Billy Payne's 2010 Masters press conference Wednesday included some lively questions from the scribes, but it was the unprompted opening remarks on Tiger that'll be stealing the headlines:
Finally, we are not unaware of the significance of this week to a very special player, Tiger Woods. A man who in a brief 13 years clearly and emphatically proclaimed and proved his game to be worthy of the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. As he ascended in our rankings of the world's great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort.
But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.
Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.
Oh I don't know, I'd take his swing instead of a smile. And if you throw in his putting stroke, he can spit on me!
I hope he can come to understand that life's greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people. We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us, who believe in second chances.
Well on that note, anyone have questions?
Q. With regard to the new grooves rule, do you think it will make the rough here come into play more than it ever had before and how much so do you think it will?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: You know, I think it's hard to answer that question before we've seen an actual tournament conducted here. I really don't know. I don't know enough about the subject to -- Fred, do you want to add to that?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, the purpose of the grooves, like many rules changes in recent years has been to assure to the greatest extent possible that skill is what determines the outcome of the shot.
But as the Chairman has said, we are just going to see how it plays out this week.
Whew, the things you learn from these men!
Q. I've read in several places some former champions and players who are involved in golf course design mention how the course seems to be moving back a little bit to restore some of the old shot values that had been around maybe with some fairway widths or some tree changes or some tee movement. What have you all done, and what are you all planning to do maybe in the coming years?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Good question. Certainly, there was an effort, successful effort, I think during the tenure of my predecessor to restore a lot of the shot values that had become obsolete with the equipment and the ball in the early 2000s and late 1990s. I think those have been accomplished quite adequately.
I don't the former champions felt that way...anyway, go on...
I think although every Chairman thinks he has to make a few changes to kind of make it his own, the truth is we think the golf course is good right now, and I don't think there is a plan, a further plan, with some stabilization now of distances for us to adopt the golf course any differently than it is today.
The golf course is right where we want, until we dig it up June 1.
Q. Clearly responsibility and role models and doing the right thing is a big part of your life, there's no doubt about that, even with the Atlanta Olympics that you ran, especially regarding women; the women's Olympics with many of the sports that started and grew and had a terrific run in Atlanta. With that in mind, what, if any, responsibility does Augusta National have to reach out and open its arms to women in any way, shape or form in the game of golf?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, we don't -- the tens of millions of dollars we have contributed to the growth of the game through the years, I think has certainly helped with both men's and women's golf. I think the rest of that may be a membership kind of issue, Christine. As you know, those are subject to the private deliberations of the Members.
I'm shocked to see the name Christine in there!
Q. Just wondering about the timing of Woods' press conference Monday at two. Did you set that time or did he ask for that time or was it a mutual consent?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I think mutual. Craig?
CRAIG HEATLEY: Yes. We'll take three more questions.
Thanks for elaborating Craig!
Here's the video for those of you who haven't seen Payne deliver the prepared comments. Wow, tough tone!