Solid Masters Ratings

Up 1% despite Easter Sunday. Just what the committee needs...encouragement that people enjoyed that kind of golf... 


CBS Sports’ coverage of the 2007 Mastersâ on Easter Sunday, April 8, in which Zach Johnson won an improbable green jacket, earned an average overnight household rating/share of 9.1/21 in the metered markets.  This year’s final-round rating/share was up 1% from last year’s 9.0/19 when Phil Mickelson won his second Masters title.  It was also was up 25% from the last time the final round was played on Easter Sunday in 2004 (7.3/18), when Mickelson won his first green jacket and first career major title.

CBS Sports’ final-round coverage of the Masters peaked with a rating/share of 11.2/24 from 6:00-6:30 PM, ET.

This year’s final-round coverage of the Masters was higher rated than any of the other final rounds of golf’s majors in 2006: +82% higher than the 2006 British Open final round (5.0/14); +78% higher than the 2006 U.S. Open final round (5.1/12); and +26% higher than the 2006 PGA Championship final round (7.2/16).

CBS Sports’ coverage of the 2007 Masters on Saturday, April 7 earned an overnight metered market rating/share of 6.1/13, up 20% from last year’s Saturday third-round coverage which earned a  5.1/11.

This year’s 6.1/13 rating for third-round coverage of the Masters is the highest overnight metered market rating/share since a 6.2/14 in 2003.

"The course was certainly as firm as most (British) Open venues"

I don't know what these guys watched, but the last four days, the fairways at Augusta didn't look that firm and fast to me.

The greens did, but not the fairways.

Anyway, Brian Hewitt at TheGolfChannel seems to be reaching with this one:

It’s my contention Jones and MacKenzie gleefully would have told the second-guessers that this 71st Masters played much more like an Open Championship than a U.S. Open.
This notion began incubating in my brain early in the week when defending champion Phil Mickelson came off the course and explained the difficulty of the green complexes and their putting surfaces. It’s not so much reading the break that’s hard, Mickelson said. It’s figuring out exactly where the ball is going to stop rolling.
This, of course, is exactly what links golf is all about. And the more of this Masters I watched, the more I became transfixed by the troubles the best players in the world were having getting their golf balls to stop where they wanted them to stop on and around the greens.

"The course was certainly as firm as most (British) Open venues," Doak informed me. "Some people think it's impossible to keep it that firm and have it green, too. But it is possible if you have enough money to hand-water the dry spots. And Augusta certainly has the resources to follow through.

Well, I suppose if you think some British Open venues of late have been way too soft and green, yes! 

ANGC's (Lack of) Tee Flexibility

apr8_johnsonmain_372x400.jpgAs appalling as the rough or tree planting plays in light of Bobby Jones's eloquently stated design philosophy, it appeared Sunday that the lack of tee flexibility hindered the committee's ability to make a few holes more vulnerable.

Every time there was a wide view of a tee shot, it seemed the markers were placed as far forward as possible. On holes playing into the wind where you want to tempt players to attack (13, 15), there was no alternate tee between the back and forward tees that might have forced led to some more aggressive golf. (And therefore, perhaps more drama?)

Also knowing that Jones and MacKenzie were hoping to import elements of links golf to their inland site, tee flexibility would be seemingly vital to preventing what Jones lamented:

…with our own best courses in America I have found that most of our courses, especially those inland, may be played correctly the same way round after round. The holes really are laid out scientifically; visibility is stressed; you can see what you have to do virtually all the time; and when once you learn how to do it, you can go right ahead, the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.

I've never understood the club's obsession with the "clean" look of two sets of tees along with the odd decision to bulldoze the old tees when extending the course.

Add it to the list of architectural oddities that has the place just not playing as well as it should.

Final Round Masters Clippings Vol. 1


Zach Johnson, Masters Champion. Nothing against Zach, but let's face it, another freakish setup produced a surprise winner. Albeit one who held up beautifully under the pressure, but nonetheless, not someone who you sensed was one of the world's elite.

Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian:

The stunning climax came after three days peppered with double bogeys and broken spirits. Fortunately, the gentlemen in green blazers remembered their tournament has earned its place in folklore because it has long been a byword for excitement. But there are precious few thrills to be mined from the sight of the world's best players fearfully plotting their way round the course as if walking to their own funeral party.

So when play began yesterday morning it quickly became clear everything possible had been done to bring the scoring down. Tees had been pushed forward, the greens had been heavily watered and the pin positions were about as friendly as a Labrador puppy. The overnight changes had the desired effect. For the first time all week cheers echoed along the alleyways and canyons of Alister Mackenzie's classic links.

Ron Sirak is trying way too hard to win one of those Masters lifetime achievement writing things they gave out Wednesday:

Going into Sunday, there was real doubt among many that perhaps something of the Masters magic had been lost by the way the course had been renovated. But let the record also show that almost all of the players were fine with the way the course played -- calling it severe but fair, challenging but not tricked up. The patrons, adjusting to the scarcity of eagles and birdies, were probably the ones who needed the most convincing, but even they were finally won over by a Sunday that, while lacking a Tiger victory, was both inspiring and well played.
Let's see what the people at Nielsen say.

Doug Ferguson on Zach Johnson. Here's Johnson's post round press conference.

Lorne Rubenstein says that the more tricked up the course gets, the easier it is for a clever strategist and great putter like Zach Johnson to win.

