Hootie and Martha Alot Alike

By Associated PressApril 4, 2003, 5:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hootie Johnson and Martha Burk are a lot alike, hard as that is to believe. They are tenacious about their causes, steadfast in their beliefs and convinced they've claimed the moral high ground on the issue of women members at Augusta National Golf Club.
Of course, that's where their paths veer off sharply. Johnson, chairman of the Masters tournament and the club, is the staunch defender of Augusta's all-male membership, saying that is the prerogative of a private club.
Not so, says Burk, head of National Council of Women's Organizations. She believes Johnson is stuck in a gender time warp.
Martha BurkAfter months of verbal haggling, angry letters and attempts to sway others to their sides, the dispute 'comes home,' so to speak, next week.
The tournament starts Thursday, with Tiger Woods going for his third straight green jacket. And TV viewers will see more of it than ever before, thanks to the dispute. Johnson cut loose corporate backers to shield them, he said, from possible backlash, so the Masters is commercial free. One of the lines Johnson drew in the sand.
Burk and her supporters plan to protest on Saturday, during the third round. They won't be allowed to march in front of the main gates as requested; instead, they'll be kept to a tract about a half mile away. In Burk's eyes, she's already won.
'There is a turning point that will not change, regardless of when Augusta changes its policy,' she said. 'It is a place that corporate America will not want to go near, and that's appropriate.'
Johnson sees the dispute much differently.
'You know, some of the media tries to portray us -- or this woman portrays us -- as being discriminatory, and being bigots. And we're not,' he said last year. 'We're a private club. We will prevail because we're right.'
Many of Johnson's friends and colleagues are surprised he's taken such a high-profile stand on such a contentious issue. They've always known him to be a backroom operator, a genteel banker who would prefer to solve problems quietly, without a fuss.
During the civil right's movement, Johnson remained largely under the radar while chipping away at discrimination in his native South Carolina. He helped get blacks elected to the state legislature. He promoted blacks in the corporate boardroom. He ran a committee to desegregate the state's colleges.
'He had the reputation of being progressive,' said I.S. Leevy Johnson, one of three blacks elected to the legislature in 1970 with Hootie Johnson's backing. 'He was diplomatic in his opinions. He had a general concern for the feelings of others. And he was a very strong-willed person. That's characteristic of leaders.'
His strong-willed side came to the forefront when Burk demanded that the club initiate a female member. He fired back with an angry statement, saying Augusta National would not admit women 'at the point of a bayonet.'
A few weeks ago, Georgia's conservative governor, Sonny Perdue, raised Johnson's ire by suggesting -- almost in passing -- that everyone would like to see the club admit women at some point. Johnson wasted no time answering with a stinging letter.
'For the governor of our state to suggest that we should capitulate to special interest groups when the constitution is on our side and we have done nothing wrong is a bit surprising and very disappointing,' he wrote.
While Johnson appears increasingly thin-skinned, some say Burk has gone too far by linking the membership dispute to the war in Iraq.
'It's appalling that the women who are willing to lay down their lives for democratic ideals should be shut out of this club,' she said recently. Burk later said she was merely trying to compare women returning from this war to blacks who endured continued segregation after fighting for their country in World War II.
While detractors portray Burk as a media hound who keeps reporters' phone numbers on her speed dial, she says that even she is surprised at the amount of attention her Augusta campaign has generated.
'I had no idea that golf was a separate religion, or as my son puts it, 'Augusta is the Westminster Abbey of golf,'' she said.
Burk points to her other causes: abortion rights, lobbying for female aid on Capitol Hill, taking part in a United Nations' program on family planning. 'All that has gone unreported,' she said. 'I'd kill for this kind of attention, just to get that other stuff mentioned.'
Though some might characterize his stance on women members as stubborn, Johnson has shown plenty of flexibility when it came to tinkering with the club's signature event. Since taking over in 1998, he's overseen more changes than the previous three chairmen combined. The qualifying criteria changed, television coverage expanded and the course underwent its biggest renovation since the club opened in 1933.
Tiger Woods knows first-hand that Johnson will listen to suggestions. Woods and Mark O'Meara recently played a practice round at Augusta and this is what Woods said afterward: 'I mentioned to (Johnson) that on 18, there was a tree on the right side of the fairway, one limb that I thought was unfair. Mark-O hit it out there 280 yards, which is good for him, and he had no shot. I mentioned that to Hootie and he said, 'I'll go take a look at it.' 'The next day, the limb was gone. So, he does listen.'
Johnson also has gone back and forth on the club's policy of allowing former champions to play in the Masters as long as they like -- even when they are barely capable of getting around the course. First, Johnson drew the ire of three aging former champions by asking them not to play. Then he set up a written policy that cut off playing privileges for everyone at age 65. Then he backtracked again in recent days, welcoming back all former champs as long as they feel competitive.
Augusta National avoided that sort of public mea culpa when the issue of racially exclusive clubs came to the forefront. The club didn't admit its first black member until 1990, but it moved quickly after the dispute at Shoal Creek made white members-only clubs a potential target for protests. When it came to women, Johnson chose a different tact.
'Shoal Creek has got nothing to do with this. Nothing,' he said. 'Racial discrimination and gender are two different things. Do you know of any constitutional lawyer that's ever said they were the same? Do you know any civil rights activists that said it was the same? Do you? It's not relevant,' he said last year.
To Burk, it is. Some day, she says, there will be a woman wearing a green jacket. It's just a matter of time.
'I don't know why the club just doesn't take the high road and announce a change in policy on a reasonable timetable,' Burk said. 'The club cannot see the inevitable. Instead, they have put the world of golf, us, their members, through a ringer.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the 2003 Masters Tournament
  • The Augusta National Debate: A Chronology
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    'Putting Stroke Whisperer' helps get McIlroy on track

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 9:39 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.

    Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.

    Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”

    If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.

    It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.

    Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.

    “Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”

    Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.

    “Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”

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    If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.

    Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.

    “The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”

    Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.

    A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.

    “He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”

    For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.

    “We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”

    Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.

    The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.

    “Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.

    McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.

    Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.

    “I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”

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    Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

    Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

    “I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

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    Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

    “We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    In a statement, the PGA Tour said, “While we do not comment specifically on security measures, the safety and security of our players and fans is, and always will be, our top priority. Our security advisors at the Tour are working in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor, review and evaluate the situation and implement procedures as needed. We encourage all spectators to review the PGA Tour's bag policy and prohibited items list, available at www.dellmatchplay.com, prior to arriving at the tournament."

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.