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I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.



"Before, there was always a little cherry dangling."

Sandy Lyle talked to Mike Aitken after his openign round and Lyle offered this on the course after his opening 72:

"They've taken away a lot of choices," he volunteers. "Before, there was always a little cherry dangling. For instance, on the first hole it was 265 yards over the bunker, so you looked at the wind, at the pin position, and decided whether to go for it. If it came off you got your reward. Now it's 320 yards to carry that bunker, and it's scary. So I think they've spoilt the course a little bit and, although it doesn't necessarily play into the hands of the long hitters – no one would describe Zach Johnson, last year's winner, as long – it means fewer guys can be competitive out here."

And the search continues for someone praising the direction the golf course has gone in. 


Round 1 Finished...Finally!

Villegas, Westwood and Baddelay sprinted up No. 18 to finish in 5 hours and 14 minutes under clear skies and no wind. Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo were questioning the move and with Westwood shooting 69 and contending, you can understand why he wanted to keep playing. Right?

Please, your thoughts on the day? 


Butler Cabin Fireplace Watch

Last year I live blogged round 1 and noted that the Butler Cabin fireplace looked like it had been doubling as the town crematorium.

Each day it's blackened stone supports progressively improved and we noted it here and here. I considered the club's urgent response a landmark moment, but probably a rough week for someone in Augusta National housekeeping.

This year it looks just as blackened, so this time I took a photo. Let's see if they break out the cleaning crews by Sunday.




Captain Olazabal?

Just in case Monty had any delusions of Captaining Europe's Ryder Cup squad from 2010 to 2014, Derek Lawrenson reports that Jose Maria has been offered the '10 gig at Celtic Manor.

What on earth did Sandy Lyle do wrong?


"It would suck to have to come out at 8 and we've got a 10:45."

At the 6 p.m reset with music and Jim Nantz waxing on about day one, the crane shot captures Phil Mickelson crossing the bridge, setting up Nantz to ask us to consider all of the greats who have crossed the Hogan Bridge. The music was turned down and as Phil's crossing, he's deep in conversation with Bones and says: "It would suck to have to come out at 8 and we've got a 10:45."

So I think it's safe to say Phil wants to finish the round today. 


"You don't really shoot low rounds here anymore."

Mike Tirico left his post at Butler Cabin to talk to Tiger Woods after his even par 72. (Zach Johnson and Justin Rose came into Butler.)

A few of Tiger's notable comments:

"You don't really shoot low rounds here anymore. You've just got to plod along."


"It's playing more like a U.S. Open than a Masters."

He also noted he only heard one roar. Other than that he loves the changes!


No. 11 and Bobby

11.jpgAmen Corner live is much improved and amazing production feat. The images, the quality of the media player and the...well, there is the announcing.

Bobby Clampett manned the booth for the first four hours. Now, I can deal with the Hogan's Bridge references. I can deal mentions of Brett Wetterich's great impact dynamics. And I certainly get a big chuckle out of Bobby's bottom obsession ("swing bottom" "forward swing bottom" and shots "almost bottomed out").

I can even deal with Bobby thinking that Zach Johnson has taken the lead right before his eyes, followed by a two shot lead when a quick glance at the leaderboard says otherwise.

Oh, and I can even handle the blatant sucking up to the "committee" when discussing the changes to No. 11.

What I can't deal with is his ignorance and direspect for the strategic design school that made Augusta National special.

Clampett complimented the ridiculous planting of trees down the right side of No. 11 because the ideal angle of approach (in his view) is from the left side. This corporate mentality of closing out the account because no one is buying the product seems fitting these days, but completely ignorant of what subtle, democratic and strategic design is about.

In the old configuration you were free to choose your angle of attack, Neither angle was easy.

Now let's say Bobby is correct and the left side is the preferred angle. Why would you want to close off the less idea angle if someone wants to take it?

Shouldn't their stupidity be encouraged and the intelligent play rewarded?