The hole stats are here. Final tally for the week was 75.884.

The final round hole stats are here. The average for Sunday was 74.331.

The driving distance numbers are here.

The eagle summary is here (18, 10 Sunday).

The birdie summary is here.

The putting summary is here.

Driving accuracy is here.

Okay on to the columns. Martin Johnson in the Telegraph:

You'd be hard pressed to find a whiter set of teeth anywhere in sport, but when Tiger Woods starts to breathe on the rest of the field in a major championship, the effect is usually like a blast of halitosis. Terrible choking noises and dead bodies everywhere.

It's certainly been nippy in Augusta this weekend, but Royal Dornoch in January it is not. In any event, if it's cold, why don't these players wear woolly hats like the rest of us?

The answer to that one, of course, is that they're all paid ludicrous amounts of money to wear caps and visors with sponsored logos, so much so that there are some players on tour you'd never recognise with a bare head. You can just imagine the vicar at Woods' wedding. "Excuse me, Mr Woods, but before you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, would you mind removing your Nike hat?"

But there's no denying that the severity of the course this year has altered the character of the tournament. There has not been such a funereal silence around Amen Corner since Greg Norman's final-round implosion in 1996, when the Great White Shark turned into a rollmop herring, and all you could hear was the splash of another of Greg's golf balls plunging into Rae's Creek. The severity of the course this year is such that when Tim Clark, joint leader on Saturday morning, went round in 80, he still found himself no worse than four strokes off the lead.

There have been suggestions that the Masters is turning into the US Open, head down, grind it out, and try to keep a triple bogey off your card.
Ken Carpenter calls it the worst Masters ever and calls it a boring week of "generally awful" golf.

Art Spander said Sunday was "exciting and fascinating."  

AP's Jim Litke had this on Tiger: 
"It was difficult, very difficult," Woods said. "It was the hardest Masters I've ever seen, with the wind, the dryness, the speed of these things. I told a couple guys out here this week, 'I was glad I had metal spikes on, or I would have slipped on the greens, they were so slick.'"

Woods exited the clubhouse soon after, surrounded by his agent and four security guards, sipping a diet soda and carrying a new driver under his arm. He headed for the driving range and so strong is the legend that's grown up around Woods that a few people following him actually thought he was going to practice.

Instead, he used a back entrance to the players' parking lot, started up the car and drove down Magnolia Lane. There would be no more golf this day. This Masters was over, and with it went a piece of Tiger's aura of invincibility.

Gary Van Sickle says Tiger looked mortal Sunday. 

Frank Hannigan shares some thoughts on CBS's Masters approach.

Mick Elliott says the U.S. Open-like antics have turned the Masters into divine comedy.

Dave Seanor believes that Augusta needs to build mounds to help spectators and that they can bulldoze them after each tournament. He makes up for that nutty post with this on the same blog:

Phil Mickelson, who just opened Round 4 with a triple-bogey 7, was spotted working with Butch Harmon on the range at Doral and Tucson.

Bumping into Harmon in the Augusta National pro shop, I posed the question: When are you going full time with Phil?

"I don't know what you're talking about," Butch said, turning his back to me. "I'll let you know when I find out."

Sounded cryptic enough for Rick Smith to be concerned.

Tiger's Post Final Round Press Conference

Looks like they couldn't get him in the media center, so a lot of questions didn't get asked in the scrum:

Q. Were the scoring conditions a little bit better today?

TIGER WOODS: They were, definitely. The pin locations were a little bit softer. They didn't quite -- they were probably one or two steps from where they normally are. So they gave us a break, which was nice. And gave us a chance to go out there and score.

And 69 was low.

Q. Does it make it even more disappointing to not get a couple more --

TIGER WOODS: It still wasn't easy. Look at the scores out there today. I'm sure there weren't a whole lot of rounds under par today again.

I had a chance, but looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That's 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can't afford to do that and win Major championships.

Oy vey:

Q. How hard is it to win that second Major. What's it going to take for Zach to maybe step up and win that second one?

TIGER WOODS: Well, just keep giving yourself chances. That's the thing. The more chances you give yourself the more likelihood you're going to end up winning tournaments. Just like any other regular tournament event or Major. The more times you're up there, the more you learn from the experiences, but also the more chances you gave yourself to win.

And it was fair...

Q. The Masters generally is a bunch of birdies on the back nine, this definitely wasn't that today. Would you like it like this or would you like to see a lot more birdies on the back nine?

TIGER WOODS: Whatever it is, I don't care, as long as I come out on top. But this golf course the way it's playing right now, as dry and as fast as it is, it was a fair test. That's the thing. Granted, it was extremely difficult, but at least it was fair.

Final Round Masters Live Blog

masterslogo.gifWell, how do you follow that 1960 Masters. Aw, something's bound to happen! Here we go. Big cheesy opening. Ugh, just play the theme and let's see some golf!

11:34 - Nantz says the weather has improved. It's only feeling like it's 48 degrees. He says more birdies on the way. We come on and Tiger's on #1? Don't we usually get the leaders teeing off?  Tiger misses par putt and has a long one for bogey that he makes. Appleby doubles No. 1. What a start. Three way tie: Woods, Appleby and uh, Sabbatini!

