Augusta National Course Performance: Slower Greens Help Speed Up Play, Field Dismantles The Second Nine Par-5s Like Never Before

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I hopefully slipped in as much detail as possible regarding a busy week for Augusta National as a venue. Slower greens appeared to make the difference in faster play, while the new 5th almost played tougher than the 13th and 15th. And the 11th hole is still a complete affront to the philosophy of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie.

Read all about it at Golfweek.com.

Walking Tour Of Augusta National And Other Masters.com Content

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As the 2019 Masters became a whirlwind affair, I wasn’t able to keep up with all of the amazing content. The Masters.com folks debuted a Masters podcast that even debuted and is queued up for me to keep savoring this year’s event for days to come.

I will selfishly start by posting my walking tour of the course, a walk I traditionally make on the weekends before settling in the Press Building (see map above…it starts at the clubhouse and goes up No. 1). The walk allows me to see all but the 4th, 5th and 12th hole locations up close and to get a sense of the wind, vibe and other conditions.

This year I was only able to do it Saturday and it took longer than normal, but generally it takes about 40 minutes and is a great way if you get to the Masters to see the entire course setting in a folding chair or grandstand.

The video was the idea of the Masters.com team to accompany my essay designed to settle most general questions about how to get the most from a Masters visit. Naturally, it was an honor to share this and I hope it’s handy for years to come if you get the privilege of attending the Masters.

Another stellar piece of content, if nothing else because chef David Chang takes you so many places so rarely seen in footage, is the piece embedded below. He reveals the not-so-secret (apparently!) Stand 12 drink. He even blends Masters sandwiches, but mostly does a lovely job summing up elements of the experience. Check it out:

WSJ: Augusta National Has Spent $200 Million On Real Estate Purchases, New TV Compound Coming Next

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Thanks to reader JB for Brian Costa’s Wall Street Journal look at Augusta National’s real estate purchases, with the Journal estimating $200 million spent.

From the story, with some really nice graphics and an overhead aerial of 2002 vs. 2018 worth playing with too.

In the areas immediately surrounding golf’s most exclusive club, there are generally only two types of properties: the ones Augusta National has acquired—and the ones it will acquire.

In the last 20 years, the club has spent around $200 million to buy more than 100 pieces of land totaling no fewer than 270 acres, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of property and tax assessor records and interviews with people familiar with the transactions.

To further insulate one of the most hallowed grounds in American sports from the outside world, Augusta National has bought and demolished entire residential blocks and commercial strips. It has purchased properties more than a mile from its iconic clubhouse. And it is hardly slowing down.

The Augusta Chronicle’s Susan McCord looks at the announcement Wednesday by Chairman Fred Ridley explaining what some of these purchases mean: a new television compound across the street.

Ridley Draws The Line On Distance? No 13th Hole Changes Until Distance Report Arrives

The predicted (second) lengthening of Augusta National’s 13th hole will not be happening in the summer of 2019 based on Chairman Fred Ridley’s prepared remarks delivered to the media Wednesday.

Read carefully and read between those lines…

It should come as no surprise to any of you that we continue to study other enhancements to the golf course.  That includes much‑talked‑about changes, potential changes, to the 13th hole. 

Admittedly, that hole does not play as it was intended to play by Jones and MacKenzie.  The momentous decision that I've spoken about and that Bobby Jones often spoke about, of going for the green in two, is to a large extent, no longer relevant. 

Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action.

I think the former USGA president may have just suggested he senses action is coming.

I’m sorry, I interrupted…

In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers.  But please know this:  The USGA and The R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart.  They recognize the importance of their future actions.  You can be assured that we will continue to advocate for industry‑wide collaboration in support of the governing bodies as they resolve this very important topic. 

Of course, no resolution has been the stance of the PGA Tour, PGA of America and most major manufacturers, so the idea of a conclusion to the liking of Mr. Ridley and Augusta National would seem to include some form of new distance regulation. Or a new tee that they clearly do not want to add.

How About A Little Drive, Chip And Putt During Masters Practice Rounds?

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The PGA of America brought back the old long drive contest at the PGA Championship and it’s been a nice practice round addition.

After another successful Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National, I sense the format has not picked up enough steam outside of this event. Why aren’t more junior tournaments kicking off with a fun DCP, or club invitationals or…Masters practice rounds?

I present a short case for Golfweek and suggest that many in the Masters field could not pull off what two national finalists accomplished in 2019: making both putts on the 18th green. Amazing. These kids today.

ANWA: Highest Rated Amateur Golf Event Since 2003, Women's Event In Almost Three Years

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The Augusta National Women’s Amateur final round on NBC was the highest-rated overnight rating for a women’s golf telecast since the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open final round on Fox according to Nielsen Company.

