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Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination. On every side we see two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock-knees and hollow cheeks, who are tearing off snappy seventy-fours. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small, white ball, which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is.  P.G. WODEHOUSE



It's Alive! Masters Twitter Account Tweets Last Ike's Tree Pic

Long dormant (and missing past Tweets), The Masters Twitter account awoke to push some revealing Tweets on Saturday to get ahead of the inevitable Ike's Tree memorials, with a somber final view of the famed tree during the recent snowstorm, followed by the tee view with the loblolly having been removed. That second Tweeted photo takes you to a story by Ward Clayton on the tree.


Why I’m Excited For The Drive, Chip And Putt

I haven’t sensed much interest in Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship from Augusta National Golf Club, but I hope I’m wrong. The early morning festivities (8 am ET pre-game on Golf Channel, competition starts at 9 am) may have something to do with it.  And any inaugural event certainly creates hurdles to overcome, like explaining people to what this competition is all about. Grow-the-game fatigue might attract plenty of show wagering, too.

Yet how anyone who was once a child—I believe everyone reading qualifies—be anything but excited to see what these many talented Children-Americans get to experience? They get to set foot on hallowed grounds to perform their skills in competition other than 72-holes of stroke play. Pretty swell.

I suspect--and this is why I'm excited to watch--that every attribute The First Tee purports to teach, will somehow be tested, exposed, reinforced and codified in these young competitors, all while doing something they love. And we get to dream big on their coattails. That’s just my hunch at how it plays out. We’ll see Sunday.

Anyway, I’ll be at Augusta bright and early to take in this ambitious effort by Augusta National to spark competitive fires, provide life-changing moments and make the rest of us feel good about the game. Oh, and we get a first-ever Sunday sneak-peak inside the gates.

As for the rest of the week, I’ll be Tweeting and blogging whenever there is something to say. I’d love to do a daily clippings roundup, but at some point, sleep must beckon. A few warnings: Monday morning I’ll be on Morning Drive in the 9 am ET hour to talk about my first impressions of the course, and Tuesday I’ll hope you’ll joint me for a 1 pm ET Cover It Live chat at The freshened site with its new The Loop super blog will feature daily chats with some of our big names, so hopefully you’ll make it a habit for the week as I think we'll be all over this Masters like never before.

First, a few links for Sunday: How the format for the Drive, Chip And Putt. And Golf Channel's plans for Sunday's coverage.


Video: Jimmy Fallon Thanks Golf Gods For His Bunker Hole-Out

Big tip of the cap to Cassie Stein for staying up late and catching Jimmy Fallon's always enjoyable Thank You Note session, where he thanked the Golf Gods for allowing him to hole this bunker shot with Mario Batali and Michael J. Fox in the group.

Looks like a beautiful spring day at Bayonne!


Video: CNN Retracing Alister MacKenzie's Footsteps

One of the segments from this weekend's CNN International's Living Golf. Great scenes of Alwoodley with historian Nick Leefe in this, and more with host Shane O'Donoghue.

Thanks to reader Mark for this:

The segment following features Ben Crenshaw talking on the 30th anniversary of his first Masters win, but it's the stuff on 1995 that's really good. If not, you can view it here.


Augusta West In Houston And Pre-Masters Preparation

In a Golf World column, Curt Sampson writes about the great job the Shell Houston Open has done attracting players by mimicking the setup at Augusta National.

A whopping 45 players from this year's Masters field are teeing it up this week at Golf Club of Houston.

On the topic of pre-Masters preparation, I wrote in the same issue of Golf World about what it is that players get from visiting Augusta prior to tournament week and whether it makes a difference.

Sergio Garcia leads heading into the weekend, where tee times have been moved up Saturday to avoid storms.

The highlights through two rounds;


LPGA Commish Issues Statement On Controversy That No One Even Knew Existed!

A rare mis-step from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, who oddly felt compelled to issue his condemnation of the current Golf Digest cover featuring Paulina Gretzky.

The "controversy" consisted of some questions and honest answers from LPGA players. This statement-worthy moment only festered after Whan issued this statement via email to all media, which at least was dumped on a Friday evening. Still..