11:36 - Tiger hooks it on two with a 3-wood and may be in the creek. Goosen holes out to join the lead at +4! The yellow flag is out!

11:37 - Six way tie for the lead wait, no, Zach Johnson birdies 3, Vaughn Taylor birdies 2. Zach up by one.

11:42 - We're seeing highlights of Phils triple bogey on 1. What's with the Yanni music? We don't get enough the rest of the year? 

11:47 - Nantz: "there's the Dredge Report." Oy. 

11:49 - Did Stuart Appleby sleep in that black Masters sweater? The nappy hair would give that impression. 

11:56 - Cool CBS stat: Avg. last 5 years/2007: Bogeys Per round 3.88/4.87; Birdies per round 2.71/2.16, Total eagles 20.2/8, Total rounds under par 68.6/22, Total rounds in the sixties 21.2/5 

11:57 - Faldo notes that they put "a lot of water on the greens overnight." 

12:02 - Nantz notes that Vijay has a chance to get in early and watch everyone deal with the pressure of being around the lead. Reader David points out that not since Jack in 86 has someone with a chance finished well ahead of the leaders.

12:09 - Joe Ford superimposed over No. 13 to tell us about limited commercial interruption. And now time for the ads. AT&T wheeling out the children and IBM with their spots filmed at ANGC. Good, I didn't have tissue ready for the Phil and my wife Amy ad. 

12:12 - Nantz says it's feeling more normal. Is he referring to the fact they may play under 4:30 today?  Kostis chimes in with "is this any fun?" No, not yet.

12:14 - Vijay pars 10 to stay -2, maintaining his "charge."

12:15 - Luke Donald holes out on 8 for eagle and is within one of the lead held by Tiger. Deserves to win for being the best dressed today. As opposed to say, Retief Goosen in the royal blue NASCAR outfit and now tied for the lead. Figures. Didn't he win another of these freakish Fred Ridley run setups?

12:24 - Rory Sabbatini eagles 8, takes lead. A roar, finally!  Oh let's pray...Mrs. Amy Sabbatini having dinner with Billy Payne tonight. Oh to be a fly on the wall.

12:27 - Luke Donald throwing up all over No. 9, finishes with triple from the middle of the fairway. But hey, he looks good in his Polo doing it!

12:32 - If Rory Sabbatini wins does Nick Faldo get to be there for the ceremony? After all, they are good friends. 

12:37 - Goosen goes to -4 on the day, +2 for the event, tied with Sabbatini for about a minute until Rory's bogey on 9. Uh, when do we get someone on this board we want to root for?

12:46 - Goosen sticks it on No. 9. But misses the birdie putt. CBS reminds us he's finished T-3 the last two years.  

12:58 - Classy Byron Nelson segment remembering one of the greats. A few seconds of black screen would have been nice before the lame AT&T ad. 

1:03 - Appleby drives it in the fairway bunker on 8, drops some f-bombs within range of CBS mikes.  Tiger pulls out three-wood and Oosty expresses surprise.  The lays up short left of No. 8. Wow. With all that real estate right. He just seems out of rhythm. Imagine that, he's human after all!

1:08 - Was Faldo trying not to laugh when Nantz asked him what the message was he sent Goosen in 2001 at Southern Hills?  Well, I can't remember what I ate for breakfast so... 

1:12 - Tiger's massive loogey barely escapes his mouth on 8, misses cup again though. So he's got that going for him. 

1:18 - Jerry Kelly eagles 13. Fourth of the day according to Kostis. Crowd erupts in light applause. 

1:23 - Tiger buries club in ground on 9. Gets a 9.3 for technique from this judge.  Did stick the landing though.

1:29 - Retief changes from 7 to 8 on No. 12, plays it beautifully to center of the green. 

1:36 - Tiger smiles and laughs sarcastically after approach to 10. Just one of those days laugh. Oh but Retief three putts 12 while Sabbatini two putts for bird on 13 to take the lead.  

1:44 - Wow, Goosen lays up on 13. Kostis makes great point that he botched it a few years ago and that might have played into this unusual decision. Tape truck guys are probably scrambling to dig up that footage.

1:46 - Jerry Kelly misses eagle putt that would have vaulted him into second, Augusta members still squirming. 

1:50 - Sabbatini just in front of 14 green, chips way over. What was that?  

1:52 - Tiger drives it where there used to be fairway on 11, breaks club around trees. Editors in New York all begging their photographer was there. Let's hope he didn't use the club he might hit on 12.

1:56 - 74.46 scoring average at this point in the round.  

1:57 - Zach Johnson from 213 on 13: lay up. Wow. Makes Chip Beck look aggressive. 

1:59 - Sabbatini lays up on 15. Was he only 213 too? Or was Feherty referring to Zach Johnson? 

2:04 - Appleby in Rae's Creek. Tiger an easy 7 to the center of the green. 

2:06 - Zach Johnson's lay up pays off. Kostis says it was a wise move because the lie/situation didn't suit his swing. Looks like he's right, with birdie and lead. Goose and Sabbatini one back, Tiger 2 back.

2:11 - Reader Bill from Hartford just sent this thought in: "I just realized that Augusta is playing at a par 72 against the par 70 Winged Foot has.  Watching these guys get punished for good shots by the ridiculous setup, I realized the course is playing 4-6 shots (over 4 rounds) harder then Winged Foot did.   At par 70 (think USGA labels), the winner might come in at 10 over."

