Building golf holes seems to have a strange fascination for many golfers. While they would not think of taking over the job of their architect, or their physician or their lawyer, or their plumber, yet they would not hesitate to take over the duties of a golf architect, with full confidence in their ability to build quite the finest course that had ever been conceived. CHARLES BANKS
Steve Elling reports that there was a problem getting ahold of Rory McIlroy yesterday and that authorities wanted his side of the story, which sounds good.
An Augusta National club official said Saturday morning that several rules officials from various worldwide tours and organizations, including the PGA Tour, were involved in the deliberations and that it was "a unanimous decision." McIlroy told the committee officials that he habitually rakes over his bunker footprints before exiting a trap and that while he wasn't happy, he was merely smoothing out the sand.
The BBC interviewed McIlroy and features this photo of the incident.
Chad Campbell may be leading, but Golf Channel's Alex Micelli appropriately likened a wait on Rory McIlroy's fate to the "hanging chad" debacle that defined the 2000 Presidential election.
It seems the Masters rules committee took a whopping four hours plus to decide whether McIlroy had violated the rules after swiping the sand on No. 18. Those of you following along on the live blog (that we'll be doing again Saturday and Sunday) know that our friends watching on BBC reported that the network was scrutinizing the incident, while we ESPN viewers taking the CBS feed got no word whatsoever of Rory's terrible finish, much less a possible rules issue. That merely culminated a day of dismal coverage exposed (ironically) by the excellent online feeds that revealed just how much golf television viewers were either missing, or seeing five minutes after happening.
First, here's the definitive story on Rory, filed by Steve Elling after most of the scribblers finally gave up around 9:30 (!).
After a laughably long delay, club employees finally distributed a pairing sheet for Saturday's third round and the 19-year-old's name was on the list. A moment later, an Augusta employee began hurriedly collecting the tee sheets from media members, claiming they were issued prematurely.
The club then announced that McIlroy was still in the field and that a statement would be forthcoming.
Amazingly, while awaiting further clarification from club officials, a tornado warning was posted at the club.
Approximately 4½ hours after he had completed his round, McIlroy returned to the club and watched a videotape of the incident. Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, said in a club statement that the rules allow for a player to smooth out his footprints in the bunker after making a stroke "provided that, with regard to his next stroke, nothing is done to improve the positon or lie of his ball, the area of his intended swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of his line beyond the hole or the area in which he is to drop or place the ball."
Elling goes on to detail how the Ridley statement created more questions than answers and why it took so long to handle the situation. This surely will recall memories of Ridley's reign as USGA President. He was at the helm for the Shinnecock Hills debacle.
Meanwhile the Internet Writer Of The Year filed a late piece and concludes appropriately that Rory was a "very lucky young man" Friday. Translation as I read it: how on earth did the committee conclude there was no violation?
The Belfast Telegraph's Ed Curran looked at the 19-year-old's weird day, with a headline calling it Rory's "fit of Masters petulance."
As for television, the day was summed up by ESPN/CBS putting so little focus on Anthony Kim's epic, unbelievable, surreal, unfathomable round of 11 birdies. They barely covered his birdie putt on 18, and while Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo praised the accomplishment, it should have been treated with much more coverage. We don't need another Par-3 contest clip package or a Harry Connick Jr. voice over when history is happening before our very eyes!
Bill Griffith looks at the oddity of an ESPN/CBS synergy, while on a lighter note, Bob Smiley obtains a copy of Jim Nantz's preparatory notes for this year's telecast.
Doug Ferguson for the AP:
Kenny Perry thought he had a storybook ending to his career when he helped the Americans to a Ryder Cup victory on his native Kentucky soil and shared an emotional embrace with his father.
But that triumphant ride toward retirement is taking a stunning detour down Magnolia Lane.
Bill Elliott in the Guardian:
On the day Gary Player missed his final Masters cut and said goodbye to Augusta from the bottom of the board and 11-birdie Anthony Kim and his young friends frolicked round Augusta National like spring lambs, Tiger Woods suffered a rare bout of mid-career blues.
Larry Dorman, filing for the New York Times:
The wind came up at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday and the second-round scores went up with it. But this was no struggle against the elements. The fortunes of some golfers were blown off course, but for many others the prospects seemed to steady, bringing an elite order to the field at the halfway mark.
All of the above said, I agree with Ron Green Jr. who reviews the storylines and concludes that this Masters is just getting started. Think about that!
Golf.com has the leaderboard and Saturday tee times.
John Boyette reported late Friday that rain and hail hit Augusta National, but that plans were for gates to open on time at 8 a.m.