Obviously we’re disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover.
If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who’ve made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong.
Inbee Park wins 3-straight major championships in 2013.  Stacy Lewis, in 2012, becomes the first American to win Rolex Player of the Year since 1994.  Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko set historical benchmarks while blossoming as the Tour’s youngest ever champions.  And evidently, not one has been “cover worthy” for Golf Digest.  “Growing the game” means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women’s golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them.
At this point, I’m done talking about it and I hope the attention of the media and fans will shift in the proper direction. 

Uh, their attention is now shifted onto this cover to see what all the fuss is about! And the slideshow.

The true stars representing women’s golf have a grand stage this weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  I’m confident that the year’s first major championship will result in another compelling champion and the traditional Sunday leap into Poppie’s Pond will grab the media spotlight it so deserves.

Maybe, but this statement isn't helping matters.


Curtis On Tiger: "I didn't think he was going to be a big part of the picture anyway come the weekend"

That was Curtis in response to questions about losing Tiger on next week's Masters ESPN Thursday/Friday telecast, but it was the exchange between Paul Azinger and Strange which proved more entertaining.

From the transcript of Thursday's call:

PAUL AZINGER:  I'll just add to that.  I shared this the other day, but the real irony here is that he's arguably the most fit golfer who has ever played the game, and now he's kind of at the mercy of an unfit body.  Maybe not an unfit body but a body that's breaking down.

But Tiger has ‑‑ I think he has ‑‑ his issues are going to be as much emotional as they are physical, and let's face it, he's had some physical issues, whether it just be his health or his body but he has not hit the ball very well and sometimes because you don't feel well, you don't hit the ball well.  There's probably not one player that would have said, going into the Masters, I wish I hit it like Tiger Woods.

But he's still the favorite to win the tournament, because he's still the best player.  I guarantee you, at age 38, there's still plenty of people that wished they hit it like Jack Nicklaus and there's a big difference in where they are at age 38 in any opinion health‑wise and ball‑striking‑wise, and that's a big difference.

I got sick when I was in the prime of my career, and Tiger is a little bit past his prime.  I was out for six months or so, and I tell you what, I lost my edge, and it was nice to be at home.  I was the kind of guy, I played with a chip on my shoulder.  Tiger plays with a chip on his shoulder a little bit for whatever reason, and as Curtis said, his challenge will be, how self‑motivated is he going to be.

You know, his dad said, when Tiger was an amateur, Tiger Woods will win 14 majors.  Well, you know, he's won 14 majors.  I don't know why Earl didn't say 19, but he said 14.  Who knows, maybe that's something that's ‑‑ well, I did what my dad said.  I'm just saying, there's a lot going on here beyond just the physical.  And as Curtis said, it's going to come from within, but he wasn't exactly hitting it great going out, either.  So we'll see what happens.  

CURTIS STRANGE:  He has not hit it well in years, Paul, you know that.  So elaborate on what Paul is saying, it's so true, we have all gone through this.  Every male in America goes through this.  When you're 38 years old, your kids are getting older, he's a single dad, trying to be a good dad.  When they look at you and say, "Don't leave, Daddy," let me tell you something, that pulls at your heart.  And you're on the road, you want to be home; you're home, you want to be on the road.  It's an issue for everyone, and he's at that age and his kids are at that age, that it's tough to keep your focus and keep that drive and keep that self‑centered attitude that you need to have.

And you know, everybody goes through it.  Nicklaus admitted it, all of them.  And that's why it gets tougher as you get close to 40.


A WD "Epidemic"?

That's what one player vented to Jason Sobel after Dustin Johnson departed the Shell Houston Open on Thursday.

Of course, we've known there was already a WD epic at US Open and Open Championship qualifiers, but now that culture of quitting for reasons unknown might be coming to the tour too? Or has it been more of a high profile player WDfest that's gotten our attention.

From Sobel and the player who raised the issue with him:

“I guess when anybody shoots 80 now,” he said, “they can WD and come up with an excuse or an injury.”

