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  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • The Early Days of Pinehurst
    The Early Days of Pinehurst
    by Chris Buie
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
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  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    Professional Golf 2014: The Complete Media, Fan and Fantasy Guide
    by Daniel Wexler
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
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    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
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Writing And Videos

The construction of hazards, their place in the scheme of the hole, the artistic blending of their contours with the character of the ground and their relation to the scenery as a background are things of the first importance if a harmonious and satisfactory result is to be obtained. TOM SIMPSON 




"It was dramatic and it was wrong."

Tom Watson on the round one condition change from the practice rounds:
 Q. Referring to the change of the course between practice round and the tournament round.
TOM WATSON: It was dramatic and it was wrong. You aren't going to get a lot of rounds in the 60s in this wind. The greens here make this golf course. They dressed it up around the tees. It's a little too fancy. I like having some freedom off the tees.

Masters Thursday Live Blog

masterslogo.gif1:00 - The King stripes it and we're underway. Oh yeah, and nice reminder from Bill Macatee that when Billy Payne asked, Arnold said yes after years of thinking about. Take that Hootie!

1:06 - Phil is approaching 18 from well behind the bunkers. Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo just reviewed the brutal conditions and setup. They sound SO excited! Wow, almost like they're hosting coverage for a funeral. Says a lot though. 

1:14 - The Mickelson-Ramsay-Scott pairing is wrapping up on 18. They teed off at 7:56 PST, so nice 5:20 round! 

1:15 - Brett Wetterich makes birdie on 13..fifteen minutes into the telecast, we have our first birdie! Singh rolls in another. We're up to two!

1:26 - Tiger's in with a 37 and it only took 2:34! 

1:31 - Justin Rose is in at 69, just in time for all of the English writers to have already filed their stories. Apparently he only had 20 putts, hit 5 greens, at least according to the BBC. Of course the USA crew didn't have that.

1:44 - USA stat: No birdies for Woods-Casey-Badds pairing through 10 and Faldo notes, 'it's not looking good through 11 either!"

1:52 - First interview in Butler Cabin, this with Justin Rose. Uh, not to be too picky, but are the fires in the fireplaces getting a little out of had down there? Did Hootie burn all of his papers down there at once in a towering inferno of frustration? The entire top center is blackened! Nice look. 

2:00 - Reader David notes that the low former champion at 5 EST?  Craig Stadler at -1. Fuzzy Zoeller is even. No, this is not 1987.

2:05 - A birdie for Badds on No. 11! Our third of the telecast...the tepid applause from the crowd is keeping me awake. Barely. Oh, birdie No. 4 from (Not Vijay) Singh on 15. A tap in. Rivetting! 

2:28 - Whoa, just nodded off here. I'm back! Tiger 247 yards into 13 and laying up? Maybe I should go back to sleep. Has he ever laid up on 13!?

2:33 - Okay I love Finchy, but Vijay smelling the flowers as he walks back to 13 tee? Who does he think he's talking about, Walter Hagen?

2:37: Oosty notes that 17 used to be 60 yards wide as we see David Howell in the silly grove down the right, which used to be the optimum angle of attack for today's back left hole location. Ah options and width and strategy, so antiquated! 

2:42 - Tiger makes his first birdie of the day! Took almost 4 hours. 

2:52 - Tiger gives us an idea how soft the fairways are after heaving his club on the 14th hole approach follow through. Stuck it! Meanwhile Stevie looks like he dropped the bag. Clubs are strewn. Rough day for the jovial looper.  

2:56 - Uh, scribblers who are on the grounds. Is that a giant oil streak mark on 13 green!? Or just my TV? 

3:12 - Tiger is leaning on his bag on 15 waiting...looks like he's having a blast! Can't imagine why he's cranky. Only 4:20 to this point!

3:17 - Tiger has fairway metal in and pulls off a brilliant shot. Makes birdie at 3:22, joins page one of the leaderboard. It's over. 

