As ANWA Invites Go Out, What Will Be Li's Post Apple Ad Status?

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As the USGA sorts our Lucy Li’s starring role in an Apple Watch ad, Steve Eubanks of Global Golf Post recaps the story and notes the no-win position faced by the governing bodies.

There aren’t many rocks and hard places much bigger than the ones they’re between.

While he suggests that’s based on past reputation, I’d counter that their biggest hurdle is a society seeing no issues with amateurs taking freebies or payment for endorsements. The lines have certainly been blurred by the Olympics and even things as seemingly innocuous as allowing amateur golfers to wear scripted corporate logo gear.

Still, no matter how you feel Eubanks makes a key point that mustn’t be forgotten in the debate.

But before you jump to conclusions, think about this: Li is listed in the field for the AJGA Buick Shanshan Feng Girls Invitational on Feb. 15-18. She will be playing against girls who know the rules; girls with parents who have shelled out small fortunes to keep their daughters competitive in the junior game. 

How will those girls and their parents look at Li? Will anyone call her a cheater to her face?

Others played by the rules and while they may not have been offered endorsement opportunities, many or most of those players likely would have followed the rules. Li’s parents did not and while it’s a shame, clearly all involved were not concerned with her amateur status. For that alone, it’s time to let her pursue a professional career.

With Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations going out this week, it will be interesting to see if the good folks in Augusta are holding on to Li’s automatic invite (based on world ranking) until a decision is handed down?

We discussed on this week’s Alternate Shot:

Evian Eve, ANWA And College Golf: State Of American Women's Golf In The Spotlight

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The forces are strong, contrasting and fascinating: no American has won a major in 2018 and barring a miracle, the fifth and final LPGA major teeing off this week will produce just the fourth year ever when at least one American prevailed in a major.

Matt Adams and I debated on this week’s Golf Central and with all due respect to the many fine players, the struggles of American women is the top storyline for me. My expression in the screen capture summarizes the fixed nature of the topic, but I digress.

Clearly, next spring’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur will add another bit of incentive for aspiring American women, and we are about to start seeing if the Drive, Chip and Putt produces elite talent, but there appears to be some disagreement about the role college golf has (or has not) played in developing talent.

With six scholarships available at fully-funded Division I programs, the reports of unused scholarships have raised eyebrows about what we are doing to develop junior girls. Jack Nicklaus brought this up in his Morning Drive appearance this week hosted by Gary Williams and in conjunction with Gary Player and Lee Trevino.

But as Beth Ann Nichols notes in this Golfweek story, the misconception is not a great one given how many programs are not fully or even partially funded.

Or as she writes, “Junior girls can’t pluck a full ride to college like an apple from a tree.”

From the story:

“I think it’s a very common assumption that full rides are readily available,” said Kelly, whose program does not have six full scholarships. “I hear this frequently … ‘You are at a wealthy institution. Your school has the money.’ ”

Brandi Jackson hears it too. For nearly 10 years the former LPGA pro has guided players and their families through the recruiting process.

“There’s a big chunk of your better academic schools who may only have one scholarship among the whole team,” Jackson said. “Eight girls on the team … the majority of those girls are paying to be there.”

Something to keep in mind…

A) when you wonder why Americans are falling behind in a sport they once dominated

B) when donating to the athletic department’s general fund

C) when wondering why your alma mater’s women are not attracting the best players

But hey, on that bright note, the scenarios for a new No. 1 and other highlights going into the fifth (gulp) and final LPGA major played for the last time in September.

Speaking of LPGA majors, one of the American rally killers earlier this century spoke of the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur and it’s potential influence today on Morning Drive:

NBC To Broadcast Augusta National Women's Amateur, Logo And Ticket Applications Unveiled

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Augusta National has announced the broadcast partner—NBC Sports—and other details for the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur, including its very own acronym!

There is a lot to consider in this announcement and surprise choice to have NBC broadcast, but for now…


Five Presenting Partners Join Augusta National in Support of Women’s Golf; Ticket Applications Now Available 

AUGUSTA, Ga. – In less than seven months, golf’s best women amateurs will compete in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA). Today, it was announced that NBC Sports will produce and broadcast three hours of live final-round coverage of the event, which is being supported by five presenting partners: AT&T, Bank of America, IBM, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. In addition, ticket applications are now available for those interested in attending any of the championship via 

“Since the announcement of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, we have remained determined to organize a competition that will provide a meaningful impact on the development of the women’s game,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “While we aim to stage a first-class championship, our motivation goes beyond the scores posted between the ropes. By providing this opportunity and shining a brighter light on this important segment of the sport, we expect role models to emerge who will help inspire a new generation of golfers.” 

