Childs Play at the Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Boy, does Browning Benton have a story for his pals when he goes back to school.
 
I got to see Tiger Woods, the 8-year-old gushed Thursday. Up close!
 
At the Masters no less.
 
The best part? His grandfather didnt have to pay a thing to get him in. Well, aside from that barbecue sandwich Browning ate for lunch and the big bag of souvenirs his grandfather was carrying.
 
Augusta National is hosting quite possibly the coolest play date ever this year, letting youngsters 8 to 16 in for free as long as they come with a paying patron. Toughest ticket in the sports world? Its childs play for the teen-and-tween set thanks to the new Junior Pass Program.
 
Thats one of the single best things I ever saw, three-time Masters champion'and very proud grandfather'Gary Player said. The youth of the nation are trustees of posterity. These are your future golfers.
 
Industry reports indicate the number of U.S. golfers has decreased in recent years, and Masters chairman Billy Payne has made it a priority to reverse that trend. Getting kids hooked on the game is the easiest way.
 
The Royal & Ancient has been admitting juveniles to the British Open for free the last few years when theyre accompanied by an adult, and Payne decided a similar initiative would work at Augusta National. Under the Junior Pass Program, each Masters tournament badge holder is allowed to bring one child free of charge. The Masters and British Open are the only majors that allow kids in free.
 
Despite the new policy, dont expect Amen Corner to be the site of a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party anytime soon. After all, this is still Augusta National. But the place had a definitive bounce to it as little people'mostly boys, but a few girls'mixed in with the genteel patrons whove been coming here for decades.
 
Golf Mini-Mes arrived looking spit-shined and polished in polos and khakis and clutching an adults hand so they wouldnt get lost in the crowds. Every one of them wanted to go see Tiger'Mr. Woods, some politely called him.
 
I thought it was the best thing theyve ever done, said David Clark, who brought his 9-year-old son, also named David. Ive been trying to talk him into playing golf and hes never been interested. Now that hes come out here, hes already asking if we can go play.
 
Which is the whole point.
 
Golf rounds are going down. The average golf course is getting so long. All the clubs you go to are making their golf courses longer and longer, so all the costs are going up and up, Player said. Golf is going to have to do a lot of thinking in the future. Thats why we need a lot of young people to be playing golf.
 
Augusta National has never really been adults-only. Season ticket-holders could bring a baby if they really wanted to'provided that child had an official Masters badge affixed somewhere. David Smither of Aubrey, Texas, was 8 when he came to his first Masters back in 1970, and hes come back about every other year since then.
 
But that meant a friend or a golf buddy'or worse, another family member' got shut out.
 
That was the most refreshing thing Ive heard, Smither said, referring to the Junior Pass Program. It just opens up an opportunity for all the kids who ordinarily wouldnt get a ticket.
 
Like his son, Jake.
 
The 7-year-old made his Masters debut this year. He had his own ticket'the trip was his reward for getting to the final of a U.S. Kids Golf tour event. Next year, his dad plans to bring Jakes 87-year-old grandfather, but thanks to the new program, Jake will still get to go.
 
Next year, Jake will be here without a badge, Smither said. Hes going to be able to come with me and my dad. Thats a nice thing. It allows the three generations to come together.
 
When Larry Roberson heard about the program, he immediately made plans to take Browning, his oldest grandson. Browning started hitting golf balls when he was 2, and it was Roberson who took him to play his first nine holes.
 
This is his first tournament, and the first tournament he came to was the Masters, Roberson said as Browning sat in front of him near the second green. Its amazing. Its very exciting.
 
And very hectic for Ron Draper.
 
The Augusta resident has two sons, 8-year-old Samuel and 7-year-old Paul, and there was no way he could take one and not the other. Both boys are golf fans and play at a local club. Paul is even a graduate of a golf etiquette course. So Draper brought Paul with him in the morning, and his wife was going to drop Samuel off in the afternoon.
 
They each get two hours, Draper said. My wife is doing the minivan swap.
 
Theres an idea for Payne for next year: Car pool lanes.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Leaderboard - The Masters
  • Video - The Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    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.


    Getty Images

    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.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    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.''

    Getty Images

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    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.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

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

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    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?'''

    Getty Images

    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    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.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “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.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    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.