3:46 - Yes, that little has been happening. Tiger drove it perfectly down the right side on 17 for today's back left hole location, just as Jones and MacKenzie intended. Which would explain why he's in the middle of a pine grove!

3:47 - David Toms putting on 15. Grandstand almost empty. The patrons are lining up for dinner at the Olive Garden, hoping to get seated by 10. Oh how jealous the golf writers on deadline must be.

3:52 - Macatee says if form holds, this will be only the fifth round in last forty years to produce an average over 76. Fred Ridley must be proud. 

4:04 - USA is staying on until the end of play, serving all of the patrons who have gone home.  

4:12 - Tiger bogies 18 after a wicked snap hook recovery from the right trees ends up in the front bunker. He's still going to win. 

4:17 - Tiger: "I threw away a good round of golf today." 73 isn't that bad big guy, especially with the names in front of you. And it only took 5:20!

4:39: David Toms holes out on 18 for par and a fine opening 70. Even better, just 5:28 after he started! 

4:42 - Mercifully day one is over and Bill Mac just reminded us that the rebroadcast airs at 8 EST...wait, that's just 18 minutes away. So much for the Law and Order that was sandwiched in between the two! 



The Golf Channel's Mark Lye just walked the back nine and said the course "is on the verge of unplayablity."


Online Coverage Troubles?

Well I'm on the same computer and same browsers as last year when the coverage worked, and I can't get the Amen Corner Live or Masters Extra to work.

An overseas reader is having the same problem, but getting a different error message. And yet another says there is no sound on Masters Extra. And yet another reports nothing for Masters Extra.

Anyone else having trouble? 


Master Plan

Now posted at of all places is my Links Magazine feature on how some of today's up-and-coming architects would approach and Augusta National master plan. If you don't subscribe to links, you should, because you missed the gatefold spread showing some of the different architect renderings. There's also a version of the story on the Links site.


Thursday Masters Clippings

masterslogo.gifArnold Palmer tees off at 7:40 am EST and you can watch it live on, or see it Saturday and Sunday on CBS. Amen Corner live starts at 2 EST and one can only hope we'll get to hear Mike Hulbert and Phil Blackmar again. I'll be praying tonight, actually.

The online bonus hour starts at 3 EST and of course USA comes on at 4 EST. I'll be doing a live blog each day coinciding with USA and CBS coverage, because I know Peter Kostis would want that.

Whoa Nellie, how about that weather forecast? Especially those weekend low temps. Can you say frost delay? Can you say Monday fin...oh I won't go there, sorry.  Wonder if those SubAir systems can heat up the greens? Just hook up a replay of The Worst of Bobby Clampett and pipe it into the SubAir. Should do the trick.

Bob Carney reports on the nice ceremony for writers who've seen their share of Masters. I only caught part of it on Masters Live, but Art Spander gave an incredibly nice and succinct speech. Yes, I know, first time ever Art Spander and succinct were ever mentioned in the same sentence! We love ya Art, hope you cover another 40 Masters.

Cameron Morfit lists things to look for and this caught my eye:

Still, despite the dry weather, Augusta National is playing to all of its 7,445 yards.

"There's a lot more grass on the fairways this year, and I think they've been watering them," said Scott Gneiser, who caddies for David Toms. "We hit a drive on 5 right up the gut and splat! We saw water fly up from the tee."

The 2006 U.S. Open champion, Geoff Ogilvy, said: "I think they're watering them because it hasn't rained that much."

Jerry Kelly agreed. "Are they ever," he said. "I'm getting one, two yards of roll on my driver, and it's kind of killing me."

Alas, the greens are not being watered, so short hitters have little or no chance of holding them with long-iron and fairway-wood approach shots.

How did Jerry Kelly qualify?

Anyway, the SI/Golf Mag guys issue their picks.

I finally got around to reading Bill Fields' piece on Ben Hogan's last hurrah in 1967 and it's one you won't want to miss.