2:20 - Kostis after Harrington's eagle on 13: "Once again, the Masters of old has returned." Well, let's not get carried away.

2:22 - Tiger sticks it on 13 after the ball stays atop the ridge for an eternity.  Zach lays up from 251 to the hole on 15. Tiger eagles 13, moves to within 2. Oh and they change the scoreboard on 15, did Zach back off because of the roar?

2:33 - Green numbers for over par on the scoreboards? Is that new? Or just unprecedented?

2:36 - Jerry Kelly is your leader in the clubhouse at 292.  Does he go sit in a cabin and wait? Oh, sorry.

2:44 - Did they zap Verne Lundquist when Zach made the putt on 16? That was some delayed I better act excited because that may be the one they play over and over again call. Johnson looks so composed and calm.

2:47 - Nantz: "Sabbatini delivers the roar" with his birdie on 18. Aren't the CBS guys trying a little too hard to tell us about these roars?  Did they remind us about the roars in 86?

2:49 - Ahhhhhhhh....the Phil and Amy math and science ad. I'm Phil Mickelson and I'm not ashamed to work for Exxon Mobil. Warms my heart every time. And I have it digitally record to relive over and over again.

2:51 - Close up of Tiger dropping loogey on 15. He needs to learn from Sergio about dropping them in nice clean pellets, not the whole drewling look.  

2:53 - Tiger tries to hit a big cut to work around the beautifully planted trees on 15. He can thank his design mentor Tom Fazio for that. And you can hear a pin drop at Augusta. Just think, a few years ago that's an open shot and he's probably hitting the green, putting at eagle.

2:58 - Johnson misses the par putt on 17, Rose is tight on 16...

2:59 - Retief only 133 coming into 18 but from the second cut and is unable to control it, taking birdie out of the equation. The second cut bites again.

3:00 - Kostis says Mickelson's critics will say he's still haunted by Winged Foot. Phil is speechless. Afternoon light really...oh I won't go there.

3:02 - Tiger salvages par on 15 to stay at +3.

3:05 - Justin Rose birdies 16 to get to +2 one back. Johnson looses it right on 18. Not Greg Norman right though. Good chance at up and down.

3:10 - +3 boys can pack up their lockers after Zach hits it tight. Man is he composed.

3:13 - Tiger does a semi-back off on 16th hole birdie putt, then just leaves it up high on the right. Still trails by 2. Rose 1 back in 15 fairway with wood in. The tree planting strikes again. 

3:15 - Rose is dead left of 17 green, chips through the green and is at least two back. He can thank Tom Fazio and Hootie Johnson. 

3:21 - Johnson interview with Bill Macattee. Jesus with him every step of the way. He's crying. Oh the Golf Gods may take note of that. And doing more interviews. If Tiger only knew.

3:26: "Honestly, what the hell just happened. It's dead downwind." -Tiger after hitting in the bunker on 17. Wow.

3:27 - Oosterhuis speculates that something isn't right, Tiger is under the weather. Allergies maybe acting up? 

3:28 - Oosty notes indifferent sand play and softer than usual sand this week. Tiger hits a nice shot, but not in. Zach Johnson has won...oh one more hole I know. It's just that we've been thinking it was only a matter of time before he won a major!

3:31 - Tiger dejected. CBS announcers moe dejected because they've gone so long without being able to point out all the roars like the days of yonder. 

3:39 - Tiger has 134 into 18, 9 iron, misses it right. Zach Johnson is your Masters Champion. Even Nantz had trouble sounding excited saying that! 

3:45 - Tiger and Appleby finish in 4:30, about 30 minutes longer than normal right? Nantz reports that this best's Zach's previous best finish in a major: 17th. 

3:46 - Nantz just adds Zach Johnson to the list of Keiser's, Ford's, Aaron's, Coody's and Mize's to win the Masters! What a compliment. Goose bumps thankfully came during the 1960 Masters rebroadcast.

3:48 - Uh, is that a loop of an eagle or a hawk squawking in the background? Sounds like one of the fake bird sound tapes got stuck. 

3:50 - Tiger said I had to hit a "miracle shot around that tree" on 15 and just hit a "crappy shot." 

3:52 - Zach starts thanking everyone, including trainers, teachers, sponsors, and my Lord and Jesus all my credit. Is this the Daytona 500? Did he just win Best Actor? 

3:54 - "I didn't go for one par-5 in two this week." 

3:57 - Where's Marty Hackel when you need him? Zach, take the vest off! 

3:59 - Reader Jimmy is right, where's the low amateur?? 

4:01 - Well as feared, the 1960 Masters rebroadcast was much more exciting. Break out the chainsaw Billy!

1960 Masters Re-broadcast Live Blog

Here goes, I've seen it once and I'm already excited again. With apologies to the international audience... 

10:33 - Goose bumps again hearing Jim McKay set the stage.

10:35 - Was Venturi injured or did he always walk like that?

10:36 - Remarkable how shallow the 18th green's rightside bunker was. And didn't Legend Films do a great job with the color of the grass? Not to fertilized. And how do they get each mower stripe!? Amazing.

10:40 - I was just about to say that these guys sure play fast, then there's Venturi standing over that 1 footer forever.

10:44 - Arnold Palmer has come into the view of our cameras.   