Isn't that more interesting than taking away liberties and telling players where to play?

Not in Bobby Clampett's mind. 



"Why bother trying?"

I normally don't pay attention when non-golf folks dare to write about golf, but in the case of Tiger and his peers seemingly being afraid of the man, I think Bill Plaschke's outsider take is worth noting. I'm not quite sold on this data though:

At least one study has shown that other golfers' fear of Woods is not only palpable, but measurable.

According to eight years of data collected by Jennifer Brown, a doctorate candidate in agricultural and resource economics at California, tour regulars average nearly a stroke higher in tournaments that include Woods.

Brown formulated her theory in a paper titled "Quitters Never Win: The (Adverse) Incentive Effect of Competing With Superstars."

She discovered a .80 stroke differential when golfers are confronted by Woods, a number that rises during periods when Woods is hot, and decreases during those rare times when he is perceived to be in a slump.

"This shows that if you are competing against an opponent you believe will win, you think, 'Why bother trying?' " said Brown, whose study has been embraced by several national media outlets.

Masters Photo Caption Fun, Vol. 1

What's Phil saying to Tiger? Thanks to reader Nick for this.



Dateline Augusta: Thursday, April 10th Edition


"Other than tweaks maybe for Patron flow, drainage, otherwise, you could expect to see it for a long time in the future."

Billy Payne's second ever sitdown with the slingers...

How's this for a revelation?

Immediately after this press conference, we are encouraging all golf fans to go to,,,, and in Japan, and between now and June 1 register and tell us how they believe golf could be improved and promoted around the world.

Registration forms will be available immediately after this press conference on our Web site with promotional instructions in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. We want to know, how can we capture the interest of children in this great game; can golf be made easier; why did it take so long to play; what is the best way to get kids involved at an early age.

We look forward to what we believe will be tens of thousands of responses that we receive and honestly expect to report to you at a later date that we have uncovered some really great concepts and ideas which can be incorporated into our own initiatives and efforts.

Send your pleas for Tom Fazio's ouster as consulting architect here. Imagine the USGA doing such a thing? Soliciting suggestions! Perish the thought. I do feel bad for the poor lad who has to read all of the stuff.

Q. Chris Berman is not going to be here; was that something that you guys --

CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I have never had a discussion about that. We don't tell our broadcast partners who their on-air talent can be.

Notice how the scribe couldn't even finish the question before Billy answered. Hmmm...

Okay here comes your annual question about letting a Woman-American join. Have to say the scribes are getting more clever.

Q. You talked about allowing boys and girls 8 to 16 to come in.


Q. Half of that equation, the boy half when they ask the person who brought them in, "But Daddy, sometimes I would like to join the club," and the girl part of the equation can't join the club. Do you see that changing?

CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I would tell you what I've told you in the past, that I don't talk about membership issues; that that's reserved for the private deliberations of the Members, and other than that, I'm not going to talk about it.

And now a word about the rough.

CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: You know, we have always had different length grass here all the way from the very beginning.

Yada yada...we know...

I listened very carefully to the player interviews the last several days and looked back at last year's, and they are split almost right down the middle about their opinion about the second cut.

Now Billy, don't make me go tabulating comments. It's 50% hate it and 50% saying it doesn't impact play. No one's in love with it. Oh, except you...kinda.

But I think, first of all, we like it. We think that it does put a premium on driving accuracy. However, we do believe that when you're in the second cut, it's more difficult to reach some of the pins because it does impact the ability to spin the ball.

The opinion I've just expressed, if you ask a hundred people, 50 would take the other side, but we like our side, and that's what we're going to do. We like it. Other than tweaks maybe for Patron flow, drainage, otherwise, you could expect to see it for a long time in the future.

Because there are some mistakes we just won't admit. Though acknowledging that it's debated and that half of the people you ask don't like it is a big admission. Especially since the 50% includes just about every living former champion.

