. As this was the first major since his abysmal second-half slide in ’06, Mickelson left Augusta with even more questions about the state of his head and heart.
3. The Masters. Sunday was good fun, as always, but the first three rounds bordered on dull, thanks to a brutal setup and frigid temperature. And don’t tell me the lords of Augusta have no control over the weather.
4. Justin Rose. There were long stretches where he looked like the best player in the field, but the young Englishman blew up at exactly the wrong moment: the 71st hole when he was just one stroke back. Hopefully he’ll learn from it, rather than be scarred.
5. Ernie Els. Three months into his three-year plan to try to reach No. 1 in the World Ranking, Els missed his first cut at a major since the ’99 PGA. Funny, but that week at Medinah marked the emergence of Tiger as the game’s dominant player, and Els has never been the same since.