This player quickly followed by insisting he didn’t know anything about Johnson’s possible injury/illness status. He wasn’t implicating him as part of any ploy to simply take his ball and go home, cutting his losses after a round that included two double-bogeys on his first four holes, a quintuple-bogey on the sixth and a career-worst front-nine 43.

He did, however, point out that this strategy is part of an ongoing epidemic. In fact, he even used that exact word. Epidemic. So did another player via text message, independent of the first.

The message was evident: There is a large faction of players who are dubious of a few of their well-known peers.


Sobel explains the policy, which requires a valid medical excuse if a player leaves during the round (like Rory and his wisdom tooth!). But no excuse if they turn in their card. Sobel had previously written about the world ranking component in this, as it related to Rory. These WD's are treated as a missed cut.


Tom Weiskopf On Playing Golf Like An Artist, To A Point

Jaime Diaz catches up with Tom Weiskopf since his name is in the pre-Masters buzz thanks in part to Gil Capps' new book on the 1975 Masters.

This was particularly good:

Today he emphasizes his 16 victories with one major, which will one day get him into the World Golf Hall of Fame. As a course architect, he takes pride in revitalizing the art of the drivable par 4, of which he says he has designed 72, including the near-perfect 17th at TPC Scottsdale.

And the perfectionist has a new perspective on how he played. "To compete against Jack and Raymond Floyd and Hale Irwin and Trevino and all the rest was such a privilege," he says. "They were such an interesting group of men. All so tough, but most of all, so intelligent. They knew what was most important to winning.

"I was different than they were. I always wanted to play the proper shot, and I couldn't forget a bad shot. I'd react like an artist who had messed up his canvas and wanted to get a new one and start over. You can't do that in tournament golf."

And another reminder why so many of us miss Weiskopf on the Masters telecast, where he made so many brilliant contributions.


Michelle Wie One Back In The Dinah

If you saw any of the opening round of the LPGA's first major--the Dinah Shore for our purposes here considering the open sponsorship situation after this year--Michelle Wie's focus and game stood out.

John Strege on her opening 67 and reminding us of her past perforances at Mission Hills where the once promising star is one off the first round lead of ShanShan Feng:

When she was 13, Wie tied for ninth in the Kraft Nabisco. She followed that remarkable performance with finishes of fourth, T-14 and T-3, the latter her best performance in the event, when she was 16. It was a stretch of golf that ramped up expectations, arguably beyond reasonable, that have never been met.

Wie entered the tournament 38th in the Rolex Ranking and has won only twice in her LPGA career, but not since August of 2010, the CN Canadian Women's Open.

She talked after the round about how comfortable she is (and looked on the course):


Royal Portrush Open Talks "Well Past The Early Stages"

Brian Keogh reports on the big reveal from Thursday's press conference to announce future Irish Open dates in Northern Ireland (Royal County Down, 2015 and Lough Erne Resort, 2017). Noticeably missing was the spectacular Royal Portrush, but Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson revealed that talks have progressed between the R&A and Portrush for a possible Open Championship.

From Keogh's report:

"The Open? We have the courses that may meet their requirements. We may have some infrastructure problems to addresss but without betraying any confidences I would say we are well past the early stages of discussions. I am prepared to make every effort that I can to bring The Open to Northern Ireland."

As Keogh reminds us, The Open hasn't been played at Portrush since 1951.


Too Late For Tiger: Phil Says Light Therapy Helps Him 

Mike Bailey reports on Phil Mickelson bouncing back with an opening 68 in the Shell Houston Open following his WD at the Valero.  (Full field scores here.)

Mickelson credited his improved muscle strain to a light therapy device he travels with.

Mickelson said he travels with a light-therapy machine and used it within 30 minutes of his withdrawal last week to treat his injury, which he sustained after trying to hit the ball hard on his first hole in San Antonio.

"I think it made a world of difference as far as expediting the healing process to where it doesn't feel hurt anymore," said Mickelson, who won his fifth major last year at the British Open. "It just feels sore, like I was working out as opposed to kind of a painful experience."