10:46 - Arnie misses the downhiller on 15, a little slower than today's green. Needs one birdie to tie Venturi. I like his chances. Oh and don't forget your cigarette Arnie. Thanks for pointing that out Jim McArthur! 

10:49 - Arnold leaves the flag in the hole on 16 and his birdie putt bounces out. Isn't that against the rules? ;) Readers!?

10:52 - How good does that back bunker on 16 look? Fringy edge, nice shape. Ugh. 

10:53 - Sheesh, Arnold let out enough smoke on 17 to be spotted by a weather satellite. But a nice second shot, great chance at birdie. I feel it!

11:00 - Palmer drains the birdie on 17, leaps in the air and Billy Casper taps in before the crowd settles down.  Tied with Venturi.

11:02 - McKay takes over from McArthur. He's unbelievable! Amazing how he sets the stage.

11:03 - Note how huge 18 tee was! Big, beautiful, fairway like tee. 

11:05 - Art Wall with Jim McKay. Wake up Art! Why aren't you playing this year Art? Oh, sorry, sore subject. 

11:07 - Arnold's walking over to the right. Casper stops to talk to him. What could they be talking about?? 

11:08 - Arnold almost holes the approach. The ball spins hard left by the cup! McKay goes wild. 4-5 feet for birdie.  

11:09 - Lacey edged bunkers on 18 don't look so bad, do they?

11:10 - McKay notes that Arnold's looking at the scoreboard. He knows where he stands. Great wide shot of the scene, thank you Frank Chirkinian.

11:11 - Casper goes first and misses the two-footer. Thanks Billy, great image there for Arnold. 

11:12 - Arnold backs off the putt. He hears McKay, who is near the green announcing! 

11:13 - Arnold Palmer birdies 18 and wins the 1960 Masters...again! Big smile for the cameras. "Very cooperative" says McKay! Still exciting after all these years.

11:14 - Do we get another Villages ad now with Arnold hugging Nancy Lopez? Worse, a Flomax ad.

11:15 - Sam Snead finishes +4 after chipping in on 18. And who is the young guy with him. Jack Nicklaus, "the current national amateur champion at the age of 20. A big boy and a long hitter who you're going to be hearing a lot about in the future" according to McKay.

11:16 - We go to Clifford Roberts cabin. Cliff looks like he just found out he's broke! Venturi looks horrified, so Bobby Jones is going to relive his disappoints at previous Masters. Thanks Bob!

11:18 - "With Arnold out there you can never trust him. Now I'll never trust him." -Venturi

11:19 - Arnold's as "happy as he's ever been in his life." And sorry it had to be Ken who finished second. 

11:20 - How amazing is all of the color detail on faces and hair?

11:22 - Arnold says Casper encouraged him to go and make a birdie in their conversation on 18.

11:23 - Arnold thought it was wise to leave the pin in on 16. Sheesh, stubborn until the end! 

11:28 - Wow, second time I've seen it and I still get choked up. Alright, time for the other final round! 

Sunday's Masters Clippings

masterslogo.gifWell isn't this going to be fun exciting something to see!

I am jealous of all the writers who might get to be there for the historic, first ever slow play-influenced Monday finish. Kamille Bostick reports on the chilly weather and the forecast for tomorrow. That first tee time is set for 9:35. According to, the temp at 9 am is supposed to be just 30 degrees. And the last group is going out 45 minutes earlier tomorrow, hope that's enough time!  Also note the Singh-Singh pairing.

For those of you participating as patrons, has posted a warning that gate openings may be delayed.

For you stat junkies, the course numbers for four rounds are here, and the round 3 tally came in at 77.305.

And note 8 eagles so far. The tournament all time low is 12.

Damon Hack's game story in the New York Times.

Thomas Bonk reports that Fuzzy called the place "a morgue" and Tommy dares to mention the possibility that the tepid pace of play could result in a Monday finish.

Matthew Rudy at GolfDigest puts Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio under the "winners" header for day 3, but I'm not sure if this is winning:

If you enjoy watching the game’s best perform at the highest level, golf was set back 50 years today. Actually, more like 80—the leading score after three rounds, 2-over, was the highest in the history of the tournament, and they've been playing golf in these parts since 1934. Second-round leader Tim Clark shot 80 and was still on the first page of the leaderboard. If you like watching players get embarrassed, it was probably a two-bags-of-chips day. Stuart Appleby said after his round that it was pure luck if you picked the right club for your approach shot. That’s just what you want to hear at the pinnacle of the sport, right? Since that randomness clearly seems to be the case, why not just have the guys shoot dice in the locker room for the trophy and save us the trouble of having to watch? Paper, rock, scissors, maybe. Tiger’s probably good at that too, though.

Paul Forsyth in the Sunday Times shares this from Henrik Stenson:

“They are trying to make it harder every year,” he said. “I have only been here twice, but they seem to be taking out the good slopes, the ones that can help the players, and putting more awkward ones in. It is on the edge of being ridiculous, if it’s not ridiculous already.”

That's our Faz!

AP's Tim Dahlberg says:

Believe it or not, they actually moved some tees up and watered the greens in a last-minute but ultimately futile effort not to make things any more embarrassing than they already were.

They held a Masters, and a U.S. Open broke out.

"It was like trying to land a golf ball on your driveway, but your driveway has mounds on them and they stick the pin near the mounds," Rich Beem said.