A pace of play question picked up by Fred Ridley. Check out the target time...

FRED RIDLEY: That's right. Obviously for the enjoyment of the game for the players and the Patrons is to move the field along. We look at that every year. As a matter of fact we have actually tightened up the pace of play this year. Our target time is four hours and 45 minutes, which is a seven-minute reduction from last year.

Now, whether or not we can achieve that is another story, but we think by encouraging the players and letting them know that this is the expected time, because that is one of the elements of whether or not a group is out of position, we think that we might speed up the play marginally, which I think would be good.
Q. Going back to slow play, because of the size of the field and the independence of the organization, you're probably in a better position than anybody to do something about it. Is there a possibility in the future you might start penalizing players shots in a meaningful manner that will change their behavior?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, we have a pace of play policy that we think is appropriate. And it provides some very detailed parameters for how quickly a pace we expect the players to play, and we think our officials, who are the best officials from around the world, understand that policy, and they will enforce it when it's appropriate.
So we are comfortable that we have a good pace of play policy. This is a golf course that just takes some time to play, but we are monitoring it very closely.

All in all, a very nice job by the assembled scribbs to get some answers. Of course, I'm always a sucker for slow play talk.


"Seven is just terrible."

It's not unusual to read strong critcism of the course changes at this point, which in itself is fascinating since no one would have dared rip the place 10 years ago. And while Billy Payne brushes it off and says it's 50-50 on the subject of the second cut, he has to be taking notice of the almost relentless wave of criticism. Because we know players aren't saying this stuff at this point just to be controversial.

Anyway, Rex Hoggard talks to several players about the overall impact of the changes and manages to get some pretty blunt stuff about several things, particularly No. 7.

“Seven is terrible. I played with Raymond Floyd in the Par 3 (Contest) last year and he just ripped it,” Arron Oberholser said. “Every guy that’s ever won there I ask them and to a man they say it’s terrible. Seven is just terrible.

“It’s supposed to be a short par -4 where if you get up there and want to hit 2-iron you can hit 2-iron and lay back,” Oberholser said. “But if you got the courage you can stand up there and hit a driver and a little flip wedge into that green which is very severe.”

Even Crenshaw, as gentle as ever, struggles to understand the change to No. 7.

“It’s too long,” he said. “Seven is one of the greatest greens I’ve ever seen, but it just doesn’t have to be that long.”



The Par 3 Contest Blues

Clifford Roberts called. He wants his Par 3 Contest back.

Now, I love the Par 3, and some of you may know my first design was a par 3 course. I believe they are vital to the health of the game and I'm most content playing a fun pitch and putt. Furthermore, good players can get so much better on a par-3. They are great places for kids to learn and an ideal setting for a quick round if you don't have the time. I truly admire Billy Payne's vision of wanting to show people that, wait, his words:

We are televising the Par 3 event this afternoon for the first time, hoping kids will be inspired by seeing golf competed and conducted in a fun and family manner.

And who knows, maybe it will send a message across the world that golf can be played and immensely enjoyed on only a 1,000-yard course needing just four- or five-clubs and taking less than two hours to complete.

However, today's Par 3 Contest, the first ever televised by ESPN no less, turned into a complete disaster. Not only did it run so long that ESPN had to abandon Pardon The Interruption (take that, irony!), but the last two groups played in together because play was so slow.

After an hour of the telecast the entire exercise had grown exceedingly painful thanks to the mess that this once semi-legitimate competition has become. Kids were all over the place. Stepping on holes, having to have their hands held to prevent running into the lakes, etc...  Even caddies and wives were hitting putts or shots by the end of the competition. Putts rolling to the cup on No. 9 early in the day saw a nice smooth surface. By day's end the ball was wobbling through Croc marks and countless other dents.

As a viewer all I could think was, every grown man who has discouraged kids from being able to use his country club course is sitting there saying, "see, this is why we have to keep the kids outta here. Them and their doting parents will make a mess of the place."