LPGAers Critical Of Golf Digest's Paulina Gretzky Cover

The LPGA's finest were reportedly peeved when Holly Sonders appeared on the cover of Golf Digest, but largely kept quiet. Not so this time, with Paulina Gretzky making the cover.

Randal Mell reports from Mission Hills:

“It’s frustrating for female golfers,” Lewis said. “It’s the state of where we’ve always been. We don’t get the respect for being the golfers we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines, but at the same time you like to see a little respect for the women’s game.”

And this from Juli Inkster:

“It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest, it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue,” Inkster told the New York Times before she teed off Thursday afternoon. “I think they should maybe recognize some of the great women golfers that we have. It’s like, what do you have to do to get a little respect? I’m guaranteeing you right now, it was not a woman editor who chose that cover.”

The NY Times' Karen Crouse, who initiated the questions Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco, also had this from Inkster:

Inkster said: “O.K., so I think next month the cover should be Paula Creamer’s fiancé, who’s a fighter pilot, or Brittany Lincicome’s hot boyfriend, who’s a long-drive hitter. Put one of them on there.”

In more pertinent Paulina news, fiance Dustin Johnson shot 80 and WD'd from the Shell Houston Open, reports Ryan Lavner. No reason was given. Johnson is considered strong contender for next week's Masters.


Could A Geezer Win The 2014 Masters?

Bernhard Langer sure tried last year and Fred Couples has given it a few shots only to struggle with this putter on Sunday.  With Tiger withdrawing from the 2014 Masters and so many top players seemingly a touch off, could the wide-open tournament be won by someone over 50?

That's Bill Fields' premise in this piece and he lays out a strong case while reminding us just how old Old Tom Morris was in 1867.

Old Tom Morris, 46 when he won the 1867 British Open (and still its oldest champion), wasn't only fortunate to win that tournament but to be alive, given that average life expectancy was less than 45 at that time. Forty-six seemed much younger 119 years later when Nicklaus won the Masters at that age in 1986, but in golf terms, 46 in 1986 was a lot older than it is now. "I was playing a wood driver, playing a wound ball. It was a different game," Nicklaus said on the 25th anniversary of his sixth green jacket. "Things didn't go as far. You didn't reduce the golf course to nothing like you can today."

A dozen golfers 50 or older are in next week's field at Augusta. Most won't factor, but newly 50 Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez has to be taken seriously, as does Couples, now 54 but still plenty long enough to compete with golfers less than half his age.


Hank On Tiger: "I think it is just a question of how much is he going to practice, how hard is he going to work?"

Hank Haney appeared via phone on Morning Drive and also on Chris DiMarco's SiriusXM radio show to talk about Tiger Woods' back surgery.

Besides wondering how much of a toll parachute jumping with the Navy Seals might have taken, Haney openly wondered how much drive Tiger has to go through the difficult rehab and to practice after so many years of grinding.That's a topic I also brought up on Morning Drive in talking about Tiger's predicament.

But Hank knows better and this is what Tiger will add to the pile propping up his Haney voodoo doll:

"He didn’t do anything from December through February this year and that was very unusual. And I think it is just a question of how much is he going to practice, how hard is he going to work? And then again, is he going to be able to? Is his body going to allow him to practice and work at it like he used to? And I think going forward that’s the biggest issue.”

Cameron Morfit psychoanalyzes Tiger's weightroom obsession and wonders if it was driven by celebrity status and some other stuff only Sigmund Freud could explain. However, Morfit tries and writes:

It made his Nike golf shirts fall just so over his shoulders. It allowed him to more fully leverage his fame with women, men and Fortune 500 companies. It gave him something to talk about with his jock friends Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan. Perhaps Woods simply enjoyed the exercise, as his friend and old Stanford teammate Notah Begay III asserted earlier this week. And Woods no doubt felt a kinship with his Vietnam veteran father Earl by training with the Navy SEALs.

But I keep coming back to the fame thing -- and Lohan and Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson and seemingly every child star you’ve ever heard of, including Woods. Something about all that unrelenting attention compels them to start altering their bodies and their minds or both, and they don’t know when to stop.