John Eisenberg in the Baltimore Sun isn't a fan of the new look either.

Tod Leonard explains the rules infraction that Phil Mickelson was accused of by a TV viewer. Competition committee head Fred Ridley cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Leonard notes that Ridley "was not made available for comment."

Hey, it's only the defending champion we're talking about. Why would you have to comment on that? Though somehow I think Will Nicholson would gladly have answered questions on this topic or any other. Could it be that Ridley did not want to answer questions about the course setup? The USGA jet?

An unbylined Scotland On Sunday commentary blasts the "mundane slog" that the Masters has become.

Jose Ramone on Sandy Lyle's 5 putt.

Finally, Tom English reports the breaking news that Tom Watson feels Tiger is the best golfer of all time. You know these Stanford types, always biased.

Appleby's Third Round Press Conference

Someone likes the setup:

 Q. We had gasps in this room today as we were watching what this course is doing; how would you characterize what the course is doing to the best golfers in the world?

STUART APPLEBY: Well, it's set up right on the safe limit of tournament play. The officials here really know where the pins need to be, they know what the winds are; they are not doing anything silly.

The only really difficult hole from a sense of being too difficult was 14 yesterday, was just impossible to find a shot in your bag. But today, you knew where the danger was, you knew where you needed to play. The greens were consistent. That's what is so good about this place, it just -- it's not funky by any means. It's just a real, real test.

It's a joy to play, finally, I know what I'm doing here, but the whole factor is actually doing it is another game again?

Tiger's Third Round Press Conference

I think this is a vital point not about the setup, but the removal of width. Tiger Woods after round 3:

TIGER WOODS: It was a tough day with the wind gusts. You hit quality shots and just get absolutely hosed. That's just the way it is here. Hopefully you get committed to hit the proper shot and get lucky at the same time with the wind.

Does anyone else get the sense watching in the strong winds today that if the original width was in place, that players could attack tee shots and hole locations a bit more with the freedom to place the ball in more exotic locales? 

I don't think that would entirely offset the point Woods is making, but it sure seems the original width would have helped in today's winds. 

The new tee construction, which has traditionally included the removal of the old tee, has also eliminated flexiblity for the committee in conditions like today. Not that they would probably use it if offered... 

Howell's Third Round Press Conference

Augusta native Charles Howell:

Q. Regarding the rough.

CHARLES HOWELL, III: The rough actually kind of helps keep the ball in play, so I don't mind it. I just felt that par was a helluva score today. You know the tapes we have all seen of guys shooting 30 on the back nine? I don't think you're going to see that tape this year. I wish the par-5 on 13 and 15 were playing differently. It would make it more exciting, but they are playing straight into the wind.

Mickelson On Saturday's Conditions

At +6, suddenly very much in it... 

Q. The conditions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Tough as I've seen. It wasn't as hard as it could have been because they put water on the greens. Think it's not impossible. I will try to gather a game plan tonight. It's tough to be aggressive at all with these conditions. You have to be patient. It was a fair challenge.
As tough as it is, I didn't think it was unfair by any means. It's a challenge to make pars. You have to fight on every hole to make par here.

I don't feel like it's unrealistic, I've seen people come from seven shots back. It was a very good round for me. I played pretty well and fought hard to make a lot of pars. Obviously I needed to shoot under par to really put myself in contention. I fought hard enough to where at least I have a chance. I was looking at the leaderboard to get a game plan and what I have to do tomorrow. Only two people are under par. Tomorrow, I feel like I have to shoot in the 60s to have a chance. I think I have to make 14 pars and four birdies. That's kind of the game plan.

There are four birdie holes, but you are limited on those birdie chances. Certainly I need to get closer to even, but over par will win the tournament.

Masters Saturday Live Blog

masterslogo.gif12:30 - Here we go, CBS is on the air and Phil Mickelson is making a move according to Jim Nantz. He's even par! Wow, who would have thought level would constitute moving up the board at Augusta.

12:38: We see Mickelson hitting into 13 from 220. What's with the cart trails all over the fairway?

12:39 - The Butler Cabin fireplace is looking better each day! Someone's been scrubbing since Thursday when it was noted here that the mantle was a tad seared.

12:46 - Wetterich nearly chips in from behind No. 3 green and now it's headed down the hill in front of the green. Oh this is going to get ugly.

1:00 - Just to give an idea how brutal the wind is: the par-5 8th hole is averaging over par and it's the third easiest hole!

1:11 - Was there a cart race out there this morning? Every fairway has cart tire streaks on every hole?

1:12 - Tiger looks steady over the 7 footers, making his second in a row before heading to 12 tee. So what time is he leading this by?

1:19 - As tough as things look, someone at notes that Nick Seitz has written about an even tougher Masters day when no one broke par.

1:20 - Stenson eagles 13, lifts his arms up sarcastically and Peter Kostis says it's the first eagle there since Thursday morning.

1:22 - Tiger bogies 12, which, frankly, looks like a good score in this wind. Then drops a big loogey on the green. But hey it's not in the cup!

1:25 - The 3rd round scoring average is now at 77.05!

1:29 - Ah fun. Tiger's trying to decide whether to go for 13 in two. Stevie is shaking his head. Kostis says 248 to the hole, 213 to the front. The lie looks awful. It's into the wind. He's laying up. Wonder if he goes for it with short grass under his ball? Ouch, the layup goes right at the patrons.

