Chairman Payne Doesn't Rule Out Some Big Course Changes

Unusually frank and in fine spirits despite a recovering back, Chairman Billy Payne even laughed after his own slip up dropping a "toonamint" on the assembled scibblers.

I was pretty interested in his remarks about the 13th hole possibilities and wrote about them for, including his assertion that changes could be made to combat distance that did not include lengthening. A frightening notion the more I think about it given the consulting architect's proclivity for point-missing changes to classic courses.

It also sounded by the press conference comments that the 4th and 5th holes may be different soon.

Q.  The 5th and 4th holes have always been landlocked by Old Berckmans Road.  Now that you have control of that area, what sort of plans do you have maybe in the immediate future for doing some renovations or expansion of those holes?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, we don't talk about the immediate future as it relates to our plans, as you know, Scott.  Certainly that creates options which heretofore did not exist, and, bingo, those are a couple of the holes that we now have under consideration.

My question about the distance issue, just in case he had changed his mind.

Q.  You mentioned the distance the ball travels, and Mr. Nicklaus reiterated his views yesterday on that as a solution.  You discussed the shot values of the golf course.  Is that something you have ruled out, modifying equipment rules for the Masters, to address maintaining those shot values?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, as we've stated many times going back many years, we retain all options.  At the same time, it's not something we would want to do.

And as it relates specifically to 13, which seems to be the subject du jour, we think there are multiple options where we could increase the difficulty of the hole and restore the shot values, only one of which deals with extending the length.

So we are in the middle of all of those studies, a lot of arithmetic, lot of design issues, and we would only resort to equipment as the last resort because we believe that the governing bodies in golf deal with that very effectively.

Oh yes, superb!

In other Payne news, Steve DiMeglio highlighted Payne's optimism over Tiger's appearance at the Champions Dinner and his potential for a recovery.

On the comedy front, the funnier answers, starting with this about junior golf.

Q.  Mr. Payne, I want to ask you a question about Junior Golf.  My 14‑year‑old and his friends are active on the circuit and it's made me realize that these youngsters can play at a really high level.  Your neighbor, the Augusta Country Club, does a great job of fostering this love of the game.  What are your thoughts on extending an invitation to the Masters one day to a junior champion?

 CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I haven't thought about it before.  Our Asia‑Pacific Amateur Championship and our Latin America Amateur Championship are doing a pretty good job of feeding teenagers to us, so I guess we're already in that a bit (laughter).
As I said earlier, I don't think we are close to creating another qualification criteria because of the limitations of the daylight hours.

And this on his tenure going forward.

Q.  This is your 10th Masters, I guess, now as chairman.  Have you been able to accomplish everything that you had wanted to starting out, and has it changed in your mind, your role, from what you thought it was then to now?  And then the follow would be, do you have any thoughts on how long you want to keep doing it?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, that committee hasn't met yet (laughter).

The job, I didn't have a lot of coaching in advance.  The responsibilities emerged from the potential of Augusta National, which is enormous, and it's positive, and we have discovered through some of these international efforts that people want to be associated with Augusta National, and we want to help them.  So it's a mutual love affair.

And as to specific goals, I didn't have any specific goals.  My goal is to serve whatever tenure that I serve and then fade into the background, because, as I've said multiple times, Augusta National has only two people who forever will be a part of their culture, and that's Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones.

And my favorite, on the possibility of the PGA preceding the Masters in Olympic years.

Q.  With this being quite a busy summer with the Olympics, and it will be the same in 2020, you've been the first major of the year since 1971, how would you feel if the PGA Championship decided in those Olympic years to try and stage its championship in February?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Hmmm.  Haven't thought about that.
Do we have an opinion on that?

FRED RIDLEY:  It's happened before.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  It's happened before?  It won't affect our ticket sales, I can promise you (laughter).