Tiger's Looking Forward To A (Golf Course) Proactive Chairmanship From Fred Ridley

Tiger Warren Wind's 1500 word blog post yielded the predictable glee over news of putting contests at the house with Rickie and Justin, but there were a few more intriguing references for the seasoned Woods observer.

Given his recent book and the extensive chapter on technology taking away much of the Augusta National he knew, this Woods line regarding new Chairman Fred Ridley suggests he's looking for changes.

All of the players are looking forward to becoming better acquainted with his successor, Fred Ridley. He’s an accomplished player and I look for him to be more instrumental on the golf course side of things and how it plays.

No more mowing fairways toward tees, maybe?

A firmer, tighter and faster Augusta National would show how ridiculously dated the course has become despite governing body claims of a distance flatlining over the last decade.

Either way, a throwaway line from Woods is a reminder that with the change in Chairmanships, something of note is around the corner.

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.

ESPN.com'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 GolfChannel.com:

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 Golf.com 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.”

Billy Payne Steps Down As Masters Chairman

To be succeeded by Fred Ridley. The news comes as a bit of a surprise given that Chairman Billy Payne was almost finished overseeing a few final projects. However, with Hootie Johnson's recent passing and the growing success of so many other initiatives spearheaded by Chairman Payne and a bad back testing his spirit, perhaps the shift to Chairman Emeritus should not be a surprise.

The club's announcement:

Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, announced today that he is retiring from his position at the beginning of the Club season on October 16. Payne will be succeeded as Chairman by Fred Ridley, who currently serves the Masters Tournament as Chairman of the Competition Committees.

Payne, 69, has served as Chairman since May 21, 2006. In retiring from this role, he will assume the title of Chairman Emeritus.

During his tenure as Chairman, Payne was a collaborative presence, bringing together golf’s leading institutions to implement new ways to expand the reach of the game, such as his vision for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Latin America Amateur Championship and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. He worked to make the sport more welcoming, including the addition of women into the Club’s membership and the creation of the popular Junior Pass Program during the Masters. In keeping with the tradition of constant improvement established by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, Payne directed the significant expansion and development of the Augusta National campus, leading to the creation and improvement of numerous facilities and services enjoyed by the membership and visitors to the Tournament. He also encouraged innovation, especially through the development of digital media offerings and emerging television technologies, in an effort to help reach new and younger audiences.

“The privilege I experienced serving as Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” Payne said. "Just as nothing can prepare you for the unique responsibilities and important decisions that come with this position, it is equally impossible to anticipate the many joys and, most importantly, the wonderful friendships that are the ultimate reward of service. This honor, however, is too great for one person to claim as their own for too long a period of time. I retire knowing it is simply the right thing to do – and at the right moment – to open the door and invite someone new to be called upon to lead, bring forth new ideas and craft a new vision that will honor our Founders and serve the game of golf for many years to come.

“I am now proud to call upon my good friend Fred Ridley to lead Augusta National and the Masters to a future that I am confident will hold new promise, while always being faithful to the principles of Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. Fred will be an excellent Chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.”
Ridley will become the seventh Chairman of the Club and Tournament. Those who previously held the post are Roberts (1933-77), Bill Lane (1977-80), Hord Hardin (1980-91), Jack Stephens (1991-98), Hootie Johnson (1998-2006) and Payne.

Judge Halts Green Jacket Auction Of Green Jackets

The Augusta Chronicle's Sandy Hodson reports on Augusta National's court victory over Green Jacket Auctions related to the current sale of the world famous sports coat.

Hodson's notes this about the filing and the club's claim of theft:

Augusta National filed suit Aug. 11 in federal court in Augusta seeking an immediate halt of an auction begun Aug. 2 by the Green Jacket Auction Inc. of Tampa, Fla. The auction, set to close Saturday, lists three green jackets, silverware and a belt buckle all advertised as authenticated Augusta National and Masters Tournament memorabilia.

On behalf of the Augusta National, Christopher Cosper argued in favor of a temporary restraining order to keep the auction company from selling what the club contends is stolen property or fakes which are prohibited by the club’s trademark. The club also contends that a document the auction company has that it says is a 2005 inventory of the club’s property also had to have been stolen from the club.

Yowsers...

The jackets are still listed as of now.

Latest Twist In UK TV Deals: BT In Talks To Carry Masters

Sky Sports lost the PGA Championship on short notice and appears headed toward also losing the Masters, and as James Corrigan explains in this Telegraph exclusive, BT is now in talks to carry the Masters.

Not only is it an issue for Sky, but as Corrigan explains, could have ramifications for the European Tour and USGA.