While we've seen some great examples of post-40 golfers succeeding in majors over the last decade (Singh, Mickelson, Cabrera), Jim Litke points out how Tiger's age works against him.

But he's been stuck at 14 since the 2008 U.S. Open, and suddenly it's relevant that he's playing a game that has knocked just about every other great champion off his pedestal by the mid-to-late 30s.

Woods certainly knows the litany: Bobby Jones retired at 28; Tom Watson and Byron Nelson never won another after 33; Arnold Palmer, 34; and Walter Hagen, 36. Gary Player won only one after 38 and Nick Faldo his last at 39. Ben Hogan was an outlier, winning into his early 40s.

Nicklaus, the one that always mattered most to Woods, won all but one of his by age 40, covering an 18-year span. And the last one, the 1986 Masters at age 46, was what people mean by the phrase, "catching lightning in a bottle."

Deadspin's Drew Magery says there's nothing new about Tiger Woods's camp "issuing a trite pile of sunny lies," and then pretty much confirms what many who've had the same back procedure will tell you: it's a long, complicated road to recovery.

I have had this exact same kind of surgery three times, and I can tell you that the last sentence in that paragraph is a blatant lie. Even though this is an outpatient procedure (I went home the day of all three of my procedures) and most people are up and moving immediately afterward, there are very obvious long-lasting effects. In a microdiscectomy, doctors remove a portion of the disc that's pressing against the nerve and causing pain, numbness, and discomfort. Once that piece of the disc is gone, the space between the vertebrae shrinks a bit and you are left with less cushioning than before. That's permanent. Long lasting, you might say.

More of the disc can leak out (and it usually does) because the bubble sealing it in has ruptured and can't be sewn back together. Scar tissue builds up. Certain muscles get strained because your body is trying to compensate for its new change in structure. Degenerative discs (like mine!) tend to degenerate further. Re-injury can be common, and certainly isn't 100 percent prevented by this procedure, ESPECIALLY when you play golf for a living.

Are you sitting down? Masters wagering in the Las Vegas casinos will be down 20% because of Tiger's WD, reports Bloomberg's Erik Matuszewski.

And Masters tickets apparently took a "dive" on the resale market on the news. Sunday badges went from $1252 to $1226 reports Pete Madden. I guess we all have different definitions of a dive.


Revealed: Alister MacKenzie's 18-Hole Augusta Short Course

Superb work by writer and architect Josh Pettit to uncover the never before seen Alister MacKenzie plan for an 18-hole short course featuring nine double greens for Augusta National.

In this week's Golf World, Pettit explains how he found the plan in the Olmsted collection and what it all means.

And at, Josh pens a longer article on the concept of the course, what it might have meant for golf if built, and offers plenty of other great stuff to look at if you are into early Augusta National history.


Quick Roundup: Tiger's Pre-Masters Back Surgery 

The most interesting quote I read from various stories came from Notah Begay, who is as close as anyone can be to Tiger Woods and who has obviously discussed the back issues with his Stanford bud. And from Begay's remarks, it's clear this decision came after a lot more research and discussion than today's abrupt announcement may have led us to believe.

From Michael Rosenberg at

“This pain has been going on for quite some time. It hasn’t just happened in the last few weeks. There has been a research process, interviews, a lot of different people doing this. If this doesn’t get cleared up, it is certainly something that can hamper performance. I think that is what he is starting to realize.”

Dave Kindred sums up why the first non-Tiger Masters is a bummer for fans:

I say the Masters will be the lesser for Woods' absence, and it will be, because Woods, more than any player since Arnold Palmer, has created a fan base of people who'd otherwise have no interest in golf. What Palmer did with charisma, Woods did with virtuosity.

Jason Sobel shared a fairly common optimism at the news which I heard on a lot of Golf Channel's live coverage of the news, just wish I could share the positive feeling about this news considering what others who've had the procedure say.

This is not the end of the line. It’s too shortsighted to believe that Woods won’t recover from this injury as he has in the past. It’s too careless to think he won’t return as the game’s best player once again.

