Augusta knew the answers and passed the test

By Associated PressApril 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Masters chairman Billy Payne called it an important test for Augusta National to regain its personality as a golf course where its as much fun to listen as it is to watch.
One can only suspect now that Payne was bluffing.
He knew the answer before Chad Campbell set a Masters record by opening the tournament with five straight birdies, before a record 17 eagles were recorded in the second round, and before a dozen players went to the back nine Sunday thinking they could win.
I think we have it about right, Payne said on the eve of the Masters.
The score required for the three-man playoff won by Angel Cabrera was 12-under 276. That was the lowest score since 2005, the last year before the final installment of changes (meaning extra length).
Not everyone went for the green on the 13th and 15th holes Sunday, but it sure seemed that way. Both holes played to an average of about 4.3, lower than some of the par 4s. But those two holes are what make the back nine special, the chance for someone to make up ground quickly.
The volume was cranked up. The pressure was ramped up.
Theres roars going up all over the place out there, and thats what its all about, really, Graeme McDowell said after his final round Sunday. Its supposed to be entertaining for the crowds. Thats what these people come to see.
Payne needed some help from Mother Nature, but not that much.
After three practice rounds of bone-dry conditions, the greens were surprisingly soft and receptive in the first round. Had officials kept them firm, there would not have been a record 19 rounds in the 60s.
On the scorecard, Augusta National was 10 yards shorter, with the only official change on the first hole. On the golf course, expanded tee boxes at Nos. 7 and 15, for example, allowed for the tee markers to be moved forward and the holes to be far less frightening.
Augusta National is more than a quarter-mile longer than when Tiger Woods won his first Masters, but the length was necessary. It only needed a few years for players to catch up to the changes and overcome their intimidation. It needed a week of good weather, and for a few small adjustments on the tees and greens.
That made everything about right.
It sounded perfect.
Even for those watching from home, it was hard it ignore the cheers. They could be heard from a nearby hole even as the camera was trained on a player standing over a putt.
One of the more fascinating scenes happened early in the final round, when Cabrera was playing his pitch to the par-5 second hole. Then came a ground-shaking roar as his ball was in flight. Just 40 yards away is the seventh green, where Phil Mickelson deposited an iron a foot away from the cup for another birdie.
It was like that all afternoon.
The Augusta Chronicle in Mondays edition devoted a half-page to a sequence of roars, and most of the entries were about five minutes apart. Mickelsons birdie at the seventh. Woods eagle at the eighth. Dustin Johnson making consecutive eagles, only the second player in Masters history to do that. Kenny Perry making his first birdie from 20 feet on No. 12.
The last three years, about the only excitement was paying $1.50 for a pimiento cheese sandwich.
Numbers alone dont do this Masters justice.
The lowest score of the final round was merely a 66 by Masters rookie John Merrick. Cabrera and Perry, the co-leaders after 54 holes, each closed with a 71. Campbell shot a 69 to join them in the playoff.
For all their fireworks, Mickelson only shot a 67, Woods a 68.
Mickelson might look back one day at this major as one he let slip away, although certainly not as dramatic as his double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open. After a record-tying 30 on the front nine, he played back nine in 37 ' a 9-iron into the water on No. 12, and missed putts for eagle at No. 15 and birdie at No. 17, both from about 4 feet, neither even hitting the hole. He finished three behind.
The magic of the Masters, however, is not so much about the score as it is the opportunity.
Woods also had his chances, twice grazing the cup with eagle putts. Campbell had two good looks at eagle, and he gave himself a good shot at birdie on the 18th hole.
Oddly enough, Cabrera was about the only player who didnt give himself great chances. He missed the green to the right at No. 15 and had to scramble for birdie. The key putt might have been his 18-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th after Perry nearly made an ace.
Yes, the Masters allows for a charge. But it also requires a steady hand.
For those ready to jump on Perry for his bogey-bogey finish to slip into a playoff, remember that the great Tiger Woods did the same thing in 2005 after that famous chip-in on the 16th hole. The difference is that Woods made birdie on the first playoff hole.
There is so much to remember about this Masters ' the Woods-Mickelson pairing that no one wanted to see end, Perry going birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey, Cabreras par save from the trees in the playoffs.
Augusta National passed this important test with flying colors.
There is an Argentine in a green jacket.
And there are millions of fans who cant wait for next year.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

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    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

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    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

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    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

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    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

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    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.