A Different Augusta Same Masters

By Associated PressApril 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hootie Johnson defended more than just the all-male membership at Augusta National.
The chairman sat in his second-floor office three days before the Masters, gazing through a rain-streaked window at droopy, gray clouds that would dump 4 inches of water on the course before the first shot was struck.
It was an ominous sign for anyone who couldn't hit the ball long and high.
With 305 yards added to the golf course over the last two years, it seemed as if only a dozen of the 90-plus players had a chance to win a green jacket. The list figured to become only shorter on a soggy course.
Based on what happened last year -- Tiger Woods playing conservatively while everyone else self-destructed -- the back nine at Augusta National suddenly became as exciting to watch as The Food Channel.
Did the new Augusta National wreck the old Masters?
Johnson asked an office assistant to bring him the driving statistics from last year's collection of contenders. Retief Goosen, the runner-up, was 105th in driving distance. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who finished fourth, ranked 181st.
'I think we did the right thing,' Johnson said.
Augusta National has always been a work in progress.
The Masters rarely changes.
Anyone who thought the big hitters would prevail only had to glance at the top 12 positions on the leaderboard Sunday evening, starting at the top.
Mike Weir was 100th in driving distance on the PGA Tour last year, and no one will ever confuse him with an elite power player. He worked magic with his wedges, none bigger than his 92-yard shot into 5 feet for birdie on the 15th.
His putting was pure, a requirement at any major.
Only three other Masters champions -- none since Doug Ford in 1957 -- played the final round in regulation without a bogey.
'To go bogey-free at Augusta National on Sunday, I can't ask for anything more,' Weir said. 'Once it all soaks in, I'll realize how special it is.'
Len Mattiace, who ranked 130th in driving distance, delivered the drama, no shot more memorable than his 4-wood from the 13th fairway that barely cleared Rae's Creek and gave him a 15-foot eagle putt.
'All week, I've been practicing the 4-wood off of a right-to-left lie, waiting to hit it,' Mattiace said. 'When I finally had it, I said, 'This is what I've been practicing all this time for.' And I executed it.'
Just because his name is not Jack Nicklaus -- or Tiger Woods -- didn't make his back-nine charge any less brilliant.
Mattiace followed with a birdie on No. 15 by going for the green in two, and a tee shot on the par-3 16th that caught the ridge and stopped 12 feet away for another birdie.
If not for a drive into the trees that led to bogey on the 18th, Mattiace would have shot 64 and tied Gary Player (1978) for the lowest final round by a Masters champion.
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Jim Furyk (173rd in driving distance) chipped in for eagle on No. 15 and finished fourth.
Jeff Maggert (150) was another stroke back. One can only imagine how different it might have been if his fairway bunker shot on No. 3 didn't bounced off the lip and hit him in the chest for a two-stroke penalty.
Scott Verplank (189) was 5 under par on the weekend. He missed only 10 fairways all week, tied for third in driving accuracy. Others who finished in the top 12 were Mark O'Meara (145), David Toms (114) and Olazabal (181).
Length isn't everything.
Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els were the only power players among the top dozen, proving again that the Masters can be won with different styles.
Three-time champion Nick Faldo was a great thinker. O'Meara and Ben Crenshaw are great putters. Olazabal is a wizard with the short game. Palmer and Nicklaus won with power. Woods is all of the above.
Augusta National has gone through more drastic changes in the last two years than the previous 20, and more Masters are required before anyone reaches a conclusion.
Maybe the rain will stay away next year, and the course will play firm and fast.
Still, Mattiace showed that Sunday charges are still very much a part of the Masters.
Augusta National isn't easier. Mattiace had to play the best golf of his life to get to 8 under par through 17 holes and give himself a chance to win.
That's how it should be on Sunday at the Masters.
Weir reminded everyone that the biggest weapon at Augusta National is the shortest club in the bag. He took only 104 putts, fourth-best last week behind Maggert and O'Meara (101) and Paul Lawrie (102).
Perhaps the biggest difference is that No. 18 has become a hole where the Masters will be lost more often than it is won. Then again, only three players have made birdies on the final hole to win the Masters.
Some things rarely change.
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Photo Gallery
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology

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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.