Her dad, John, who introduced her to the game when she was five, has always marvelled at his daughters ability to remain even-keeled.
\”Shes the kind of player that she doesnt get too high when she makes a birdie or hits a good shot and she doesnt get too low if she makes a double bogey.\”
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But nerves have gotten the better of some the worlds best golfers on Sunday at Augusta National. Sure, Gal wasnt playing the Masters, but for a 14-year-old competing on one of the worlds most storied golf courses in front of a national TV audience, it might as well been.
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When she followed that up with another putt within a foot of the hole, Gal at least figured she could do no worse than third place, the position she held heading into the final round of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals Sunday.
When the next competitor ran her first putt seven feet past the hole, Gal realized she would move up to second place. That left just the New Jersey junior state champion, Megha Ganne. And when her putt stopped well short of the hole, John Gal turned to his daughter. \”I think you just won,\” he said.
\”Its crazy when you really think about it,\” Gal said. \”Thousands of people do this competition. Being the one to win it is pretty insane.\”
The Oakville Golf Club member became just the third Canadian to win a Drive, Chip and Putt national title, joining Torontos Vanessa Borovilos and Mississaugas Savannah Grewel.
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Not to discount the power of her lucky yellow nail polish, but maybe Nicole Gal should have suspected something special was about to happen when she received another colourful omen.
A quirk of the world ranking system means Justin Rose returned to No 1 on Monday without having played in last weeks Texas Open. Rose is seeking to break with convention; the top-ranked player at the start of the Masters has won the Green Jacket only four times. On two of those occasions the person in question was Tiger Woods, the last of them in 2002. History, then, does not particularly favour Rose. I feel like I havent had my run yet where Ive sort of separated myself as the No 1 player in the world, said Rose. Thats a goal of mine, still.
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When Gal arrived at Augusta National, the competitors were given coloured shirts corresponding to the regional championship they had won. Gal, having won the Northeast Regional, was issued a green golf shirt.
At the home of The Masters, where the winner receives the green jacket, it proved to be a bit of foreshadowing.
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As if that wasnt enough, past Masters champions were on hand to award trophies to the winners. The presenter for the girls 14-15 division just happened to be Mike Weir, who two years before Gal was born, sunk a seven-foot putt on the same green where Gal clinched her title Sunday. That putt forced a playoff that Weir would win to become the only Canadian Masters champion.
It was a long road for Gal just to get to Augusta. It started with a second-place finish at a local qualifier, one of 290 held across the United States. It was after that the legend of the nail polish began to grow.
After she and some friends painted their nails yellow, Gal won the sub-regional event. It was the first time in three attempts that she had advanced beyond the second round. When she went out a few days later and shot a career-best, even-par round of 72, she figured there just might be something to it.
Year one, its all so new, theres so much to take in and its your first time here. Year two, youve been here already so youre more comfortable with it and it just kind of progresses to the point where, Im not at the Freddie Couples stage or anything like that but Im getting a better understanding and feeling of the tournament and the course and what that involves.
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But prior to the regionals at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., she realized she had left the nail polish at home. She managed to find some in the New York subway of all places and with her yellow nails restored, she won the regional to advance to Augusta.
\”Its so tough,\” said the Grade 9 student at Holy Trinity. \”You have to do really well at all three qualifiers. One bad day and youre out.\”
Gal showed consistency throughout, though. She was first or second in eight of the nine events at the qualifiers. That carried through to the national final where she was the only competitor in the division to finish in the top five in each discipline, finishing fifth in driving, third in chipping and second in putting.
When it was all over, John Gal finally saw a crack in the cool demeanour his daughter maintains on the golf course.
And with good reason. Asked where her victory ranks among her golfing achievements, Gal didnt hesitate.
Golfs most storied tournament tees off once again from Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, featuring the best players in the world vying for the legendary green jacket.
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Patrick Reed, the 2018 champion, will be one of the big stories as he tries to keep his green jacket for a second straight year, a feat accomplished by only a select few in the past.
With landmarks that include Amen Corner and Magnolia Lane, Augusta National has played host to the Masters every year since the tournaments inception in 1934. Its the only major that has the same home course every year.
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The Masters is the first major of 2019 and the first since the 2018 PGA Championship, when Tiger Woods finished second. Woods is still searching for his first major win since the 2008 U.S. Open. He has four career wins at Augusta.
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Here is everything to know about the 2019 Masters, including the TV schedule, round-by-round tee times for Tiger Woods and the field, plus updated betting odds. You can also follow our “Tiger Tracker” and live leaderboard for hole-by-hole updates from the tournament when Round 1 begins Thursday.
All four days of the Masters will be featured on major networks. ESPN takes the first two days while CBS will broadcast the final two. Golf Channel and Masters.com will provide additional coverage in the days leading up to and during the Masters. You can also live stream Rounds 3-4 by signing up for fuboTV, which offers a free seven-day trial.
ESPNs Scott Van Pelt will host ESPNs coverage of the tournament and Jim Nantz will once again lend his voice for the final two rounds on CBS.
The Masters field is a whos who of golfers. As is usually the case, big names will make up a large portion of the field. Woods and Reed, the defending champion, will be playing, as will the top five golfers in the world: Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. Recent Masters champions Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson will also be a part of the field.
Corey Conners was the final golfer to be added to the Masters field after winning the Texas Open on Sunday.
In addition to the 81 professionals, six amateur golfers will play in the Masters, including Viktor Hovland and Takumi Kanaya, who are among the top 10 amateurs in the world.
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This section will be updated when Round 1 tee times are released, which is expected to be Tuesday, April 9.
The purse for this years Masters has not been announced yet, but it is projected to be at least $11 million, which was the total the past two years. Reed pocketed $1,980,000 as the champion last year, so expect the winner to get that amount, if not more. The second place consolation probably wont be too bad either. They are expected to earn over $1 million.
With The Players Championship increasing its purse to $12,500,000 this year, the Masters purse may get raised, too, making potential payouts even larger.
Players Championship winner McIlroy is the betting favorite to win the Masters, thanks largely in part to his seven consecutive top-10 finishes. Johnson and Rose, who have both won tournaments in 2019, come in right behind McIlroy.
Woods odds at +1400 make him an intriguing betting option. Spieth and Fowler and +2000 could also be interesting picks.
The Masters has featured a wide variety of winners over the last 10 years, save for Bubba Watsons two victories in 2012 and 2014. Jack Nicklaus (6) has the most Masters victories of all time, while Woods (4) has the most of anyone in this years field.
Woods last victory came in 2005. He is also the most recent golfer to win back-to-back Masters. Nicklaus and Nick Faldo are the only other two to accomplish the feat, so Reed will have the opportunity to join even more elite company this year.