There is a time and place for this kind of mess, but the Masters Par 3 Contest on national television was not the one. Assuming any kid was watching (hopefully they in school), I can't imagine they would have wanted to take up golf after sitting through the Par 3. Late in the day, one of the kids caddying for dad could be seen sitting on the 8th tee, his face buried in his hands out of sheer boredom. And he didn't even have to listen to Andy North and Peter Kostis conducting interviews! 

Though Kostis did at least remind us (twice) who is to blame for starting this mess: Jeff Maggert. He started the tradition of bringing the little ones along and dressing them up in caddy jump suits.  But it's the club's fault for letting this spiral into a disaster that ensures Tiger Woods will never play in it as long as he is a serious competitor, and even when he's bald and over the hill I suspect he's not coming back.

It is even hard to see ESPN wanting to televise this again unless the club puts an age limit and a time limit on the groups.  Not like they have a choice, but you have to think the boys in Bristol were agonizing today when the affair ran nearly an hour long.

The last Par 3 Contest I witnessed was in 2003. Tiger Woods played and it was great fun to see the variety of old guys, new players and other major winners whizzing around that pretty little layout. Some of their offspring caddied and every once in a while they'd let the rug-rat hit a shot.

Somehow in five years it has become PGA Tour daycare's graduation ceremony. A cotillion, bar mitzvah and ridiculous coming out party rolled up into one, with eligibility for every child under 10 holding some genetic tie to a contestant.

This is not what Clifford Roberts envisioned when he started the Par 3 Contest. It's most definitely not what he envisioned when he left that big pile of money to Planned Parenthood.  And it's not what anyone would envision as a way to grow the game.


USGA Job Search: An Editor!?

I like my chances!


Publication or Company       United States Golf Association
Industry      Corporate/Institutional/Technical Writing, Internet/Online/New Media, Non-profit, Other Publishing
Salary     Competitive
Benefits     401K/403B, Dental, Health
Job Duration     Full Time
Job Location     Far Hills, NJ USA
Job Requirements     The USGA seeks an Editor who will oversee publishing, editorial, and design for internal and external communications. This hands-on Editor will also proofread and copy-edit and collaborate with other departments responsible for on-line/digital products and media relations.

See, I told you Walter Driver could have used an editor.

Requirements include:
Proven writing, editing, proofreading and copy editing skills
Good people-skills: ability to motivate, manage, collaborate
Demonstrated project management skills
Strong computer skills
Comprehensive knowledge of the game of golf, especially as it relates to the USGA's mission and activities.


"The Tony Stewart of New Zealand"

etick_rd_swc01b.jpgSomehow I doubt even Tony Stewart went this far, but ESPN is treating Tiger's sunny caddy Stevie Williams as if he's died. Check out this devotional page to the loaded looper sent in by reader Lee.

So good to see Stevie is as humble as ever.

Here, Steve Williams is the star. Though his team is called "Caddyshack Racing" and a sticker on each of his two cars reads "HOOK A KID ON GOLF," Tiger is far from his mind.

"I hate when I go to a race and I'm looked at as Tiger's caddie, because here, I'm not Tiger's caddie. I'm Steve Williams, driver of the No. 21 Mustang," he says. "And a pretty damn good driver at that."

If you're unusually constipated or simply desiring to see what a good publicist can do, here's ESPN's sitdown with the world's wealthiest luggage handler.


Whittlin' Down The Field

Jim McCabe has always been a fine newspaper man, but something about writing columns online for brings out his most creative side. Today he whittles down the field to who really has a shot. Hard to disagree with his take, though eliminating all of the Aussies may prove to be a mistake.