Derek Lawrenson talks to Nick Faldo about the differences between stroke and match play and why he likes Henrik Stenson so much. His stroke/match talk:

"I don't think people really understand how different they are," he began. "Match-play is so much easier to cope with mentally. All you have to focus on is the hole you're playing at the time, and complete it in fewer strokes than the man standing opposite you. If it doesn't happen you move on to the next hole, and that's it.

"At the end you've either won your match or lost it and then you wake up the next day and start again.

"Strokeplay is relentless by comparison. Say you're out early on the first day and shoot 66 to lead the Masters. You've now got 24 hours to sleep on that, deal with all the emotion, and then you've got to make sure your heartbeat's right the following afternoon.

"That's just the start. You've got the day after that and then the fun really starts on the final day. Mess up a hole and you watch a dozen guys whizz past you on the leaderboard. Now you've got that error screwing you up as well, threatening to haunt you and lose you the tournament.

"If 18-hole matchplay is a jigsaw puzzle containing 100 pieces, the majors have about 1,000."

Colin Montgomerie picks everyone but himself.

Bruce Selcraig profiles David Feherty.

Finally, Ken Brown looks at Seve, who is teeing it up this week after a long absence in Augusta before hitting the Valiant Competitors Tour.


Congressional Vote Looks Good...

...Praise the Lord, Len Shapiro reports that Congressional appears to have approved the AT&T National for the next two years. I was worried we wouldn't get to study all of that architectural nuance.


Where's Marty Hackel When You Need Him, Vol. 45

Oh to have a snarky (I know you have it in you Marty!) take on this from Golf Digest's fashion guru...and for those of you keeping track at home, that's Ian Poulter doing his best neo-postmodern Omaha golf pimp. Photo courtesy of



Is It Limited To Who Can Win?

Well we'll find out soon enough won't we. But AP's Tim Dahlberg thankfully reminds us that while we can debate the architectural and historic purity of the Augusta National changes, it's hard to make the case that because of the changes, this anything but a 10-15 man race. (Please, no Tim Clark-finished-2nd-last-year-emails.)

And is that really a good thing so few can win? Or is it a compliment to the course that it separates the elite players? Or something somewhere in between the two?

Ah hell, the Masters is starting! The high holy days are here. Who cares, right?

Still, highlights from Dahlberg's commentary:

A tournament that not that long ago could be won by Ben Crenshaw and Mark O'Meara is now limited to a dozen or so players who have the strength to still reach the elongated 15th in two or can hit their drives far enough to have a decent iron over the pond to the 11th green.

The field is small to begin with, but the changes favor so few players that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have now won five of the last six Masters.

But that's not the only problem. The worst thing is that they've taken away a lot of the fun of Sunday afternoon.

The old adage was that the Masters began on the back nine on Sunday, when it was almost always a mad dash to the finish. Birdies, eagles and meltdowns were in abundance, and it was almost a guarantee there would be some grand theater of the green.

As late as three years ago, three players in the top five shot 31 on the back nine Sunday, including a leaping Mickelson. Last year, the leaders struggled to break par on the final nine, and Mickelson won in a yawner.

Before Woods ran away with the Masters a decade ago, the green jackets never used to care much about what score won. Now they're using distance and an unnatural cut of rough to try to guard par like the USGA does at the U.S. Open, even though viewers for the most part couldn't care less if the winner is 8 under or 18 under.

The tees are never going to be moved back up, and that's fine. But eliminating the rough would not only make things more interesting, but draw more players into contention.

"Trivial Inquiries"

The Telegraph's always entertaining Martin Johnson wasn't the only one bored by the media's Tuesday fawning over Tiger the soon-to-be-dad. Don't miss this column.  The highlights, for when the link disappears:

Until now, Mrs Tiger has not had much to disturb her in married life, apart perhaps from those infuriating moments when the old man is hogging the bathroom again. "Darling, I know you've got to put your game face on, but do hurry up. I want to do my nails." But all this is about to change.

