The 2018 Masters might be in the rearview mirror, but the buzz is still strong.
In addition to Augusta National being its usual stunning self, the stories to emerge from the event were as plentiful as they were intriguing - and they started even before the tournament began, with 68-year-old Tom Watson winning the Par 3 Contest while Tony Finau suffered an injury more suited to a basketball player (a dislocated ankle that he popped back into place).
Tiger Woods returned, birdies (and bogeys) came in bunches, we nearly had a historical final-round charge from Jordan Spieth, and in the end, there was a deserved winner in Patrick Reed - but one whose checkered personal past will likely overshadow his on-course accomplishments. But Reed is a major champion, something no one can ever take away from him.
His stock is also at an all-time high.
Here's a list of the biggest movers following the year's first major:
Although Reed’s personal battles with his family became well-documented after Sunday’s win, the fact remains that Reed, who has now won six times on the PGA Tour, played better than anyone else last week.
He was the tournament's best putter - averaging just 1.44 putts per hole on Augusta National’s tricky greens - and he made more birdies than anyone (22). The numbers didn’t lie; Reed is a worthy champion.
Reed is a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup stalwart, has a World Golf Championship title to his resume, had already taken down Spieth before (in a playoff to win his first PGA Tour event, the 2013 Wyndham Championship), and now, has a Green Jacket in his closet.
What an athlete - and talk about going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in just a few seconds.
Finau, who has only one PGA Tour title to his credit, was a long-shot betting favorite last week because of his consistent play so far in 2018. He made a hole-in-one in the Par 3 Contest but became a little overzealous with his excitement. After popping his ankle back into place - and getting taped up by two doctors every day before he played - he went out Thursday and shot a 4-under 68. He stumbled in the second and third rounds but bounced back with a vengeance during Sunday’s finale.
He shot a 6-under-par 66, making six straight birdies on the back nine, en route to a T10 finish - guaranteeing him a start in next year’s Masters.
His ankle looks gross, but his play last week was beautiful. Don’t be surprised if he finds the PGA Tour winner’s circle again sooner rather than later.
When Rickie Fowler finally wins a major, half the PGA Tour is going to be waiting to celebrate with him.
Fowler, who was behind the 18th green waiting to congratulate Reed after making a birdie on the 72nd hole and get to within one shot of Reed’s winning total (14-under for the week), proved again why it is indeed a question of 'when' not 'if' he will win a major.
Fowler shot 65-67 on the weekend and although he didn’t do anything spectacular all week, he stayed very steady. All in, he finished alone in second, his ninth top-10 finish in a major in his career.
For a guy who just notched his fifth straight top-10 finish at the Masters, it’s tough to say his stock has tumbled. But he was out of sorts Sunday. He was trying to force things. He didn’t have his usual swagger going - suggesting that perhaps Augusta National may be the riddle McIlroy never solves.
That said, the Northern Irishman will have 30-plus more attempts at the career Grand Slam and his game is indeed built for Augusta. But Sunday was not his day, as he shot a 2-over 74 to finish in a tie for fifth.
The fact that Woods even managed to make the walk for 72 holes of tournament competition at Augusta National should be viewed as a positive, but ask him how he played, and you’ll hear a different story.
Woods was at the bottom of the list in terms of Driving Accuracy last week - showing he still hasn’t figured things out with the big stick - and was close to the bottom in Greens in Regulation as well.
Augusta National exposes even the slightest weakness, more so than any other course on the PGA Tour - and last week showed Woods still has those flaws. With respect to the Valspar Championship, it's no Masters.
Woods said Sunday that he would be taking a few weeks off to get back into the gym to work on a few things, but perhaps working on his driver may actually serve him better moving forward.
The defending Masters champion was all smiles Sunday, once again wearing his Green Jacket, but not because he had repeated as winner.
As is custom, he had to be there to drape the 44-Regular across Reed’s shoulders.
Garcia ejected himself from the competition late on Thursday, after making an 8-over 13 on the par-5 15th, putting five balls in the water.
He shot 81-78 to officially have the worst title defense in Masters history, as the only two people he beat last week were amateurs.
Garcia will be back in action in two weeks at the Valero Texas Open. He’s the consulting player architect at TPC San Antonio, the host course, so hopefully he’s helped design a layout that will allow him to play a little better than he did last week at Augusta National.
Adam Stanley has written about golf since 2011 for PGATOUR.com, LPGA.com, and the Canadian Press, among other organizations. He's also a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail. Find him on Twitter @adam_stanley.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)