And if you are looking for last minute advice, the Golfweek staff offers their picks here and Sal Johnson breaks down the field here, and Larry Dorman offers his "others not to be ignored" at the end of his New York Times piece, but maybe he should have cut it off at this excellent note: 

Geoff Ogilvy, whose victory three weeks ago at the W.G.C.-CA Championship at Doral stopped Woods’s worldwide winning streak, employed a similar strategy of ignoring Woods until the final few holes of the tournament. “I wasn’t really interested in beating Tiger today,” Ogilvy said last month after his first-round 63 at Doral. “I would like to beat him after four rounds. No, I don’t really give it any thought to him. I just want to give thought to how good can I play and can I win this golf tournament.”

That makes two golfers who have recently shown they can beat Woods. Others who have won events in which Woods finished second are Phil Mickelson (four times), Vijay Singh (three), Ernie Els and Jim Furyk (two each), and Ángel Cabrera, Michael Campbell, Stewart Cink, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman and Mark O’Meara (all one).


Dateline Augusta: Wednesday, April 9th Edition


"The scary thing about 12 is it's the only hole where when the ball is in the air, the caddies start praying."

Bob Harig looks at Amen Corner and lets Nick Faldo share some fascinating insights:
Faldo, who won three Masters, would purposely seek out a corner on the Augusta driving range where he could hit to a flag that was about 140 yards away -- all in anticipation of Amen Corner.

"You really have to have the ability to land the ball left or right of the flag, in precise spots, you can't just hope,'' said Faldo, 50, who will be working the Masters as an analyst for CBS. "I used to do a lot of visualization on the practice ground. The last thing you want, coming over that hill on 11 ... with all that history ... it's the first real suck-it-up shot of the back nine. They put you under serious pressure on that shot.

"The scary thing about 12 is it's the only hole where when the ball is in the air, the caddies start praying. Two balls hit identically can come up different because of a gust of wind. That one is in the lap of the gods.

"On 13, it is very difficult to describe that second shot up on that slope. You have the ball above your feet but on a downhill lie. Three slopes working against you. And you really have to hit a precision shot.

"At Amen Corner, you have five or six really precision shots that you have to hit absolutely spot on. You have to have the ability to place the ball exactly where you intend.''

Faldo pauses, takes a deep breath. "I even scare myself reliving that,'' he said.


"As far as Boo is concerned, a breathtaking view is not so much Augusta's azaleas as a grazing deer in his telescopic sights."

sgmj109.jpgMartin Johnson, Telegraph curmudgeon, weighs in on Boo Weekley:
Boo is a man who makes a living reaching for a driver and shooting birdies, but he'd much rather be reaching for a rifle and shooting furry animals.

As far as Boo is concerned, a breathtaking view is not so much Augusta's azaleas as a grazing deer in his telescopic sights. He has the sort of eye for beauty that, in the unlikely event he ever found himself inside the Sistine Chapel, would probably persuade him that there was nothing much wrong with the ceiling that a layer of artex and a pot of emulsion wouldn't put right.

"I think what has changed the golf course immeasurably is one hole, and it's No. 7."

Phil Mickelson was asked Tuesday about the possiblity of low scoring in the future and offered an intriguing insight into how the flow of the course has changed:
PHIL MICKELSON: They won't be lower. I think the scores may get a little bit higher, yeah, and the length is the biggest factor. Also all of the trees and the tightening of the golf course.

I think what has changed the golf course immeasurably is one hole, and it's No. 7. Because the whole thought process of playing the golf course used to be get through the first six holes around par, and you can birdie 7, 8 and 9 and you have three birdie holes and try to get one or two there, you turn at under par and then you shoot under par on the back side and you have a great round.

But now, 7 has become -- I think it's the first or second hardest par on the golf course. I think between 7 and 11, I think it's the two toughest pars that this course has; and because of that, it changes when you can be aggressive and how many birdie holes you have now and the whole complexion and mind-set of how to play the first six or seven holes. Now you feel like you have to be under par through the first six because you want to be around par when you get through 7. 7 is one of the toughest holes now.