It comes as no surprise to learn that the Woods' have already declined a request from an American television company to film the birth live. However, given that Tiger himself was almost as much a designer breed as his new pooch - making his first TV appearance on The Bob Hope Show at the age of three - we can hazard a guess at what the viewers might have witnessed had CBS been allowed to break off from their six o'clock news bulletin on the latest events in Iraq to go live to the maternity ward.

Soon after Woods Junior emerges from the womb, the midwives will marvel at how his hands clasp hold of the umbilical cord, using the Vardon grip of course, before taking aim at a ball of cotton wool and propelling it into a wastepaper basket for the youngest ever hole in one.

Woods himself says that he has no idea whether fatherhood will alter his legendary approach to business - he has a focus which makes Nicklaus in his prime look like a man having a carefree Sunday morning biff round the local municipal. Woods has already said, though, that he will not be playing golf when the birth is due, and we could see him at this year's Open at Carnoustie carrying a beeper on his belt. If there is a God, please let it go off on the top of Colin Montgomerie's backswing.


Chairman Payne's Press Conference

masterslogo.gifThis was a serious lovefest after the Hootie years. Thanks largely to Billy Payne's shrewd handling of course. Novel concept, this honest, straightforward no-nonsense stuff.

Still, it would have been nice if he was grilled a bit on a few topics.

On the reduction of the top 40 PGA Tour money winner qualification to top 30 along with the top 30 at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs:

We have applied these new 2008 qualifications over the last five years, and I can report that the field size over those years would have been on average one or two players larger.

And because he's smart and wants to make sure we don't think this was a rescinding of a bad Hootie Johnson idea...

Q. Could you talk about what led you to your decision about the qualifications changes and particularly the PGA TOUR winners?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Well, I cannot take credit for that. That's something my predecessor was thinking about and talking about, encouraged me to take a hard look at. And, you know, he was preaching to the choir.
I can remember innumerable times where winners of tournament events would be more excited to hear that they had automatically qualified for the Masters than to receive the first prize money check. So it was an exciting component of golf that really only the Masters could offer, and we all thought it appropriate that we bring it back.

Funny, Hootie had every chance to reverse it and he didn't. But we admire the humility and the respect for your elders.

As for the golf course:

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: You know, as I reflect back last year when very significant changes were made, and those that preceded it in '98 and 2002, I was very proud of the way that the course was able to identify the best golfer and that linked with not necessarily the only component of one's game that made them competitive. I think last year demonstrated that conclusively. I think the order of finish demonstrated that conclusively. I think that we've got it about right.

So I would not anticipate substantive changes in the near future, but I would have to caveat that by saying that we certainly measure flight and roll distance, and will be always aware of the quality of the challenge that the golf course presents to these great players.

The quality of the challenge. Yes, the second cut and trees do reduce the quality of the challenge, don't they?

Here's a brilliant question from the gallery:

Q. Do you anticipate scoring being somewhere on the level of last year?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Well, I can't predict what the scoring is going to be, but we're certainly going to set up the golf course to be as good and as fair a test as we can.

Like it's the third quarter report and Payne is the CFO. Sheesh.

The dreaded technology question:

Q. Wonder if you could elaborate a little on your perception of Augusta's role in the battle between technology and maintaining golf courses of this tradition.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Well, of course I can speak only for Augusta, but I certainly can, I believe, articulate, enunciate, emphasize the problem that we think exists that potentially threatens us and other great courses of the world. With the combination of physical conditioning and equipment over the last several years, as you all know better than I do,

Oh I wouldn't be so sure of that...sorry,continues...

some of these great courses have been significantly threatened. We were at a point at one time, as Tiger said the other day, where Augusta National was being played with driver and wedge on all par 4 holes, and that was not the original intention of our founders.

My predecessor and those before him had the courage to do something about it.

Well, courage? More like desire to make sure red numbers weren't splattered all over the board while they were in charge... 