Kostis says something really, really good: "There used to be a bunch of different ways to route your ball around this golf course and I would say 20 or 30% are gone now due to the second cut and the trees that have been planted. And this is one of those situations."

1:35 - Tiger sticks wedge on 13. Kostis says "how good is that?" Scary good on that downhill lie. I say he's leading by 5:04 EST.

1:40 - The wind chill is up to 47 degrees! Fun!

1:55 - Mickelson nearly holes his approach on 18 but +6 is pretty far far!

2:10 - Jerry Kelly moves to even par, as Tiger stalks his super long eagle putt on 15. And yes, I'm awake again.

2:14 - Phil says some water was put on the greens, helping out early in the round. "It's tough to be aggressive today." And he says he "knows" the winning score will be over par.

2:20 - Appleby lays up on 13 after waiting for the leaf blower gang to clean up No. 13. Kostis says it's getting really cold, but Jerry Kelly's still in short sleeves.

2:22 - Just looking at the tee times and it looks like the rounds are taking about 4:40. Hey but the scoring average is down below 77 again!

2:25 - Appleby hits a beautiful little low burning wedge into 13 that gets up to the top tier, then rolls back, only reminding us how amazing Tiger's shot was.

2:29 - Jerry Kelly putts just off 10 green, but at least the wind is dying down. He three putts to go to even par, so now it's just Appleby under par.

2:34 - Justin Rose birdies 12 to go -1 on Amen Corner for the week. All pars to this point.

2:35 - Tiger tries a wacky cut out of the trees on 17 and as Faldo notes, why because he leaves himself on the "top side" of that green. Faldo says it looks like one of Seve's old finishes when he knew he'd hit it left.

2:40 - Tiger stares at his bunker shot for an eternity on 17, finally hits. Are the bunkers furrowed? Some of those rake lines look seriously wide. He falls to +2 and some of his mid-round momentum seems lost.

2:42 - Vijay knocks it in the water on 12. Well, at least he can smell the flowers from 12 green to 13 tee.

2:44 - CBS shows Geoff Ogilvy's eagle on 13. Interestingly, according to the scoreboard, he's through 14 holes now, and has teed off on 15. A little behind! 

2:49 - Ogilvy dumps two in the water on 15. Damn.  I almost wonder if today's hole is impossible to get close to with any shot there? Oh wait, Appleby hits an incredible shot to within 10 feet from the left side of the fairway.

2:52 - Wow, Tiger flubs his approach to 18 from 154 yards. Perhaps even he is human and worn out by the grueling conditions? Na, the wind is back. He does not get up and down, finishes +3, still in great position.

3:02 - Tiger is interviewed by Bill Macatee. Not in a good mood.  

3:09 - With the final group on pace for a round just under 5 hours, will CBS stay on until the completion of play? I still don't understand why they sent them off at 3 based on the pace the first two days as well as the forecast. 

3:16 - Rose lays up on 15 with a hybrid. The half full grandstand patrons are rivetted! Seriously, where have all the fans gone?

3:24 - Appleby is in the front bunker on 7...for his 17th hole tee shot. Wow. You could see it hit the face of that super steep bunker. And did he hurt his wrist? Or is it just so bloody cold that it hurts that much. Option 2.

3:28 - Justin Rose birdies 15 to go to +1.  

3:29 - Vijay's shielding the wind with his umbrella. Tiger's in his wind pants according to Nantz. Oh joy! 

3:30 - Verne Lundquist says it's suddenly become calm on 16 for the first time today. Is that in reference to the two empty grandstands?  Wow, never seen that on a Saturday.

3:32: Appleby triples 17. We get one of our rare worm cam shots. Sheesh those greens are wickedly fast. He moves to +2 and Justin Rose is your new leader. Oh and CBS says the highest 54-hole score ever was even par by Nicklaus and Jacobs in 1966.  

3:39 - And now Vaughn Taylor is leading. Oh yeah, CBS has to stay on until the completion of play!  Zach Johnson nails a difficult downhill slider on 15 for birdie, while Vijay salvages what could have been a disaster to stay at +5!  And they all are having so much fun!

3:51 - I've given up trying to track the antics on 17. It's clear that the green remains the hole's greatest defense and the trees need to go.  

4:13 - Yes, I've officially lost interest. Need to regroup over a hot meal because it's very cold here in Santa Monica today. Didn't reach 65! Ugh. Until tomorrow... 

A Few More Saturday Masters Clippings**

masterslogo.gifThanks to reader Tim for Thomas Boswell's rant about the lack of theatrics, which included this quote from Tiger that I didn't see anywhere else**:

Be aggressive? Here? On this golf course? Not in these conditions," Tiger Woods said Friday after his 73-74 -- 147 total left him just five shots behind co-leaders Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark at a humble, uninspiring 2 under par. "No, you just plod along. Try to put the ball in the right spot if you can. If you can't, somehow just don't have any wrecks out there."
Scott Michaux says we need to see another 36-holes before writing this off as a new look-U.S. Open style event. Oh I don't know Scott. The weather forecast was lousy for the weekend starting about Tuesday. The first 36 probably should have been a touch kinder with that forecast looming. They might have also played in 5 hours instead of 5:30!


Henrik Stenson is not a fan based on these comments as reported by Herb Gould in the Chicago Sun-Times (thanks to Hawkeye for spotting them).