Thomas Bonk on "white bread, tan slacks, beige dining room wall, blend-into-the-background" Chad Campbell.
Mr. 11 Birdies In One Round At Augusta National!
I'm not sure what is more amazing, that Anthony Kim made 11 birdies at Augusta National in one round, or that he revealed after the round that he read a newspaper. He told the press that as many of us were, he was struck by the horribly tragic death of Nick Adenhart. Alan Bastable blogs about Kim's epic round and Kim's heartfelt press conference revelation.
Derek Lawrenson on the Kim-McIlroy pairing:
Anyone who was following McIlroy and Kim yesterday had an experience to treasure. Talk about a wild rollercoaster ride. There was an eagle from McIlroy at the 13th that was almost contemptuous in its brilliance. There were all those birdies from Kim, plus a double-bogey calamity of his own at the 10th. What price these two having plenty of dingdong battles in the future? For now the momentum is with Kim, who, after a slow start to the season, finds himself just five off the lead.
Steve Elling on co-leader Kenny Perry who attributes his spirit to his dad, the man who used to beat the crap out of him. Don't believe me, read the story.
Jim Achenbach admits that he is rooting for Kenny, putting him in select company...among media, among media. I love Kenny!
Bill Fields files a career retrospective of Gary Player after his final Masters appearance.
Cameron Morfit says they were planning a big family outing for Player Friday night, weather permitting.
One of Gary's six children, and the chief executive of Black Knight International, Marc was planning a celebratory braii — a South African barbecue — for 200 guests at a large rental house just off the golf course Friday night.
"We have all the tables set up outside," Marc said. "Tell me it's not going to rain, even if it is. You can lie."
Gary Player, 73, indulges in "the odd scotch," Marc said, but he was unlikely to eat much bull tongue or any other animal protein. He still subsists on walnuts and almonds, fruits and vegetables.
Tim Dahlberg offers up some prime bulletin board material for Tiger:
All the while, Woods was playing as though he were in the U.S. Open.
For a second day in a row, Woods preached patience and played conservatively. For a second day in a row, he did little but watch as players passed him by.
The Tiger of 1997 would have had this guy for breakfast. If he doesn't watch it, the new Tigers of 2009 will eat his lunch.
Drew Kittleson has many great memories, some new crystal gobblets on the way, and one epic eagle to remember his Masters appearance by. Oh his sense of humor:
I appreciate my teachers letting me miss so much class, especially Ms. McCrea, who was looking for a shout out from my diary and now has one.
Grades and Awards
Eric Soderstrom runs through the big names that missed the cut, including Stewart Cink who posted a humorous item on Twitter.
PGATour.com offers their grades, while GolfDigest.com serves up Birdies and Bogies.
The SI team's images of the day.
Golfweek's slideshow with some really neat images.
The Augusta Chronicle breaks their images up into multiple galleries. Too many to link.
Flora and Fauna
Michael Bamberger runs into some troops in the Augusta airport parking lot and shares a flood of Masters memories as well as some perspective from the men headed for Iraq.
The Daily Mail's Alan Fraser visits John Daly at this merchandise table and I'm not sure what is worse, the comments or the photos of John sitting there selling his stuff.
How did Tiger finish up in the first round?' Daly asked. 'I was watching but I didn't catch the finish.'
Daly was standing in front of his bus and behind a line of Formica-topped cafeteria tables laden with assorted T-shirts, flags, hats and driver covers from his Lion merchandising range. Daly himself was manning the stall, taking the dollar bills and counting out the change Surely, this was an undignified, nay humiliating, position for an Open and US PGA Champion to find himself in. Surely, if he could not play at Augusta he should have stayed away and not further harmed his reputation.
'I don't care what people think and say,' Daly said. 'One thing for sure, the 25,000 people going through here never question my dignity. It is all about the fans.'
Anne Szeker reports that Daly performed with Hootie and the Blowfish Thursday night. Worse, there's video. And he's performing Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Wouldn't Dylan be proud?
More pleasant video is Marty Hackel's early morning piece on where the early spectators head for some good viewing.
Scott Michaux catches up with Dr. Ed Bailey, who has been to every Masters!
And finally, Alan Bastable passes along Kelly Tilghman's report (I thought she was kidding) that the PGA Tour is talking to Condoleeza Rice about a job. And David Cannon caught the moment Tim Finchem and Condy were chatting under the Big Oak.
The Amen Corner Live coverage is stellar again, especially with the video working so well this year. They just reported that there have been 10 pars, 12 bogies and 7 others, for a scoring average of 3.93 so far. And half the field has not even been through yet.
The wind has died down now...still not easy, but definitely more playable for the afternoon guys.