Gathering the week before the Masters Tournament next April, the international field of 72 players will compete over 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut taking place after 36 holes. The first two rounds will take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4. The entire field will then play Augusta National for an official practice round Friday, April 5. The final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6 and will feature the top 30 competitors who made the cut. 

NBC Sports will provide pre-event promotion across NBCUniversal’s portfolio and live coverage of the ANWA across its television and digital platforms, including live final-round coverage on NBC at Augusta National from Noon – 3 pm EST. Golf Channel will deliver highlights, live reports and news coverage throughout the event, including onsite during the first two competitive rounds at Champions Retreat. Additionally, Golf Channel’s “Live From the Masters” will commence on Friday, April 5 from Augusta National and wrap ANWA coverage on Saturday, April 6 and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday, April 7. 

Golf fans wishing to attend any of next year’s competition rounds can now request a ticket application via, the event’s official website. Tickets will be sold in advance, but only after receipt of an online application. Applications will be accepted through September 30. All applicants will be notified in late October when the selection process is complete. 

Based on the qualifications for the ANWA published in April, the following players are currently eligible for invitation: 

♦ Kristen Gillman (USA), U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion 

♦ Leonie Harm (Germany), Ladies’ British Open Amateur Champion 

♦ Atthaya Thitikul (Thailand), Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Champion 

♦ Yealimi Noh (USA), U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion and Girls Junior PGA Champion 

♦ Emma Spitz (Austria), Girls’ British Open Amateur Champion 

The following criteria will fill the next 60 positions in the field, based on the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of the 2018 calendar year: 

♦ The top 30 players from the United States of America not otherwise qualified 

♦ The next 30 highest ranked players not otherwise qualified 

The field’s remaining spots will be filled by special invitation from the ANWA Championship Committee. 

Drive, Chip And Putt Wrap: Golf Needs More Drive, Chip And Putt!

Another year, another beautiful Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National. The names are different, but the stories, skill and class has been a consistent trait of all five years. 

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We learned once again that golf can be cool when played with nice manners, amazing etiquette and a little gentility. Sure it helps that they're amazing kids who are way better at golf than they know.

But those who say new and younger audiences are only attracted to boorishness, could learn a thing or two from the participants here, as Nick Faldo put it in an interview under the Big Oak with Steve Sands

Fine as this event is as a stand alone, it does seem odd that by now the professionals have not been tempted to have a big boys or girls Drive, Chip and Putt. Check out Steve DiMeglio’s survey of PGA Tour players asking who they think would win such a competition. It sure would be fun to watch, particularly with some clever chip and putting scenarios.

The Drive, Chip and Putt would not be improved by seeing the pros playing that way. Instead, it’s the pros who could learn a thing or two from the joys of this event and in showcasing their talents in ways beyond 72-holes of stroke play.

Final results here from Golfweek.

A Jimmy Roberts narrated highlight package

Jeff Babineau with a roundup of highlights for

An image gallery from another beautiful day.

Check out Conrad Chisman’s Daly-esque action:


The 7-9 Girls winner Ella June Hannant took Low Cuteness honors. 

Her interview with Charlie Rymer is very special (thanks reader Z for sending), including a mention of her instructor, former PGA Tour player Clarence Rose.

The winners: 

Masters Makes Their Own Rules Files: Green Reading Books

It's always refreshing to hear of the ways Augusta National Golf Club resists change for the sake of change. Particularly when the innovation in question slows down play and possibly strips the sport of artistry.

As Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy revealed this week, their use of the intricate green reading books can be dangerous to their games. The lads don't have to worry about that dilemma at The Masters, however, since the club does not provide the books widely used on the PGA Tour each week. 

I explain in this item with quotes.

This is all worth noting for those who question how the club could force today's players to play by their rules on the equipment front. They can and could and probably will someday if no one else will act. And the players will still show up. 

Roundup: Billy Payne's Legacy As Masters Chairman

Jaime Diaz of Golf World says Billy Payne's "accomplishments far outnumber the four previous chairmen who followed Jones’ and Roberts’ legacy" and gets an exclusive sitdown with the retiring Chairman.