BT sees this as the ideal avenue to enter golf, but there are nervous faces not only at Sky but also the European Tour.

Without Sky’s backing the Tour would not operate its present guise, if at all, and the last thing the powers that be at Wentworth HQ would want is for Murdoch Towers to become disillusioned with the sport and walk away.
Yet any sense of ingratitude on Sky’s behalf would be totally understandable, especially with rumours circulating that the USGA, which runs the US Open, is ready to look elsewhere in the quest for bigger viewing figures when its deal runs out in 2018.

Sky Sports And The Masters: Are Golf's Governing Bodies About To Cut The Cable Cord?

In the week Sky Sports has introduced a dedicated golf channel here in the UK for its extensive golf offerings, we learned they have lost the PGA Championship rights held since 1992.

Now Ben Rumsby reports exclusively for The Telegraph that Sky did not get is Masters contract renewed, while weekend and highlight rightsholder BBC did following the Masters.

This latest news, while not immediately affecting American viewers, suggest we are on the verge of seeing a major shake up in how golf tournaments are seen.

It's hard to see where The Masters goes except either to BBC for four days or to a streaming/app only version. Or, dare I say, testing out a pay-per-view model.

Could this also be the case for the PGA of America in the long term? Perhaps, though it's still a head-scratcher to not have their UK broadcast rights settled a month out from their championship.

We've seen signs in recent years that golf's leaders believe they will have to create very different ways to reach audiences going forward, but given that golf fans tend to be five years behind on most trends, might some of their sponsors think they're getting ahead? Or is this the perfect time to test out new models on a relatively small but sophisticated market? Is that enough rhetorical questions for a Friday?

Glad Cliff Wasn't Around To See This One, Files: WSJ Edition

Clifford Roberts did not suffer fools gladly, or mistakes, or anything involving imperfection.

So something tells me that the longtime Augusta National Chairman would not have been pleased at this Wall Street Journal mistake and correction in a story on Sergio sporting the green jacket at Wimbledon. Thanks to reader John for the item:

Aerial View: Augusta National Summer Work In Progress

To no one's surprise--including those reporting the sight of huge crane's helping to erect new structures at Augusta National, the club is finishing off the final upgrades to the Masters patron entrance area. 

Thanks to @menworking for catching this tweeted aerial from Justin Wheelon.

First, a close up look at the entrance area from Wheelon's photo shows work on the main entrance area where a new merchandise center is being constructed:

More intriguing is work on the second hole, perhaps drainage related, and the lack of work taking place at the par-4 fifth. Earlier this year, Chairman Billy Payne all but predicted changes were coming to that hole.

A closer view showing the old Berckmans Road still in place which sits where fifth hole expansion might go, also appears to show some minor work at the third hole fairway bunkers:

The full aerial:

Sergio's Green Jacket Tour Continues With Lefty Kick

Sergio Garcia is taking the Green Jacket all over the world and it's hard to imagine a better scene than this one before a Real Madrid-Barcelona match.

Besides appearing to have benefitted from some work by his tailor, Garcia's jacket display features a strong lefthanded kick. But as Golfweek's Kevin Casey notes, this is not unusual given Garcia's lefthanded golfing and left-footed shoe kick (yes, it's aged well!).

SI: "Behind the scenes with CBS on Sergio Garcia's winning putt"

SI's Richard Deitsch gives us a behind the scenes look at how CBS captured Sergio Garcia's winning moment at the 2017 Masters. It's easy to forget the role television production plays when a moment like Sergio's comes off so seamlessly, particularly given the difficulty of covering golf courses.

Add in Augusta National's 18th hole limitations--no crane, blimps, helpful topography--and covering the moment becomes a huge challenge. Oddly, the best shot may have been the view from down the fairway with Sergio and putting surface just a blip amidst the patrons (screen captured).

Deitsch writes:

Milton said during the live coverage of Garcia’s winning putt, he went through a familiar sequence for a golf director: First, you go wide, then you go tight. The goal is to capture every reaction you can from the scene.

“I was lucky in the sense that Sergio gave those primal yells after the putt went in,” said Milton, who also serves as the lead director for SEC football on CBS. “Then he composed himself and we went wide, so you could see all the crowd celebrating. Then he composed himself to shake Justin Rose’s hand. We stayed on Sergio for quite awhile because I did not want to miss any emotion coming from him after trying to win this thing for 20 years.”