It wasn't a surprise to see a few writers touting Billy Payne's contention that weather was all the difference Thursday. Here's an example.
Teddy Greenstein, writing for the dissolving Tribune empire:
If you've been following the Masters, you know the debate: Did club officials go too far in adding trees, a second cut of rough and 400-plus yards? Or is the weather to blame for the lack of birdies and eagles over the last two weekends?
Payne held firm Tuesday that weather was to blame and Thursday's low scores in flawless conditions made him look good.
Of course the weather helped and it was great fun to watch.
But don't forget the greens.
From Damon Hack's golf.com account:
Said Miguel Angel Jimenez, fresh off his 70: "The greens are nice and juicy."
Said Jim Furyk, who also shot 66: "There were some accessible pins out there, and places where you could get to the hole, and the greens were also somewhat receptive."
Derek Lawrenson writing for The Daily Mail:
As for Augusta, remember the place that for two barren years has been too long, too cold and too quiet? Thanks to mother nature and a paternal helping hand from the Masters custodians, it became too short, too soft and very loud.
Last year there were only 23 rounds under 70 in the entire tournament. Here, with no wind, generous pin positions and heavily watered greens, there were 19 on the first day alone.
A few years ago running back Reggie Bush and USC came to South Bend to face a Notre Dame defense terrible against the run. So they grew out the field to US Open rough length and slowed Bush down a bit.
And when a baseball team fields slow and shakey infielders, their grounds crews have been known to grow out the grass and water it down to slow down ground balls.
I would contend that Thursday's low scores--aided by softer greens--confirmed more than the bad weather days just how much the changes at Augusta National have reduced player options and made the course susceptible to even the slightest weather hiccup.
Might it be better to have firmer greens, but allow the players to take advantage of the many angles now covered in rough and trees?
Yes, it was fun to watch the guys play some aggressive shots Thursday. But it seems a bit simplistic to suggest that that weather is the sole reason for high or low scores.
So 20 rounds were recorded in the 60s which set a first-round record and tied the most for any round. I'll be sleeping in, but could you easterners please just drop me a note and confirm a normal Eastern sunrise Friday, please?
Of course it's wonderful that the guys were allowed to play golf. The weather will be thanked to help justify the last decade of defensive golf brought on by changes small and glaringly awful, but it was pretty apparent that the speed and receptiveness of the greens made the real difference Thursday. Because on television there sure looked like there was a lot of wind, and in recent majors the slightest breeze had turned greens silly. So even with a SubAir system that could dry them out, it sure looks to me like the committee played it safe. Good for them.
We had fun on the live blog, so come join us Friday.
Here's what the scribes said.
Doug Ferguson for the AP, and therefore, the remaining newspapers in most of America:
There aren't many days like this at Augusta National: Sunny and warm, with barely a breeze. Greens nice and soft. Pins stuck in some pretty inviting spots.
A day for going low.
Rex Hoggard writing for TheGolfChannel.com:
Thursday at Augusta National, henceforth known as old-timers day, was a perfect respite for scoring, pimento cheese sandwiches on finely clipped turf and strolls down memory lane, be the memories magical or of the mental baggage variety.
Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian:
The Augusta National golf course opened its arms to the world's best yesterday – offering a bucket load of hope instead of a barrowful of pain – and Chad Campbell walked gratefully into its benign embrace, followed quickly by Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods.
James Corrigan writing for The Independent:
On the day that Augusta at last recovered its roar, Tiger Woods just about remained King of the Jungle. As the light was eventually dying on an enthralling first round so the world No 1 was signing for a 70, which left the him five shots behind the leader, Chad Campbell. And even allowing for a final-hole bogey, it could have been an awful lot worse.
And I like Larry Dorman's NY Times lede best:
Of all the unlikely possibilities to come out of the first round of the Masters on Thursday, Chad Campbell finishing with consecutive bogeys for a 65 might have topped the list. But when a perfect day for scoring at Augusta National Golf Club coincides with a benign course setup by the competition committee, anything can happen.
The Paddy Slam Is Alive And Well
Bob Harig says Paddy was spared an off course family drama that might have derailed his round. No worries, it was just a rash.
Kevin Mitchell tells a story about Paddy's dad and wonders if son will be like dad.
The Americans Are Back! Well All But Two Of Them
For a day anyway...according to Michael Walker.
Mark Soltau on leader Chad Campbell and his five birdies out of the chute:
Here's how he started: a 7-iron to two feet on one; a two-putt birdie on two; a sand wedge to five feet on three; a 2-iron to 18 feet on four; and a 7-iron to 15 feet on five.
"It did, absolutely," Campbell said, when asked if he thought about matching the course record. "Just on the back nine. It's always in the back of your head."