The .96 was also a big number in the amateur golf rating world. For Immediate Release from Golf Channel:

INAUGURAL AUGUSTA NATIONAL WOMEN’S AMATEUR ON NBC SCORES HIGHEST-RATED AMATEUR GOLF TELECAST – MEN’S OR WOMEN’S – IN 16 YEARS

AUGUSTA, Ga., (April 7, 2019) – The final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, won by Jennifer Kupcho (Senior, Wake Forest University), is the highest-rated amateur golf telecast – men’s or women’s – in 16 years, with a .96 Overnight Rating (Noon-3 p.m. ET/9 a.m.-Noon PT) Saturday on NBC (1.36 Overnight Rating, 2003 U.S. Amateur Men’s Finals won on the 37th hole of a sudden death playoff, from 4-6:15 p.m. ET on NBC), according to data released today by The Nielsen Company. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur began with a GOLF Films short, When I Grow Up, I Want To..., which has garnered nearly one million views on social media this weekend.

Before We Move On: The Inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur Exceeds Nearly All Expectations

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When Fred Ridley shocked the Masters world a year ago with the announcement of a women’s amateur event to precede the Masters, it was admittedly hard to see the event working out of the chute. There were just too many questions about how the event could click on a golf course untested by female players who would only get one practice round.

Not only did the skeptics have their questions answered by a magical performance from two exceptional talents in Maria Fassi and winner Jennifer Kupcho, something unthinkable happened: we were reminded of a better time for Augusta National when the course functioned…just better. The patrons noticed on site and even viewers reached out to ask if the pace was as fast as it looked (it really wasn’t…I explain why it seemed that way in this course assessment for Golfweek.)

Beth Ann Nichols files a wonderful account of the day and the stellar performance by Kupcho shooting 67 even after a migraine appeared at the 8th tee for the first time since her freshman year in college.

The day will forever be remembered by this epic, foot-on-the-pedal shot from Kupcho. She was two back at the time.

And as if scripted, she put the exclamation point on the round with this birdie putt at the 18th:

As for improvements, a few thoughts:

—The one day gap between the opening two rounds and the finale at Augusta National actually worked thanks to players suggesting they enjoyed the reprieve after the cut was made. It still should be changed. A Wednesday practice round for all competitors followed by a Chairman’s dinner at Augusta National seems more fitting of a proper championship. Two rounds at Champions Retreat, followed by the Saturday final round at Augusta National would require less explaining.

—A merchandise shop closure around noon ET in future years should get more patrons out on the course watching some stellar golf. I get it people, you came to shop but you were a little slow to find your way out to…Augusta National on a perfect day for spectating.

—Better merchandise. Even with a fantastic logo that already took on a timeless appearance, the offerings were slim and uninspired. Oddly absent given the club’s understanding of history, there were few items with the “inaugural” designation for this historic day (a poster playing off the original Augusta National Invitational program cover would have been outstanding).

Any thoughts from out there on what you saw via the broadcast or from on site as a patron?

The Female Golfing Greats Who Changed Bobby Jones' Life: Golf Channel Feature Debuting Today

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I’m very excited to share the story this week of Bobby Jones and the great female amateurs who intersected with is life at key times, influencing his temperament, humility and ultimately, his vision for Augusta National.

The new women’s amateur event underway and concluding Saturday on NBC allowed us the opportunity to showcase three of the all time great female amateur golfers, but also explain how, as with so much of his life, Jones was an outlier when it came to admiring, respecting and benefitting from his friendships with Alexa Stirling, Joyce Wethered and Marion Hollins.

A Golf Channel feature produced by Dominic Dastoli and written and voiced by yours truly appears today on Live From The Augusta National Women’s Amateur (around 10:30-11 ET on Golf Channel.) . I’ll be on to discuss the story and why went about this. There will be other airings but please tune in and share your thoughts!

In the meantime, David Owen, who contributed to our feature, continues the great work of David Outerbridge and Bob Beck in telling the story of Marion Hollins, 1921 US Amateur champion, giant figure in the 1920s golf world and an underrated figure in shaping the development of Augusta National.

From Owen’s New Yorker piece this week:

Hollins, in addition to providing the original model for Augusta National, made one small direct contribution to its golf course—as I myself discovered in the late nineties, while I was researching my book “The Making of the Masters.” In 1931, Roberts complained to MacKenzie, in a letter, that MacKenzie wasn’t spending enough time in Augusta during the construction of the course. The main reason was that MacKenzie had money troubles of his own, including the fact that Augusta National had stopped paying him. But in his place he sent Hollins, who at that point was more than flush. “She has been associated with me in three golf courses, and not only are her own ideas valuable, but she is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of the work I like,” he wrote to Roberts. “I want her views and also her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out.” Roberts was unhappy not to have MacKenzie himself, and he said that Jones would be unhappy, too. But MacKenzie defended Hollins in another letter, to the engineer who was supervising construction of the course. “I do not know any man, who has sounder ideas,” he wrote, and added, “She was most favourably impressed with it.”

And the magic of the Internet, it’s now posted:

Women's Amateur Cut Made, Players Welcome Their First Shot At Augusta National

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Player diaries can be pretty dull but Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, just one stroke out of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur lead, is delivering forthright and interesting takes for Golfweek.

Today is the Augusta National practice round before Saturday’s final round on NBC. Fassi is glad they have the day off and maybe she’ll be calling Angel Cabrera tonight for advice.

I’m tired. Mentally drained after two rounds at Champions Retreat and actually relieved that there’s a chance to reset tomorrow during the practice round at Augusta National. I’ll meditate and enjoy some quiet time.