Milton said the CBS production compound at the Masters (which sits next to the Par-3 course) had roughly 12 staffers in the main control room working the final holes. There was also an adjacent room with 12 people working on graphics. As the final shot was made, Barrow and Rikhoff were filtering the best replays. Rikhoff watches all the isolation shots directed by Milton and notes what will work for replay; Barrow decides in what order the replays will sequence to create narrative.

The last minute or so of this CBS highlight reel captures the incredible coverage work described in Deitsch's story. Also, seeing these clips again makes you realize (A) how much of a slope the 16th hole cup is on (B) how long Rose's putt was on 17 for par, (C) how close Rose's in-regulation putt on 18 was to going in, and (D) how great Sergio's final putt was both in execution and in ending the Masters on a high note.

 

"García’s Masters triumph reveals the secret of sportsmanship"

The Guardian's Andrew Anthony nails down what was so satisfying about Sergio Garcia's Masters playoff win over Justin Rose.

He writes:

He could have started his familiar antics at that stage, snapping at his caddie, grumbling at the crowd, chucking clubs, remonstrating with the heavens, demonstrating that he was, as Padraig Harrington has said, “a very sore loser”.

But instead he accepted the possibility of defeat, made his peace with it, and realised life would go happily on if his Ryder Cup mate Rose emerged the winner. Suddenly the lavishly talented man who wilted against the iron character of Tiger Woods, and twice cracked as the grittier Harrington snatched major victories from his grasp, looked comfortable with – even happy for – his opponent. And finally García won.

Gamesmanship stems from a desire to avoid defeat at any cost. The secret of sportsmanship is that learning how to lose can also teach you how to win.

Lexi Fallout: Golf's Five Families Convene At Augusta...

"How did things ever get so far?"

"This Lexi business is going to destroy us for years go come."

I'm paraphrasing of course, but it's fun to imagine the professional tours--which let their players play slow, mark their golf balls constantly (unless it's a backboard for a playing partners)--whining about the Rules of Golf not having addressed issues related to HD and DVR's.

But as Jaime Diaz reported in Golf World, the Corleonie's, Barzini's and Tattaglia's of golf got together to bark at each other about Lexi Thompson's penalty at the ANA Inspiration.

There were intense exchanges in which tour leaders, worried about the perception of their products, argued that rules changes were needed posthaste to stop situations that fans and even players found unfair and nonsensical. The most aggrieved party was the LPGA, and its commissioner Mike Whan, who had publicly called the Thompson ruling “embarrassing.”

“I understand Mike’s perspective,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “This was hard on Lexi Thompson, and hard on Mike Whan. But it was not bad for the game, because this is exactly the kind of dialogue that good change comes out of.”

Something tells me that did not give Commissioner Whan a warm, fuzzy feeling.

And this is why we still have cause for concern, just as we did in the days after the Lexi situation.

Golf’s leaders hope that the public will come to regard the rules as better reflections of common sense and fairness. But ultimately, it’s unavoidable that they will be applied on a case-by-case basis.

In Thompson’s case, even under a new standard of intent and reasonable judgment, it’s not clear that she would have not been penalized. As the video shows, Thompson missed replacing on the correct spot by about half a ball. Half a ball doesn’t seem like a lot, but especially on a short putt, it constitutes a pretty bad mark.

Closed circuit cameras caught the meeting:

 

 

Masters Wrap: The Course And The Future

It's hard to argue with Chairman Billy Payne's era as Masters Chairman. Sure, he follows the bumbling Hootie Johnson and just about any sign of progress or forward thinking would have made for a successful tenure after those turbulent years.

But the stability Payne brought to tournament business, coupled with the improvements to the property under his watch, makes it very hard to see anyone else doing the job (particularly when the not-gregarious Fred Ridley's name is mentioned as a likely successor).

Can you imagine anyone else spearheading the Drive, Chip and Putt or resisting the urge to spend some of that Berckman's Place money on more course changes? This was the point of my May Golfweek piece on Payne's tenure and the other many progressive moves that have upheld the Roberts/Jones desire to constantly advance The Masters as a sporting event. However, there is Payne's odd issue with cell phones, which doesn't make much sense when juxtaposed against other digital initiatives.

The summer of 2017 figures to be an interesting one for Payne since, as I wrote in this golf course-focused piece for Golfweek, the 5th hole is likely to see changes. The extent of the changes could range from a mere lengthening to a total land rearrangement to expand the course border once constrained by Berckman's Road.

Given the original hole's design concept, the changes made since, the difficult land forms at No. 5, and the lack of respect for strategic design by consulting architect Tom Fazio, I don't have high hopes for an upholding of the Jones/MacKenzie vision.