That’s probably not the popular opinion right now. You might think he’s done. You might think the chase to catch Jack is over. You might think he’s doomed – if such a term is the proper description – to be the second-leading major winner ever.

The most riveting subplot in sports will only become more intriguing when he returns.

The problem is, he may be returning after missing all or part of a prime year of major venues for his game.

Bob Harig also sees the positive in this news because of the long term prognosis.

But if Woods, 38, can put aside the short-term disappointment, getting to the bottom of his back issues, getting it fixed, and moving forward can actually be a good thing for the 14-time major champion.

That is not to say he'll come back ready to win at Pinehurst or Royal Liverpool or Valhalla. Or that he'll even be ready for the Ryder Cup.

And yet it offers the hope that his back pain, which has bothered him in some form since last year's PGA Championship, can be alleviated and he can get back to the business of playing golf at a high level.


Flashback: Graham DeLaet Had The Same Surgery As Tiger

Thanks to reader Tim for the reminder of what is both good news and bad news for Tiger.

The good: Graham DeLaet is one of the best golfers on the planet right now after having the same surgery. The bad news? The microdiscectomy took him a long time to recover from.  

Here's a short version filed by Doug Ferguson as a note.

And the long version, the transcript, from the January 2012 Sony Open:

Q. Talk about the back issues and when it first started.

GRAHAM DeLAET: You know, I've always kind of battled a bad back ever since I was a teenager playing hockey growing up when I originally hurt it. There would always be once or twice a year where I would have a flare-up and I would be out of commission for a couple of days, but then it would always get better.

For some reason during 2010 in the Fall Series, I was in a lot of pain but I was playing really real well and then I kept going. Then when the season was over, I just progressively got worse and worse and worse to the point where I couldn't sit down for more than ten seconds and that's kind of when we realized that, you know, surgery was kind of the only option.

I tried a lot of different things, whether it be massage and chiropractor, physical therapy, acupuncturing; tried it all, but nothing was really working. It was the l 5/s 1, lower back.

Q. When did you have surgery??

GRAHAM DeLAET: January 3 of last year.

Q. What kind of surgery??

GRAHAM DeLAET: I had a microdiscectomy, because I had a herniated disk to the right, so they go in to shave off a piece of that to alleviate the pinch on the nerve. I had a terrible pain in my right leg, and you know, yeah, it was not fun. I'm glad it's all over and I'm feeling great now.

Q. Inaudible.

GRAHAM DeLAET: It was actually the next week, I was scheduled to play in the AT&T at Aronimink and I played a practice round early Wednesday morning before the Pro-Am and then I was kind of practicing that afternoon, or that day, and then later that afternoon, it wasn't feeling right.

I think I wanted to be there so bad that I felt that I was better physically than I actually was. And so the next morning, I woke up and I just knew that it's hard enough to compete out here when you're healthy and I just knew that I wasn't in good enough shape to compete.

Q. After the surgery, how long before you were able to pick up a club??

GRAHAM DeLAET: It was at the two-month Mark where I started hitting little chips and putts and half-wedges, kind of thing. By the time -- it wasn't probably until November that I could really like go after a drive as hard as I could, or really lash at one in the deep rough kind of thing.


Also Not April Fool's: Paulina To Grace May Golf Digest Cover with a scoop what should get some attention in the golf publishing world: Paulina Gretzky, daughter of Wayne and fiance to Dustin Johnson, will be the cover girl for the May 2014 Golf Digest Fitness Issue.

Bailey Mosier with the details after spotting it in a Golf Digest newsletter:

In the issue, Gretzky will "demonstrate six eye-grabbing exercises that will raise your game," the email states, and will also discuss "everything you wanted to know about her, including her golf swing."


Video: Before You See It On The Daily Show, Doctor Talks Tiger's Back, Jelly Donuts

While Dr. Ara Suppiah certainly seems to know his stuff and offers some great thoughts for Tiger's rehab, he also demonstrates the damage done to Tiger's disc that prompted Monday's back surgery in slightly humorous fashion. And somehow I'm guessing the jelly donut sequence will be a Moment of Zen on The Daily Show.

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