Casper Out After 106

By Associated PressApril 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The ashen sky loomed ominously overhead as Billy Casper lumbered slowly up the hill for the final tee shot of a long, long day.
 
Tilting over carefully, he stuck a tee in the luscious grass and struck the ball straight down the middle of the fairway at Augusta National.
 
'I always get this thing figured out along around dark,' the portly, 73-year-old Casper quipped, managing the slightest of smiles.
 
Not long after that, it was mercifully over - the highest-scoring round in Masters history, turned in by a once-great player who just wanted to play 18 more holes at Augusta National.
 
The numbers on the scorecard added up to a 106.
 
That's right, 106!
 
Down at the public muni, Casper would've fit right in - especially when he hit five straight shots in the water at the par-3 16th before finally getting one on the green. He three-putted, of course, and took a 14.
 
For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, that's known as a undecuple-bogey.
 
Not that this was a day for worrying about details like bogeys, double-bogeys and undecuple-bogeys. Casper just wanted to take another stroll through Amen Corner, hear the roar of the crowd and let the memories wash over him.
 
'I remember I used to run into Tennessee Ernie Ford down there all the time,' Casper said, referring to the '50s TV personality.
 
He was pushed aside three years ago, getting one of those infamous letters from Masters chairman Hootie Johnson, who asked three aging ex-champions to give up their automatic spots in the field.
 
Casper took the snub graciously, fully aware that he had not made the cut since 1987 and hadn't been a contender since the 1970s. But a few months ago, he got the urge to play again.
 
He had fully recovered from hip replacement surgery and wanted his grandchildren to see him play at Augusta. So, he sent in his entry form and waited nervously to see what the response would be from tournament officials.
 
Nothing.
 
Game on.
 
'I had no concern about my score,' Casper said. 'I just wanted to be back out there, experiencing so many of the memories I had in the past.'
 
He hit his first shot into the rough 'and it didn't get much better from there.' One triple-bogey. Then another. By the time he crossed the Hogan Bridge on his way to the 12th green - just his third hole of the day - Casper already was having second thoughts about taking on such a monstrous course.
 
'I don't have any business being out here,' he told his caddie, Brian Taylor.
 
Things really fell apart at No. 16, the scenic, 170-yard hole known as 'Redbud.' Casper started off with a 9-wood, hooking his ball into the water. He walked slowly to the drop area, pulled out a 7-iron and took another shot. Water again. And again. And again. And again.
 
'I was sort of stumbling around, looking for balls,' Taylor said. 'He kept saying, 'There's another one in there.''
 
Over on the adjacent 15th green, Jim Furyk and Tom Watson stopped what they were doing and watched the carnage, shouting a few encouraging words toward Casper.
 
After switching to a 6-iron, Casper finally cleared the water and sent the gallery into a frenzy when the ball came to a stop on the green. After three-putting, he wasn't really sure what his score was, so he turned to playing partners Tommy Aaron (who was keeping Casper's card) and Charles Coody.
 
'They both said it was a 14,' Casper said, 'so I guess it was a 14.'
 
At the turn, everyone thought he might walk away, especially when he headed for the clubhouse. But he knew play was backed up, so he was merely looking for a chair on the veranda and some much-needed rest.
 
'This is going to slow my momentum down,' he joked to a security guard.
 
Casper managed only three pars all day and the 34-over score was easily the worst in Masters' history, eclipsing Charles Kunkle's 95 in 1956.
 
'I've got all the sympathy in the world,' Coody said. 'It could have been me. It could have been Tommy. It could have been anyone.'
 
But the 106 won't go in the record books - Casper didn't bother turning in his scorecard, walking off the course with it tucked in a back pocket.
 
'That's going in the scrapbook,' Casper said proudly.
 
Officially, he was listed as 'W-D' - withdrawn, supposedly because of a hip that began hurting during the par-3 tournament the previous day. But everyone knew that was a ruse. No one wanted such a proud champion to have such a high number beside his name.
 
'I sort of figured before I played that I wasn't going to sign it,' Casper said. 'I only wanted to play 18 and get it out of my system.'
 
Come Friday, he'll be on hand to watch everyone else play. He's finished with the Masters - this time for good.
 
'I'll be around,' Casper said. 'If the weather's nice, you can probably find me right up there under the umbrellas.'
 
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    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.