'The course is ridiculous,'' he told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. ''It feels like I'm walking around for five hours and someone is whipping me on the back. The only way to have fun on Augusta National is to play with your buddies and have a few beers.''

1875843_200.jpgAnd David Westin takes us inside the clubhouse for a tour of the club's amazing memorabilia collection.

Saturday's Masters Clippings

masterslogo.gifWhat's great about day like Friday at Augusta? It separates the men from the boys.

I'm talking about the writers.

It's fun to see who really appreciates the nuance and quality of golf versus those who seem to merely enjoy watching players struggle.

But before that discussion, let's get the meat and potatoes stuff out of the way.  

Joe Saraceno pens a nice USA Today column on Brett Wetterich. While Reuters' Mark Lamport Stokes writes about the other gent in the final pairing, Tim Clark.

By the way, the last pairing goes off at 3. Think the twosomes can play 90 minutes faster tomorrow and finish by 7 EST? Especially with this weather forecast.

Scott Michaux talks to Dr. Ed Bailey who has been to every Masters and was on 17 when Gene Sarazen hit the shot heard round the world. He turned to see the reaction of Sarazen over on 15. Of course today, his view would be blocked out by the recently planted pines.

Lawrence Donegan has the best line of the day in his Guardian lede:  "As sporting drama goes, this was a bit like Laurence Olivier being acted off the stage by the grave diggers." And:

There is no disguising the fact that radical changes to Augusta in recent times, coupled with the bone hard conditions of this week, have turned Alister Mackenzie's ageless masterpiece into a brute . Some, like Woods, used diplomatic language when asked for their opinions ("It's a totally different course...[with ] about 500 extra yards, a billion trees and rough ")

James Corrigan featured this epic quote from Lee Westwood:

"Do I like this place? Not really, not any more," said the Englishman, who had just been desperately trying to make up for his first-round 79. "It just asks too many questions that there are no answers to. It used to be a shotmaker's course but now I don't think it is. When it was shorter, more of us would have had an answer, but now there are only six or seven people in the field that can win. It's not the type of golf I want to play." play."

Unfortunately that kind of "attitude" sets off some writers, and Golf Digest's Ron Sirak represents the "they all have to play it" set with this head scratcher.

The thing to remember about Augusta National is that they can make this golf course really difficult without tricking it up. First off, it is an architectural masterpiece -- no matter what you think of the renovations over the past five years. The fairways are seductively wide and the greens are misleading large. The fact is there is only about a third of the fairway on each hole you want to use, and only about a quarter of each green. As Nick Faldo said back when he was winning three green jackets, "There is a route around this place. You just have to find it and follow it."

Uhm, but the see that's the problem. That was true back when Faldo was winning those jackets. The routes have since been closed off with trees and rough.

The point is this: No matter what the conditions, quit whining and adapt to them. Everyone is playing the same course. What could be more fair than that?

Well, everyone had to sit through the same Oscar ceremony to find out who won. That didn't make it a good show.philD2_06_600x600.jpg

And I know I'm not supposed to pick on my elders, but Furman Bisher files one of those pieces that I'm sad to say reminds you that he never had to play skilled golf in front of millions on a tricked-up course:

These are changing times at Augusta National, beyond the invigorated presence of Billy Payne. The man who sets up the course is straight out of the USGA mold. Fred Ridley, former U.S. amateur champion, former USGA president, is in his first year as chairman of the Competition Committee, previously occupied by Will Nicholson, who retired. This is Ridley’s first show, and maybe it’s a spinoff of the old USGA policy: “Give ‘em hell.”

It’s OK with the rest of us. Not that we like to see grown men suffer, but it does endear these old acres to us to see them sweat and cuss, and come off the course looking as if they have just seen a UFO.

Yeah, real enduring.

I missed Chip Alexander in the News Observer talking to Tom Fazio yesterday:

Golf architect Tom Fazio, who oversaw the redesign of the course, noted there has been no rain this week -- a rarity the past 10 years, when there often have been storms and rain delays. Augusta National, he said, again was the golf test that Masters founder Bobby Jones intended it to be, with a premium on ball placement off the tee, wise club selection and sound course management.

"Everyone certainly was hoping to see it this way," Fazio said. "It's like a new golf course, because of the speed.

"It's a major. It's a major major."


Thanks to reader Graeme for this Robert Lusetich piece in The Australian, which sums up the plight at hand:

For veterans of this rite of the northern spring, yesterday was different because it lacked the echoing roars of the galleries celebrating birdies.

"Strangely quiet," said Howell.

Whether they return will be in the hands of the ultimate authority here, first-year Masters chairman Billy Payne, who has to decide what kind of history he wants to make.

Also critical, Erik Barzewski at The Sand Trap and Pete McDaniel at And I suspect more to come if the setup does not try to accomodate interesting, fun and exciting golf.

Meanwhile Lorne Rubenstein gets more specific and criticizes the 15th hole's lack of drama.

Much of the confusion is gone because the hole was lengthened last year to 530 yards from 500. Too many players lay up now, which accounts for the much quieter environment among spectators in the area. They, and the golfers, used to hold their collective breath while a ball was in the air. What was its fate? The hole has almost turned into a par-3 because the tee shot and the lay-up have become routine. The third shot matters the most now, not the second.