After his weight, always a struggle for the 5-foot-11 Daly, ballooned to 280 pounds, he underwent Lap-Band surgery in February. A silicone band was placed around the upper portion of his stomach, shrinking its size and limiting how much he can eat. He's lost 42 pounds so far, and has gone from wearing XXXL shirts to extra large.
He's on a high-protein diet, and what he does eat has to be chewed and chewed and chewed so it will be soft enough to swallow. Alcohol? Daly said he'll have the occasional sip of a drink or a beer, but that's it.
"It takes me about an hour to drink one beer, just sipping on it," he said. "I drink a little bit, but not much."
Thomas Bonk on the miraculous 67 from the 1987 Champ:
When Mize was 10, he went to the Masters and collected tees from Jay and Lionel Hebert.
When Mize was 14, he volunteered and hung up numbers on the Masters scoreboard at the third hole.
When Mize was 28, he won the Masters, chipping in at the 11th hole to beat Greg Norman in a playoff.
When Mize was 49, he missed the cut at the Masters for the seventh time in eight years.
When Mize began his 25th Masters with a first-round 67 on Thursday, it was the most surprised he's been in his 50 years . . .
Gary Van Sickle reports:
Mize had an explanation for why he and Norman and other experienced players fared well in the opening round. “We’re still competitors, we love to compete and we love this place,” he said.
“Greg showed last year at the British Open, he can still contend. At a place like this, experience is always a good thing. It’s good anywhere but maybe even more here. We are just old guys fighting as best we can.”
Tim Dahlberg on The Shark's impressive opening 70...or not so impressive to the Shark himself.
"I had a lot of opportunities, really could have shot a nice, mid 60s score today," Norman said. "I didn't."
In another time, that would have eaten him up and caused him a sleepless night. But his expectations have been tempered by age, and even a botched short birdie putt on the 18th hole didn't keep him from smiling his way through an interview in the same room where 13 years ago he had to explain a shocking collapse in the final round of a tournament he had all but won.
While we're on the 1987 Masters stars, Bob Kimball reminds us that CBS is airing Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta: Seve at the Masters, Sunday at 1 pm EST.
David Dusek on Geoff Ogilvy's bogey-bogey finish that understandably left him in no mood to talk.
The Young Ones
Cameron Morfit explains how Rory, Ryo and Anthony blew their chances at better scores.
Jack Newman shoots and even par 72 and writes for GolfDigest.com...
By the time I got to the course Thursday, however, I knew things were different. It started with the security guards I've been talking to all week. Instead of joking like they have every other day, they were pretty serious. "You can go sir" was all they said as I entered parking lot. You knew everyone was getting down to business.
Drew Kittleson files a diary entry for Masters.com after his 78.
Dave Kindred on Steve Wilson's day.
And with a minute before he was due on the tee, he "got caught up in something," the caddie Martin said. "Then I saw Watson looking back for us. I said, "Steve, c'mon, we better go.'"
That would be one of Wilson's playing partners, Tom Watson, the winner of eight major championships. The immortal waited on the tee for the amateur gas-station owner.
"I was running to the tee then," Wilson said.
Not a good idea to be DQ'd from your first Masters, even if running to the tee contributes to a case of trembles that never ended. "Your hands are shaking," he said, "and you don't want anybody to see them."
The Thrills, The Birdies: Praise Our Lord And Savior, Billy Payne
Steve Elling says it all started right with the first tee moving up, and reviews the numbers.
Adam Schupak notes that short hitters even got in on the action.
We wanted roars. We got them.
On a warm, sunny day with wind a non-factor, birdies returned in bunches at the Masters.
Benign conditions combined with soft, receptive greens and accessible pins made the big leaderboard at 18 turn to a sea of red in the first round. A record 38 golfers broke par at Augusta National.
Gene Wojciechowski makes no sense in this lede. He acknowledges that roars were "unlikely" and then says some of us have been wrongly whining and complaining. Isn't there a Cubs game to cover?
Hear that? It's noise -- lots of it -- and it's coming from an unlikely source: 2604 Washington Road ... otherwise known as Augusta National Golf Club.
The roars returned to the Masters on Thursday and not a nanosecond too soon. For once it was nice to listen to something other than whining and complaining from those who wrongly think this course and this tournament have been lobotomized.
Jim Achenbach filed this note about hole locations for Golfweek.com's blog (sorry, no Permalink...):
Thursday’s pin sheet revealed that 11 of 18 holes had a flagstick located five paces or less from the edge of the green. One pace is supposed to be three feet, so I decided to check them out.
The pin sheet said three paces on both No. 2 and No. 16.