The weather report doesn’t look great, but I’m confident that even if I don’t get in 18 holes tomorrow, that I’ll have a good game plan.

Ángel Cabrera reached out about a week ago. He’s a big fan of the team my dad’s working with in Argentina (Club Atlético Talleres) and wanted to offer his congrats and assistance. He said I could call back after Friday’s practice round if I had more questions.

Pleased to report the rain passed by overnight and the practice round appears to be going off without a hitch.

Beth Ann Nichols reports on the playoff of 11 for 10 spots to make the cut into Saturday’s final round, including the incredible tale of Ainhoa Olarra.

Roundup: The Augusta National Women's Amateur Is Here As Is The First Women's Major Of 2019

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Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols sets up the 54-hole Augusta National Women’s Amateur and after reading the player’s excitement , with all 72 getting to play Augusta National Friday, the format is aging well (as opposed to all getting to play prior to the two rounds at Champions Retreat followed by the final round Saturday).

But before Augusta, there’s Champions Retreat, a 27-hole facility with nines designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

Rain pushed back Tuesday’s low-key practice round at Champions Retreat, where players pulled out long irons and hybirds a bit more than expected.

The signage, food (including prices), merchandise and pairings sheet look the same as what you’d find at the Masters. The logo is different, of course, and the scoreboards are electronic, but there are enough similarities here to make it feel like we’re in a neighboring zip code.

Out in the west where the ANA Inspiration starts Thursday, three of the top five players in the Women’s World Amateur Rankings accepted invites while four of the top 11 are there instead of Augusta. But LPGA Tour Commish Mike Whan is sounding (finally) more positive about the week and attention given to women’s golf, reports Randall Mell in this look at the co-existing events.

“I think there’s the potential the media coverage will end up being dramatically greater this week,” Whan said. “Everyone has their reporters talking about women’s golf. When’s the last time we can say that? Even when we play the U.S. Women’s Open, I’m not sure that happens.”

Also worth noting will be cross promotion and the impact from NBC/Golf Channel’s coverage at Augusta and how that aids the ANA Inspiration. Which reminds me: NBC coverage is from noon ET to 3:30 ET Saturday. I

And first of many plugs: I’ve worked with Golf Channel’s Dominic Dastoli on a feature that will air during ANWA Live From coverage that looks at Bobby Jones and the role several all-time great female amateurs played in his life.

The official tournament website where you can read coverage and see scores.

Ryan Lavner profiles U. Of Arizona’s Haley Moore, one of the top players and most recognizable in the field given her NCAA and ANA Inspiration play in recent years.

Maria Fasi is filing a daily diary and offered a lot of insight into how the players are being treated. As usual, there are rules, but also spectacular attention to detail.

Tonight we’re going to the Chairman’s Dinner at the clubhouse. I’m never been to Augusta National before, so it’s going to be super exciting just to drive down Magnolia Lane and be at such a historic place.

I’m especially looking forward to the shopping experience they have planned in the pro shop. We get to pick two shirts, a pullover and a hat from our tournament. Then we can just buy whatever we want. They are bringing everything that we buy to our room and leaving it there for us. Every little detail has been taken of.

If video is your thing, here is Golf Central’s setup, followed by Matt Adams and I discussing what we’re most interested in seeing. Hint: we both picked the golf course and how these women tackle Augusta National.

A stellar group shot from the first Chairman’s dinner on what looked like a beautiful evening in Augusta.

ANWA Theme Music Debuts, The Players Can Only Ponder What Might Have Been?

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If you’re still scratching your head over that forgettable new Players Championship music replacing a very memorable theme, hearing the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur theme won’t help matters

While it’s not Dave Loggins piano ballad—what is—the ANWA theme appears to have a hook and as soon as it appears in a place of purchase, I’ll be adding it to my Masters playlist for the drive to Augusta.

Lucy Li WD's From ANWA, Probably Does Everyone A Favor

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Not that many will feel good about losing the marquee player in next week’s first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur, especially to an unspecified injury (mild thumb sprain according to Golf Channel’s Steve Burkowski). But Lucy Li was coming to the inaugural event with tainted amateur status. The USGA ruled that she had violated amateur status rules but allowed her to retain her standing.

Li’s withdrawal, announced just days before the first round, does take away a marquee player but also allows the event to focus on the amateur standing of those in attendance.

Beth Ann Nichols reports for Golfweek on the two additions to the field in place of Li and Alex Melton.

ANWA To Feature Honorary Starters, Very Large Silver Bowl Trophy To The Winner

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Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak will serve as honorary starters at the 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, it was announced Thursday as promotion of the new event kicked off in New York.

The trophy is a fairly traditional looking silver bowl with the ANWA logo on the side along with all of the flowers synonymous with the Fruitland’s Nursery and Augusta National.

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…

AUGUSTA NATIONAL WOMEN’S AMATEUR NAMES NBC SPORTS AS BROADCAST PARTNER 

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 www.ANWAgolf.com. 

“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 www.ANWAgolf.com, 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 DriveChipAndPutt.com.

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 Golfweek.com 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.

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.”