Among the topics covered included the Masters ball idea...

“That would be a very drastic step, and we would hope before that was necessary, there would be a collaborative decision. We love to follow collaborative decisions. Not be a loner. But we reserve the right to do so if we think it’s needed. We retain options about our course. So, I would suspect we would exhaust those before we would unilaterally jump ahead of others.”

The Augusta Chronicle's John Boyette also talked to Payne about a range of accomplishments. The outgoing chairman offered this on his successor, Fred Ridley:

“I think he’ll be, as I tried to be, another great custodian,” Payne said Tuesday in an interview with The Augusta Chronicle. “I think all chairmen after our first two founders are custodians of their dreams and aspirations. We try to maintain it and, if we can, make it a little better. He’s going to do that beautifully.”

The Chronicle also ranks Payne's best moments and offers this history of the chairmen. Boyette also notes that Ridley will be the first chairman who has actually played in The Masters.

AP's Doug Ferguson leads by writing that "Payne ruled more with an open mind than an iron fist" and offers an extensive history of his tenure.'s Bob Harig focuses on the admission of female members and the many major construction accomplishments achieved during the Payne years.

Christine Brennan for USA Today on Payne's legacy of supporting women's athletics in general.

It was no surprise that the man who ran the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta — an event known as the “Women’s Olympics” for the tremendous success of U.S. women in soccer, softball, basketball, gymnastics and swimming, among others — would be the one to bring staid, exclusionary Augusta National into the 21st century.

In fact, in the early 1990s, as the young leader of the upcoming Atlanta Olympics, Payne wanted to make golf an Olympic sport, with this kicker: staging the competition at Augusta National. He also was going to demand that the competition include women.

At the time he was not a member of the club, and he knew that women were not allowed to be members, but his idea was to show those old men of Augusta National what women could do.

Rex Hoggard for

In many ways Payne – whose leadership style was born from his time as president and CEO of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic committee – was both a consensus builder and an autocrat, a leader who understood the challenges the game faced and Augusta National’s unique position as a conduit for change. That he was willing to use that influence was, quite simply, an act of leadership.

Hoggard also has player reaction, including the reactions from Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson.

Josh Berhow at reminds us that Payne also pushed things on the television rights front.

During his tenure, Payne was behind the Masters' new TV contract with ESPN in 2008 — which broadcast and elevated the Masters Par-3 Contest —

On that topic, a statement from ESPN President John Skipper on retirement of Payne:

“It has been my pleasure to work with Billy Payne during his tenure as Chairman. He has wonderfully maintained the preeminence of the world’s greatest golf tournament while innovating effectively in digital media and expanding the footprint of the tournament, the club and the game of golf both literally and figuratively in Augusta and throughout the world. I wish him well-earned satisfaction in his accomplishments and pleasure in his deserved retirement.

“Billy’s last accomplishment was leaving the club in the capable hands of Fred Ridley. We look forward to working with Fred for many years.”

Big Oak Buzzing About Golf's Inability To Stem The Tide Of Embarrassing Rules Imbroglios

I file this on informal samplling of big-wigs at Augusta National who are tired of all the talk centering on golf's inability to get this whole replay, rules, scorecard phone-in ruling nonsense figured out.  the Masters should not be distracted by such nonsense (or worse, if the forecast holds, issues arising here).

It's time for an emergency meeting of the Five Families. These wars need to happen once every ten years or so.

Leave the guns and the cannolis outside the meeting and get this figured out!

The piece.

For some context on what the greats are saying, here is Beth Ann Nichols on what Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson had to say about the situation.

Man Cave Gem Up For Auction: Augusta National Entrance Sign

While my mancave budget would go to the Charles Lees photogravure of Musselburgh that Green Jacket Auctions is offering in their latest sale, I know that arguably the single most dreamy man cave item ever to be sold at auction will be the original Augusta National Golf Club entrance sign that hung in front of Magnolia Lane, circa the 1960s.

From the description:

It was discarded by Augusta National many decades ago, but was (thankfully) saved by an Augusta, Georgia resident. That original owner didn't understand its value to the collecting community until he briefly posted it on eBay six years ago. That auction sent collectors into a flurry (and we would know, we immediately heard about it and had every intention of buying it), but the sign was quickly pulled from auction and quietly sold to a collector that made a substantial offer. Though we missed out on this historic sign in 2010, we are overwhelmed with the opportunity of finally offering it for public auction.