Three paces? That’s nine feet. To me, the distance looked more like six or seven feet. These two hole locations were disturbingly close to hazards -- a bunker on No. 2 and a pond on No. 16.
Jim McCabe profiles the fifth hole as the last remaining spectator secret spot.
The fact that nary a soul could be heard yelping “get in the hole” made for an even more enjoyable day up there at a high point of the property.
Historically, Magnolia ranks as the fifth-hardest hole with a field average of 4.27 since 1942. With ideal scoring conditions in Round 1, the numbers were not quite that high (there were 11 birdies, just 19 bogeys, and a field average of 4.083 to rank ninth), but it’s not as if Magnolia sat there defenseless.
The SI team's photographs are posted here.
Golfweek offers up their fast moving slide show, with a Chrissie sighting included.
Augusta.com breaks their photos up. Arnold Palmer's opening tee shot is here. The first round leaders are here. And the rest of the round 1 shots are here.
Stewart Cink filed this "Tweet' after round one:
Watching some of the ESPN replay. I'm getting hosed on the coverage!
I don't have the heart to reply to his post that it might have been that orange shirt. I even tried to find a photo of it but the extensive Augusta.com photo gallery wouldn't show it.
Then again Stewart, if it's any consolation, they really didn't show that many other golfers today.
We survived the Par-3 Contest this year thanks in part to a shorter telecast, faster play and an unforgettable 3 by Gary Player. I'll be doing the live blog thing again Thursday during round one, so come join us.
As for the coverage from Wednesday, there's plenty of fun stuff, though I did once again get the sense that a few stories were posted early so the scribes could go clean up and practice their GWAA award acceptance speeches.
Mark Soltau captures the day best, says the buzz was back in the air Wednesday and shares some fun miscellaneous observations.
Lawrence Donegan on England's Oliver Wilson, an Augusta State man:
Wilson shared a house bordering the 13th fairway of the Augusta National with other members of the golf squad, although,like everyone else in the world, they spent most of the time outside peering through the fence. "We were literally 10 yards from the course, and you heard all kinds of stories about people sneaking on," he says. "Not that I ever did myself."
Mark Lamport-Stokes on Jeev Singh, who will see a lot of the next few days.
"I'm going to be a little nervous for sure but that's what we play golf for, try to make the most of it and see what happens. It's certainly a pleasant surprise."
Drew Kittleson learned a valuable lesson: BYOS...bring your own Sharpee!
John Boyette reports that the Californication of Augusta has arrived, with smoking no longer allowed in the seating areas.
Doug Ferguson looks at Billy Payne's contention that weather is to blame for the course changes not working and leans on Tiger to make the case that even weather might not be enough to restore the ANGC of old. He also notes Payne's admission that the last few years haven't been too exciting.
James Corrigan on Seve's emotional letter that was read to the Champions Dinner gathering Tuesday night:
At the Champions Dinner in the Augusta clubhouse on Tuesday night, Jose Maria Olazabal read out a letter from Seve Ballesteros. Inevitably, these were to prove emotive words from the Spaniard still trying to beat cancer at his home in Pedreña. But the part that had the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh really reaching for the hankies, came near the end. "I wish I could be there," said Seve.
Dave Kindred writes a par-3 contest column and manages to do it without doting on the children. Hallelujah!
John Boyette posts the closest-to-the-hole shots for the day.
Tom Cunneff recounts what he saw Wednesday, including a conversation between Mickelson, Norman and Evert.
Michael Walker hands out awards.
Al Barkow considers Gene Sarazen's double eagle and other all time great Masters shots. So many great memories and so many created by great risk-reward moments.
Gary Van Sickle wonders which course will show up and reminds us of the tweaks and their possible impact. Why am I not getting excited about an extra 7 yards on 1 and 7?
Larry Fine files a Reuters piece titled "No more back nine charges". This one goes around the world. Nothing new here, just noting for the record.
Bill Fields brings up a point that often gets lost. The staged choreography of a tough first three days, then a big change in gear for day four, at which time most players are locked in defensive mode.
Less choreographing early could mean more excitement late, because a tournament's character begins to form well before the television cameras come on in the fourth round. It will be interesting to see if Masters officials are more friendly in setting up the course for the first two days this year in an attempt to restore what people remember and enjoy about the Masters although championship committee chairman Fred Ridley denied there has been a hard-to-easy approach.
David Westin says it all comes down to the weather cooperating.
"I think if you get dry conditions and they set the course up relatively the same every Sunday, guys can go out and make some birdies," Snedeker said. "If the weather's bad, then par is going to be a good score and that's the Masters you're going to have."
