Augusta National Puts Patrons First

By Adam BarrApril 9, 2004, 4:00 pm
The movement of the patrons iscontrolled. No, thats not it; too strong, too dogmatic. Itsdirected. No, too antiseptic. The movement of the patrons isencouraged in a way that ensures enjoyment for all.
 
There we go.
 
At no other tournament is word choice so important. The Masters Tournament is golfs annual festival of outdoor gentility, the polar opposite of the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open, a place where even roars are timed, robust, and sanitized of catcalls, Noonans and Davis-baiting.
 
And the patrons are never fans, a crowd, nor, Heaven forbid, a mob. It is not an accident that they are called patrons, like supporters of the arts. Its not just the fact that they buy tickets. Patrons support what Masters organizers have always offered as the art of the golf tournament: That is, the way they think it should be done.
 
Since 1934, hundreds of thousands of patrons have agreed, as have millions of television viewers. The Masters aura represents earthly paradise to millions who have never been there, and is strong enough to withstand a civil rights onslaught that would have crippled any other sporting institution.
 
Now, one year A.B. (After Burk), the dons of Augusta National Golf Club are delighted to move on and move back, back to the tournament they want to present.
 
Inside the ropes, that means a nervy test over a course that has no real equal, ideally a hard, fast, hilly track whose greens offer few effective landing areas. Once you realize how much of the putting surface is actually a dead zone, you begin to understand how Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie meant to counterbalance the absence of rough. Land it wrong here, and you quickly become an also-ran.
 
Outside the ropes, golfs best-regulated, week-long mini-society returns every year like Brigadoon from the mists. For every mindless, beer-swilling, bucket-hatted lout who may trample your foot in Florida Swing galleries, there are ten people here who will adroitly miss your foot, tip their hats, and smile. Im sorry, Excuse me, and Good morning are daily currency amid cups of lemonade and egg salad on white. No running, please, and no autographs past this point. Lines move, sometimes slowly, but complaining would be impolite. And stand, please, when a lady approaches the table.
 
Likely the patrons consider gentility a bargain price for what they get to see. On a crisp day such as those that began this week, there are few more beautiful places to watch golf. A pamphlet penned by Jones himself is still the authority on where to camp to get multiple views. For example, try the back of the first green, where I watched Tom Watson practice short-sided chips Tuesday against the background of tall pines and an impossibly blue sky. (No, better than blue: Azure. No, cerulean. Word choice again.) From there, you can step over to the ninth tee, and then diagonally to the second tee, where an attractive stone wall frames the box. Stand at the rope, look back at the tee, and join in the group head-snap as the ball takes off like an F-14.
 
Still, probably the most coveted viewing spot, the one where people come at opening time to stake out the seating area with folding chairs, is the slope behind the 12th tee. Not only do you get all the action on one of the most famous par-3s in the world, but you get a look at the business end of my nominee for scariest par-4 in major championship golf.
 
The 11th green, dropped down behind a pair of mounds, is a difficult target at best ' all the more now that players can no longer bash the ball off the tee into the right rough. Thirty-six new pine trees (of course, in true Augusta National style, they look as if they have been there for decades) guard the right edge of the fairway. They are golfs newest jail, and they demand accuracy from the set-back 11th tee.
 
Also within view from the slope behind 12 is the 13th tee, but the look is mostly at the players swing, not the ball flight. More interesting, especially this year, is the admirable bloom of dogwood and azalea, colors that make an entrance but see no need to loudly announce themselves.
 
Not everything about the Masters experience feels restful and welcoming. Equipment manufacturer representatives, who are used to strolling onto the practice range to serve their pro clients whenever they feel like it, are constrained here. Their repair trucks must park off-site, leaving them a half-mile struggle through the patrons instead of the usual skip to the end of the range.
 
Its all part of the clubs effort to restrain commercialism of any kind, except their own concession and merchandise sales. Its not that the club wants to squelch competition. No, they just want the purest golf environment they can have. One could argue that the equipment company reps dont impinge on that, but the club is resolute. When one equipment rep bemoaned his plight, we agreed that the clubs seeming extremism on this point is its one defense against the ravages of time.
 
And so it is, for timelessness is one of the primary aims of this event, especially where the patrons are concerned. Whatever else may be happening in sports ' be it in courtrooms or boardrooms ' the National wants none of it inside the walls of bamboo that line Washington Road at the clubs perimeter.
 
This is why patrons rarely complain if their practice day ticket does not admit them to the Trophy Room or under the spreading oak tree behind the clubhouse. Everyone knows his or her place here, and is glad to have it.
 
And the Masters treasures its place in sports, and will alwaysencourage its protection.
 
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  • Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.