It's something that we must be always aware of and never, ever be afraid to do whatever we have to do to protect that which is in our opinion necessary to accomplish to protect this great course. That's what we're going to do.

Q. Has the club ever conducted a study on how long you could make the course if you wanted to stretch it out as far as you can, and if so, what was that number?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: I don't know that number, but I would guarantee you we've studied everything you can study.

Let's hope he's studying how move fairway back to the trees and chop down some pines. 


Masters De-Hootification Continues...*

...first it was Arnold Palmer restoring the honorary starter tradition, now Billy Payne and friends are restoring the sorely missed exemption for winners of PGA Tour events. Shoot, maybe the rough and trees will go!

I'm waiting for a news story Larry Fine reports. In the meantime, Tim Finchem had a statement ready to go and is understandably pleased for his players, including the top 30 money exemption that might add some fun to the fall finish.

April 4, 2007


The PGA TOUR is delighted with today’s announcement of the revised eligibility qualifications for the Masters Tournament. A restoration of the historic linkage between winning a TOUR event and gaining access to the Masters will be enthusiastically greeted by players and fans alike. We also appreciate that today’s changes provide access to players who compete in the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola by virtue of their finish in the top 30 in FedExCup points. Also, the access granted to players who are ranked among the top 30 in our season-ending Official PGA TOUR Money List provides added meaning to the TOUR’s Fall Series events.

We applaud Billy Payne and the Masters Tournament for these changes, and the PGA TOUR looks forward to the implementation of these new qualifications in 2008 and beyond.



Your Returning Jeopardy Champion...

Brenner-Zwikel's Brian Robin pulled out a solid victory on Jeopardy last night, so make sure to tune in again tonight!


Wednesday's Masters Clippings

masterslogo.gifArnold's kicking off the festivities Thursday, restoring one of the great traditions.

The pairings and tee times are announced.

Scott Michaux wonders about golf history that might have been.

Troy Matteson is doing a Masters diary and says it took three hours to play the front nine Tuesday.

John Hawkins only injects himself into the equation at select times in a nice breakdown of the likely runner-ups to Tiger Masters contenders.

Damon Hack profiles Augusta's hometown favorite, Charles Howell.


"ARNOLD PALMER: Who gives a shit? (Laughter). If you can't win, it doesn't matter. That's s-h-i-t."

Palmer's session was by far the most fun...

Q. Gary Player is going to tie your record this week for most Masters played. He's talking about breaking it next year. What are your thoughts just about that?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, if he isn't embarrassed, I won't be embarrassed for him. (Laughter).

Q. Just your thoughts about the rivalry.

ARNOLD PALMER: No, we're good friends. He just wants to do one better, and that's fine. I'm for him. But he can't touch my record. He hasn't even come close to it. And you don't know why, though, do you? He missed a year. So that's the end of that. (Laughter).

Q. He's in pretty good shape.

ARNOLD PALMER: What does that mean? Are you saying I'm not in pretty good shape?

Q. Maybe he has like 30 more years left or so.

ARNOLD PALMER: Who gives a shit? (Laughter). If you can't win, it doesn't matter. That's s-h-i-t. (Laughter). Hey, he's my friend and I love him. I can also have fun with him, too.

And for your rally killer of the year consideration:

 Q. Mr. Palmer, the course has changed quite a bit in the last ten years, and everyone is crediting it to Tiger, and the game has changed. Do you believe that one person could change the game so much?



Mickelson's Pre-Masters Press Conference

masterslogo.gifA little more fun from the defending champion's sit down. First, the two driver deal:

Q. Will you take the two-driver approach this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I will. I have been working on the second driver, which is a longer driver, and I plan on using it a reasonable amount. It's also the square-headed driver that I've been working with. So I'll have two different drivers, yes.

Q. Before I ask the main one, the square-headed driver you're going to use for what kind of ball flight?

PHIL MICKELSON: It will be a lot higher. I talked about draws and fades, and so forth. It's more -- a better way to relate to be a driver and a 2-wood because one of them, the longer driver, the square one goes 20 yards longer than my regular one.