Snedeker says course officials "don't miss on anything; they know what they're doing."
One thing the club can't control is the weather.
"It has to cooperate to get those low scores (on Sunday)," Snedeker said.
It might happen this week. The long-range forecast for Sunday calls for a high in the mid-70s and 5 to 15 mph winds out of the east.
So I ask yet again, as we saw with Oakland Hills: does a major now require perfect weather for a design to function? If so, doesn't that say something about the architecture and the setup? I guess we'll see.
Eric Soderstrom cleverly looks at the Twitter craze breaking out in Augusta and in the Cink household.
David Dusek digs up a YouTube video of Vijay Singh skipping in a shot for a 1 at 16 on Wednesday. Granted, it makes the Zapruder film look like a Pixar film, but it's still pretty neat to see and hear the roar.
Alan Bastable on John Daly hawking gear outside ANGC:
Daly declined to chat this morning as he unloaded boxes of hats and shirts and carefully placed them on a table outside his coach bus. But he looked downright trim by his standards, having shed some 40 pounds in recent months.
Bob Smiley posts some Onion-esque headlines with photos!
Golfweek's slide show is here, still minus the music. Must be a victim of the lean times.
Augusta.com again has a great and extensive gallery of images from the Par 3 Contest.
And finally, Rob Matre posts a guest piece at Waggle Room on his museum show and the power of Augusta imagery.
Golf Channel has added Jim Gray to its team and if his first appearance Thursday is any indication, we're in for some really profound insights. After comparing Tiger to the many great athletes he's been around, including Mike Tyson (!), Rich Lerner then asked Gray to compare Augusta National with the other great sporting venues Gray has been to. He was sounding nervous and rattling off clichés before unleashing this head scratcher:
It has withstood the test of time. The faces are very, very similar throughout the course of the years, but they also change, and they've changed with the game, but you know what was, is now what is. And that's what everyone can relate to.
Gray also plugged a new Golf Channel show he's on with Lerner. His opening feature is an up close and personal with Donald Trump and his "beautiful" golf courses. Can't wait.
Love the commercials running on Golf Channel touting Phil Mickelson's new short game DVD, with the voiceover announcer declaring that we can learn from the "the best short game player ever."
They're also airing an ad for a Stack and Tilt video with a big endorsement from Aaron Baddelay.
Tim Rosaforte reported in last week's Golf World that Badds has abandoned the S&T idea and has gone back to his old teacher, Dale Lynch.
...wow, did anyone else catch the Brandel Chamblee, John Hawkins, Frank Nobilo discussion about the possibilities for excitement at Augusta?
Let's put it this way. They aren't buying Billy Payne's claims about the weather. Nobilo was probably the kindest, focusing on the green speeds, but Hawkins and Chamblee effectively dismantled every assertion that the course has been improved by the changes.
I point this out because, well, many of us suffered through so many years where these chats touted the changes as progress. It's just shocking to hear it going the other way in such extreme fashion. I feel like such a moderate after hearing that exchange!
Dottie Pepper just chimed in that the tree planting was well intentioned but the trees have grown!
We'll give her points for being critical but generally you have an architect who can envision how newly planted trees will grow and impact play over time. Just not at Augusta, apparently.
I caught some of Billy Payne's press conference and have read the transcript now. Frankly, I don't know what to think.
Obviously, he has to defend the club's actions of the last decade to some degree and I respect his political savvy in a most difficult club environment. And blaming the weather for the lack of excitement generally works with some. However, the folks with better memories know that the defensive tone was set a decade ago with the rough and tree planting and the Masters just hasn't been the same since.
Q. Mr. Payne, as you mentioned, we did not see any effort to add length to the course since last year, is Augusta National finally as long as it needs to be?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I won't be Chairman when that decision is ultimately made, I think. We took ten yards off this year.
You know, I think we have it about right. I would be quick to add that this week is an important test. Since the most recent, substantial changes to the course in 2006, we have not had good weather over the weekend. The players have not, in fact, had the opportunity to demonstrate their skills against the competitive test of the course.
It looks like we are going to have some pretty good weather this weekend, and so I think we will continue to look at that. But I think we are going to see some good scores shot this week, and we are going to see the course played as it was designed to be played when those changes were made. I think we are going to be pleased with the results.
So while he defends, he also slips in the caveat about this being an important test. That certainly is encouraging.
Q. With respect to the so‑called new Augusta and the rough, the trees and so forth, the length, how would you categorize the comments you have received from players; complaints, observations or what?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, I have not received any directly. (Laughter) I've read about a lot of them.
You know, I would make the analogy that, you know, criticism hurts a little bit, and not as much to me as the entirety of the enterprise, the employees, the staff, the Members.