Third Masters Question: Is Augusta National Too Green?

A few of you saw my comments on Morning Drive Monday about Augusta National being too green and wanted some elaboration.

Alright, here's what we know:

—It was a strong year for overseeding rye in Georgia. Multiple locals in Augusta, Aiken and Atlanta all said the weather was perfect for a robust rye grass harvest. Three different people tried to insist to me last week that there had to be some sort of synthetic turf mixed into the real turf. It was that deep and dense of a green.

—Augusta National has no shortage of resources, including chemical assistance to ensure great conditions.
Unfortunately, this also means that the turf is so well fed that even if cut tight by 8 am when the gates open, by the time the leaders go out late in the day on weekends the grass has had 8-12 hours to grow. Lake banks, greens and fairways slow down as the day goes. I couldn’t see mowers doing their thing because we are not allowed on the course before 8, but I’m guessing they were picking up a lot of clippings.

—The trend has been for green and making the course play long over all else in recent years to keep ANGC relevant in the face of distance advancements. This year was the deepest green yet, with the annual practice of mowing fairway grain toward the tees creating a huge contrast in looks between the first and ninth fairways. There was almost no roll. I was only at the second fairway a few times, but each time a drive headed to the bunker stopped short thanks to this cut. That makes the course play easier for today’s players, who have extraordinary ball control if they don't have to worry about what happens when the ball hits the ground.

—The second cut was true rough this year. It did not appear to be topped off daily and instead of creating problems, saved a lot of balls from going to more trouble. Spieth’s Thursday second shot on 15 immediately comes to mind as one ball that did not end up in a hazard because of the rough. And the second cut continues to strip the place of a certain elegance in spots that one tight cut would deliver.

—Sub-Air is overrated.
Everyone has that initial demo in mind from several years ago when a large puddle was sucked out of a green as cameras roll. The Sub-Air does a nice job at Augusta National of getting air to the roots, while the installation of a heating and cooling under the greens also plays a big part in the healthy greens there.

--The setup was balanced, interesting and more consistent. The committee seemed to have a better balance of fun and difficulty each day, or just a few inches of speed reduction in the greens helped. But instead of their recent tendency to set things up tough for the first three days, only to make Sunday the birdiefest day, they seemed to not be trying too hard to make the early rounds excessive. According to Doug Ferguson, Sunday's final round, produced the lowest scoring average (70.91) of any round in the history of the Masters. No wonder Phil was displeased with himself for not posting a few more roar-inducing birdies.

So what does all of this mean?

The wisest, most imaginative player still won last week. Spieth and caddie Greller analyzed the course, built a local knowledge base in just two years and his tying of the record is not to be shrugged off just because of the soft conditions.

However, Augusta National has lost a little sizzle due to the love of emerald green and the push to keep the course up with the times. A little leaner course would restore some integrity by not so heavily rewarding the players who seek to merely overpower it. We want to see the bombers rewarded, but we also want to see them kept honest. If the ball is running into the trees or down lake banks or even just into positions less advantageous, Augusta National would be even more interesting and demanding.

Oh, and the second cut and trees planted on holes 7, 11, 3, 15 and 17 still need to go.

Bollards! No More Wrong Turns Down Magnolia Lane

John Boyette with resounding evidence that any plots to make a wrong turn down Magnolia Lane may be foiled by the installation of bollards, those terrorist (and tourist) stopping posts.

The installation was hidden from view even though the entrance sits on busy Washington Road.

A large, green screen was put up at the entrance while the work was completed.

The installation is just the latest upgrade Augusta National has made to club security in recent years, which has included enhancements at all of the major entrances and new routes for pedestrians and vehicles.

Last month a South Dakota couple was banned from club grounds after an attempted trespassing. The report from the Chronicle.

A First Look Around Augusta National

It's pouring, so I neglected to get into how dry and immaculate the course appears (Nick Masuda on the 10 am closure).

Instead, reports of shredding and other dire descriptions (Jim McCabe talked to past champs Sunday) had me expecting the worst when taking a Monday morning tour of Augusta National. It turns out that yes, a lot of trees suffered damage but in general, the place still looks beautiful and dare I say the damage did some good on  the 7th and 17th holes?

I did.

Here's the full report (including flora and fauna), with images of the 17th and the 12th.