So when I need distance, I use the square one. And when I try to hit little low shots or work it around the trees on 10 or 13, I'll use the regular-shaped driver.


Q. Just as a refresher, what will you be eliminating in your bag and will that change from day-to-day?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm taking out a sand wedge. I've played here three or four years without a sand wedge and I have not needed it once. Since the course has been lengthened, I don't ever need a sand wedge. Par 4s are long enough where I have to hit 8 through wedge maybe or par 5s I'm able to reach or I have an L-wedge.

The other club, I'm going to add a 64-degree wedge, which means I'll have to take out another club and I'll take out a 3-wood. There really are not any 3-wood holes for me, and the only time I would need it would be the second shot into 8, and I prefer to cut a driver, one of the two drivers, the FT-5 off the deck and hit a cut shot into that green.

And the fun part...

Q. Talking about the greens, no matter where you go, it seems all greens are compared to Augusta's. What are some of the nuances that make this place so special and so unique on the greens?

PHIL MICKELSON: They never get spiked up. You don't ever see spike marks at Augusta National. (Laughter). I would say that, you know, four or five feet from the hole whether or not it's going in. The ball tracks perfectly. I would say that the statistics of 5-footers at Augusta National made are the same as, statistically, as 3-footers on the PGA TOUR because the greens are so perfect that you should be able to make a number of short putts. That being said, they are so fast that oftentimes you have 10- to 60-foot come-back putts, and that's not that uncommon.


Q. Sticking with the green jacket theme, what did it feel like two years ago to help him put on the jacket?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, but I remember what it felt like last year when he put it on me. (Laughter).


Tiger's Pre-Masters Press Conference

1.jpgWay too many dog, fatherhood and 1997 questions, but a few things of interest related to the matter at hand, starting with the fiery greens:

Q. You talk a little about the greens here. It seems universally all greens are compared to Augusta greens. Do you think they are the toughest, or is it the nuances --

TIGER WOODS: Are they the toughest I've ever played? I haven't played Oakmont; everyone says Oakmont rivals this, but I haven't played there yet. This course, the amount of break you have to play and the creativity you have to use when you read putts, it's different from anything you ever have played. You may try and practice at home and you may try to do other things. But you get here, you just don't find slopes this speed. You try as best you can to get greens at home or putt on your kitchen floor or whatever it may be. But nothing really prepares you for a ball, especially when it's dry like this right now, how much the ball rolls out. You hit a good putt, oh, that's a good putt. You think it's going to be a foot or two past the hole and all of a sudden it rolls out to three, four, five feet; wait a minute.
That happens quite a bit. And if you get a little wind out here that same putt can go six, seven, eight feet by; Augusta wind. That makes it so difficult and if you hit it in the wrong spots, it's an automatic 3-putt unless you make a 15- or 20-footer, because sometimes that's the best you can do.

The best of the 1997 questions:

Q. In the ten years since you've won here, there have been so many changes, not only here on the Tour, the technology, the money, the TV, a lot of it is brought on by you. Could you have ever envisioned that when you were starting? I know your dad talked about things like that happening, but could you have ever envisioned that? And as a guy who likes challenges, do you prefer that there are these changes, or would you just have been happy to leave things as they were?

TIGER WOODS: Well, would I have ever foreseen it happening? No. I would never have foreseen the changes that they made, not only in this event alone. I was joking about it the other week, when I played Davis in a playoff in '96 to win in Vegas, Davis was using a Persimmon driver. That's amazing how the game has changed in 11 years.

It just -- every driver was 43 and a half inches, steel was standard, wound balls. Now everything is 45 inches and plus. Heads have obviously grown gynormously. There is no wound ball out here anymore.

The game has certainly changed. If we played the same golf course now with the technology, the scores would be ridiculous, because you would have short irons into just about every par 5. Most of the holes, you could drive it with a wedge on most of the par 4 and the only defense it would have if the weather turned bad. If the weather was perfect for all four days, guys would have probably broken my record easily.

Q. Do you realize that you are responsible for most of these things as much as the technology -- most of that can be funneled back to your appearance on the Tour?

TIGER WOODS: I guess it's all my fault, huh. (Laughter). 


"Year Later, Augusta National changes no longer blasted"

masterslogo.gifWhat was it Colbert said recently about the USA Today? Oh right, it's a "Denny's placemat, with news."

Anyway menu writer Jerry Potter has won this site's inaugural Hootie Johnson Trophy for pre-Google-mail-it-in-journalism, which goes to the golf scribe most willing to write anything that keeps their primo Masters press room seat.

You may recall that I wondered early in the week if anyone would still defend the silly tree planting and even sillier rough despite criticism from some pretty big names.  Reader Michael spotted this peach.

Here's the headline and link to the award winner: Year later, Augusta National changes no longer blasted.

A year ago Gary Player was one of the most severe critics of the changes made to Augusta National.

Monday, three days before his 50th Masters, he's quoting Winston Churchill and praising the wisdom the club used in lengthening the course to 7,445 yards, 155 yards more than in 2005 and 560 yards longer than in 2001.

"Winston Churchill so aptly said, 'Change is the price of survival,' " Player says, noting that golfers of the future will be bigger and stronger. "(Augusta National has) done a brilliant job. The guys are hitting exactly the same clubs now that we used to hit to the greens."

Here's the best part:

A year after Phil Mickelson won The Masters at 7 under par, there are no more claims that golf's cathedral has been disgraced, that only the long hitters in the field can win, that it's not the same golf course Bobby Jones built and the place where the greats of the game earned victories.

7-under won. All is well with the world. Wow, deep!

This is beautiful. Geoff Ogilvy is used to verify that the changes are good. Yes, the same guy who eloquently criticized it just a few days ago.

"People get uncomfortable with change," U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy says. "It's a perfectly fair golf course. If you're below the hole on your approach shots, it's perfectly fair. If you're above the hole, it's completely unfair. But it's your fault if you're above the hole."

The short game — pitching, chipping and putting — always has been key to winning The Master. Five of the last six tournaments have been won by Mickelson and Tiger Woods, masters of the short game.

"Length off the tee is a bonus," Ogilvy says, "but it's not the be-all and end-all. You have to have a great short game, too."

It rambles on from there, but of course to say that the criticism has ended is surprising considering the person who has won the most Masters ever just signed off on a commentary blasting the changes.


Masters Photo Caption Fun, Vol. 2

This ought to be fun...from apr3_elsplayer_468x600.jpg


Questions For Billy Payne

masterslogo.gifBilly Payne faces the all-star cast of softball-hurling scribblers and inkslingers for Wednesday's annual chairman Q&A. While he won't flip his lid like Hootie was prone to do, Payne should at least have to earn his pay. Oh wait, he's not paid. Well, they should still ask him a few questions beyond the expected (will you restore exempt status for PGA Tour event winners, will Arnold Palmer be the honorary starter, when are you going to 18-hole TV coverage every year, yada, yada, yada...).

Here are mine. Please feel free to add yours below in the comments section.

  • The USGA claims to have proof that with today's grooves, players can spin the ball more out of the light rough than they can from fairway lies. Therefore, don't you have an obligation to remove the "second cut" if it's an advantage to approach from there?

  • Will the Masters telecasts ever be the same without Bobby Clampett at Amen Corner?
  • Do you feel that tree planting in spots intended as landing areas by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie infringes upon the integrity of their design? If so, does that matter?
  • Has Richie Ramsay officially committed to the event?
  • Have you considered giving a percentage of tickets to overseas patrons? 
  • Can you explain the strategy that club envisions behind today's 11th hole and how that is consistent with the original design?
  • With apologies to Colbert. Hootie Johnson. Great chairman or the greatest chairman?