It's like when you go to a piano recital of one of your granddaughters and you hear somebody say, "Boy, that's the worst kid I've ever seen." It hurts your feelings. (Laughter).
But most of the people I have read that comment from, they are certainly entitled to their opinion. I am hoping that the consequence of good weather and further thinking about the course and the strategic approach to the course through time will eliminate most of that criticism.
You know, we just deal with it until then.
Not such an encouraging answer since most of the criticism has been constructive and made with an admiration for what the Masters means to the game. But then...
Q. Mr. Payne, you said that you had not received any comments from players directly. Would you be open to receiving comments from players directly?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: (Smiling) Well, there's not much risk of a direct dialogue, I don't think. I think they have more subtle ways of expressing their opinions, both the favorable ones and the ones that could perhaps be critical.
But I'm aware of them, and I start thinking about them, and, you know, continue to blame the weather. (Laughter).
So after all that, deep down ole Billy knows that blaming the weather is a cop-out? Great, but then there was this..
Q. The groove rule, it's supposed to make driving accuracy relevant again. If that's the case, will it still be necessary to have a first cut, or will you go back to the way the course was originally?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: We have no plans to change the first cut, second cut, other than as we tweak it every year, and there are substantial changes every year going back to the 1930s. There's always been some higher grass as you approach the pine straw here, and it's tweaked a little bit every year for Patron viewing, for drainage, for all kinds of course‑related and competitive‑related reasons.
But we don't think that that particular rule will have any impact on our thinking for the future.
So in the same interview, Mr. Payne is open to kid friendly improvements to the telecast and all sorts of grow the game initiatives, yet when the USGA and R&A step up to the plate by pushing through a rule change designed to hopefully make golf re-think the use of rough and narrowing to offset distance, and he doesn't think the rule will have an impact on their thinking?
Very confusing. But mostly, I like the little glimmers of hope in his comments.
Perhaps it's a tribute to just how many stars have aligned this week, but after reading Michael Buteau's story on Mid-Am champion Steve Wilson, it's sort of amazing that the Mississippi filling station owner and great quote has been overlooked so far.
At 39, he will be the oldest of the five non-pros competing at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, with Woods and 100 other golfers including Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman.
“I’m not going to look anything like those guys,” said Wilson, co-owner of stations in Gautier, Mississippi, and Theodore, Alabama, on the Gulf Coast. “I’ve got a lot of stuff that I don’t do textbook.”
The professionals will vie for a purse that in 2008 was $7.5 million; this year’s will be disclosed April 12, the match’s last day. While Wilson can’t pocket any money no matter how low he scores, he prepared by playing Augusta 15 times after gaining “honorary member” status with his amateur triumph.
“I’m pretty sure I have worn out my welcome,” the Ocean Springs, Mississippi, resident said.
Much more fun today from the scribblers who unpacked and got to work filing entertaining stories. Before we get to the goods, don't forget to check in tomorrow at 3EST for the Par-3 Contest Live Blog.
Doug Ferguson looks at the dream scenario of a Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson showdown.
They have kept different schedules this week - Mickelson playing early, Woods the late arrival with his most limited practice in his Masters career. They were one group apart Sunday afternoon when both arrived at Augusta and played the front nine.
"Tiger and Phil are out there playing," one of the club members said before adding with a smile, "Not together, obviously."
Golf365 says Tiger turned down Rory McIlroy for a practice round. Or at least, has avoided him in some clever way.
Lawrence Donegan on Tiger: "Certainly the bookies have few doubts, making Woods 12-5 favourite, while the man himself is wearing an air of confidence that is as bulging as his physique."
Steve Elling also looks at Tiger and a Grand Slam quest, and recounts a funny story from Jack Nicklaus about a congratulatory call he made to Tiger after Torrey Pines.
Tiger posted a new website entry and confirms he will be skipping the Par-3 Contest because it takes too bloody long because he plays early and needs to rest up for round 1.
I will likely skip the par-3 Tournament on Wednesday. I played in it about every year until 2005. You play a practice round in the morning, then sit around for your tee time. It just becomes a long day and takes away from your main preparation. I'm sure there will be a day when I come back and play, especially when Sam and Charlie get a little older and can caddie for me.
THE GOLF COURSE
Cam Cole in the Vancouver Sun blisters Hootie Johnson's reign over the course, using words like abomination, crime perpetrated and misguided, featuring a couple of interesting player quotes:
“I’m coming to believe this is more like a U.S. Open course every year,” said Steve Stricker.