That said, Payne stemmed the Hootie Johnson era hemorraging, and that was a huge victory for those hoping to see some preservation of what remains from the original design vision.

The "second cut" of rough still strips the place of elegance that you get with wall-to-wall tight grass (not to mention slowing balls from the pine straw), and still rears its head on odd places.

The leafy, 3/8 inch-cut fairways do slow down roll but have made a links-inspired course almost entirely an aerial design.

With his first major golf course change potentially in the offing this year, we'll get to see another sign of Payne's chairmanship. One that most Masters watchers hopes does not end any time soon.

WSJ: "Low Amateur at the Masters Lines Up His Next Shot: Business School"

While these stories could come off to the unsuspecting as extreme first world tales, having seen Stewart Hagestad up close last week and watching him handle his Masters "wild ride" with aplomb, his is another great 2017 Masters memory.

Brian Costa and Rebecca Davis O’Brien file for the Wall Street Journal on Hagestad's time in New York and the unusual golf life he lived in the city.

During the day, Hagestad helped put valuations on commercial properties. Most weeknights, Hagestad would head to Golf & Body NYC, a specialized golf gym in an office building off Herald Square. The gym, which has just under 200 members, charges a $10,000 initiation fee and $7,500 in annual dues.

He spent hours there, trainers at the club said—a routine in the weight room, putting on a turf green, practicing drives in a simulator—sometimes closing the club on weeknights at 10pm. One Saturday morning, Bradley Borne, the club’s director of sports medicine, arrived to find Stewart sitting behind the golf desk, “like he worked there,” Borne said.

Tim Rosaforte for Golf World on Hagestad's week that started with nerves, bad signs for his game and ended with a made cut, not to mention the joy of seeing Jimmy Dunne on the range. Hagestad had interviewed with Dunne for a job (unsuccessfully).

And there was this:

From the most nervous he’d ever been in that practice round with Spieth and Kuchar, to fairly relaxed as a Masters rookie, Hagestad made the cut and turned the competition for low amateur with U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck into a story line. After making the turn on Sunday, Hagestad’s caddie asked if he wanted to know what Luck posted.

“I told him honestly it’s not going to have any effect on how well I want to play on this back nine,” Hagestad said. “It’s a beautiful Sunday, the day before my birthday, on the most special place on earth. Let’s go enjoy the walk and do the best I can.”

Hagestad talked to Shane Bacon on The Clubhouse podcast this week and back in December, appeared on Andy Johnson's Fried Egg podcast.

He also was begged to turn pro on CNBC this week by Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leery, notes GolfDigest.com's Alex Myers.

'17 Masters TV: 1.41 Strokes Per Minute, Ratings Analyzed

There is still much to consider from this year's Masters broadcasts, but before we consider what it all means for the future of golf on TV, a few stories related to the always-scrutinized telecast.

The annual Classic Sports TV compilation of shots shows that since tracking has taken place (2014), the 2017 Masters featured the most shots shown per minute (1.41). Kevin Chappell, 7th, was the highest finishing golfer not to be seen.

As for the ratings decreases, Joel Beall at GolfDigest.com talked to former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson who thinks the lovely weather in much of the northeast cut into the number of folks watching.

"Good weather is a killer in swing months. In the fall, people are sneaking in one last trip to the park, and in the spring, it's more pronounced, going outside for the first time," Pilson says. "It was a gorgeous day in the Northeast, where 20 percent of America's households are located. I had to struggle to stay inside myself."

Interestingly, Pilson did not think the number of people streaming cut into the main number. I think that may be a tough sell for those of us who all know people who...streamed instead of watching on a conventional television.

One Little 2017 Masters Quibble: Sudden Death

I know that daylight issues discourage the Lords of Augusta from ever considering Amen Corner from being used for playoffs.

Deciding the Masters in a sudden death playoff continues to not sit well with me and Justin Rose's errant tee shot Sunday reminded why it's such cruel way to decide history. The other majors and Players use aggregate playoffs and the golf world is a better place for it.

Shoot, even a two-hole aggregate of the 10th and 18th would be better than sudden death and faster given the 10th tee's location. You'd get play on two demanding holes requiring very different shot shapes.

Matt Adams and I discussed with Lisa Cornwell today while John Feinstein enjoyed a post-Masters break.

The 2017 Masters Covers And Images

Great to see golf on the Sports Illustrated cover accompanied by Alan Shipnuck's cover story and portrayed so beautifully by Fred Vuich's image.

A nice look at recent SI covers featuring the Masters:


Golfweek's April issue went with Andrew Redington's shot for Getty Images.

Global Golf Post used Harry How's shot for Getty Images.