“Bland might be too strong a word, but probably it has become a little like that,” 2003 champion Mike Weir, of Bright’s Grove, Ont., said Monday. “I was watching the ’86 Masters (Jack Nicklaus’s sixth win) last night, birdies and eagles flying everywhere, and you know, just the way the course is set up now, mowing patterns and everything, just makes it hard for that to happen.”
Daniel Wexler offers a link to Google Earth's aerial of the course, which is always fun to look at.
PAIRINGS AND AMATEURS
The Golfweek staff breaks down the pairings.
U.S. Am Pub Links winner Jack Newman is doing a diary at GolfDigest.com and talks about why he's going to only stay in the Crow's Nest early in the week.
Drew Kittleson's Masters.com diary is here, with plenty about his round with Phil Mickelson and Phil's invitation to take Drew and dad to the Champions Locker Room for lunch. And you have to love this:
Dinner Tuesday night was back in the clubhouse. I’m going to eat there as much as possible. I mean, I can have dinner with my dad any time, but I can’t always eat at Augusta National.
Easily the best material today comes in the Norman stories. While I haven't gotten to John Garrity's lengthy profile of Norman yet, these are also worth a look.
Leonard Shapiro writes:
when Norman steps on the first tee Thursday, an expected sonic boom roar from hundreds all around when his name is announced surely will summon some special memories, and, he keeps saying, none of the old agony.
"I love the tradition and the heritage at Augusta," Normans said. "I love the way the establishment is up there, their rules and their positions and their implementations.
Larry Dorman in the New York Times:
“I know in the ’80s, they were not coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, Greg, play well.’ That’s for sure.”
Melanie Hauser on Team Norman clicking on all cylinders.
This potential last moment in Augusta’s setting sun is a family affair. Yes, the focus is on the man who people love here for what hasn’t happened, but he’s made this about Gregory and Chrissie too. They’re a team, going everywhere as a trio, except for a dinner with President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara. Gregory wasn’t invited.
Here is Norman's interview from Tuesday, with both video and transcript options.
The other interviews, including Ogilvy, Harrington, Ishikawa, Immelman, Lee, Villegas, Woods and Mickelson can be viewed here.
Jim McCabe considers Lee's retro move to hire local caddy Matt Fuzy along with the history of players using club loopers.
Steve Keating profiles Lee, who is proud to be staying the Crow's Nest, "sleeping where Tiger slept."
The Internet Writer Of The Year selects his favorite Masters.
Steve Elling offers his Up and Down thoughts on a bit of everything, including one about the Internet Writer Of The Year
The official site includes Tuesday notes, topped off by this one:
For more than 40 years, two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw has carried the nickname, ‘Gentle Ben,’ thanks to Austin, Texas sportswriter Dick Collins. Tuesday at Augusta National, it was time for Crenshaw to pay him back.
Crenshaw provided Collins, now retired, tickets for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays practice rounds, giving Collins his first-ever look at Augusta National Golf Club.
“All those years, the newspaper would never send me,” said Collins. “Even when Ben and Tom (Kite) were winning, they didn’t let me go anywhere. Ben provided me tickets this year to see it for the first time. It’s wonderful.”
Peter Bills on Peter Alliss covering the Masters for BBC:
“I never made the cut at Augusta and soon came to the same conclusion as the others, it was too expensive to come over here. It used to take about three days to get here in those days”.
He smiled. “How things have changed, eh; there wouldn't be many modern day players who would turn down an invitation.”
Somehow, it would be hard to imagine a Masters at Augusta National without the avuncular Alliss' dulcet tones, and delightful commentaries. Listening to him again this week will be a major highlight for television viewers around the world.
Mike Vitti's PGA Tour power rankings with one sleeper pick who is getting no ink so far, Nick Watney.
Golfweek offers "sleeper" picks and a really annoying Nike ad, so turn down your volume if you are at the office.
The Sand Trap offers their picks with winning scores.
Jim Huber wonders out loud how the Augusta National grounds crew gets the azaleas to bloom right on time.
Doug Ferguson on the mystique, history and rules surrounding the green jacket.
Immelman was playing in Asia last year when he landed in Japan. He carried the green jacket in a suit bag, but it wasn't long before some golf fans recognized him, and realized what was in the bag. He said they began to cry.
"The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the mystique that goes along, and the history that goes along with Augusta National is just something that not many sports have," he said. "That was a cool feeling, and something nice to be part of."
Asher Wildman takes us on a video tour of the inexpensive and tasty food at Augusta.
And finally, the Augusta Chronicle's extensive photo gallery is great fun.
Supposedly that is is Bubba Watson shaking hands with Tiger Woods. Not a Spackler impersonator. The image was captured by Kendrick Brinson and is posted on the Augusta.com gallery: