How did HE make the Masters Tee time for unknowns

By Associated PressApril 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Ken Duke has certainly paid his dues.
Hes played golf all over the world, trying to make a living. He earned his PGA Tour card one year, then lost it the next. He even gave up the game for a brief time, selling newspapers to make ends meet.
Now, at age 40, hes at the Masters for the first time.
I feel like I played good enough to get in, he said, pointing to the best season of his career, 2008, when he had five top-10 finishes and cracked the top 25 in 13 PGA Tour events.
Never mind that only the most avid golf fans have ever heard of this man from Hope, Ark. (More are familiar with the towns most famous son, President Bill Clinton).
While Augusta National prides itself on hosting the most exclusive of the majors ' only 96 players will tee off in the opening round Thursday ' there are some qualifiers who generate whispers of How did HE get here? when theyre out on the course.
Duke is No. 112 in the world rankings, Briny Baird checks in at 118 and Bubba Watson is 129. None has ever won on the PGA Tour. Heck, Watson didnt even have a victory in three years on the minor-league Nationwide Tour.
Then theres Billy Mayfair, ranked No. 131 and having a miserable season. Hes missed the cut in six of his first nine events this year, and just two weeks ago he opened with an 80 at Bay Hill.
But all four will be playing in the first major of the year, rewarded for either consistency or good timing.
Duke made the top 30 on the 2008 money list ' one of the myriad standards used by the Masters ' while Baird, Watson and Mayfair took advantage of a volatile FedEx Cup points system that allowed them to make the Tour Championship.
No ranking is fair, Baird said. They try to do the best they can to make it fair. But you cant compare the PGA Tour to the European Tour to the Asian Tour to the Japanese Tour. None of it is fair. The BCS isnt fair in football, either.
In fairness to those lesser-known players making the field, this Masters includes others with similar, or even worse, spots in world rankings:
' Steve Flesch is No. 120, but hes been assured of a spot ever since finishing in the top 16 at Augusta last year.
' John Merrick (No. 124) claimed his place with a top-eight finish at the 2008 U.S. Open.
' Greg Norman, a part-time player on the regular Tour and ranked 238th, got in with his age-defying performance (54) at last years British Open, when he led going into the final round before fading to third.
Dont forget Y.E. Yang (No. 150), Michael Campbell (205), Chez Reavie (242) and Todd Hamilton (373). Yang and Reavie got in by winning Tour events during the past year, a standard that Augusta eliminated for a few years, then brought back in modified form. The other two are still reaping the benefits of their improbable major championships ' Campbell at the 2005 U.S. Open, Hamilton in the 2004 British Open.
Top 30 is a great way to get in, Duke said. It shows how well and consistent youve played all year. The criteria they have right now is really good, I think.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said there are no plans to change the qualifying format, though the club constantly tinkers with the system.
We are always comfortable with what we do until we change what we do, Payne quipped. Thats another way of saying we look at it every year. Post-Masters, we will spend a whole month looking at nothing but qualifications and whether we need to change it a little bit.
Speaking of changes, the PGA Tour has revamped the FedEx Cup format for the third year in a row, this one geared toward making sure the winner of the $10 million prize is decided at the Tour Championship.
Tiger Woods was so dominant during the inaugural year in 2007 that he skipped the opening playoff event and could have gone AWOL from the Tour Championship and still won. Last year, Vijay Singh won the first two playoff events, building such a large lead that he mathematically clinched the title before the final event, as long as he completed four rounds.
Payne isnt sure if the new format will prompt Augusta National to tweak its own qualifying formula.
I dont know yet. We havent had that month, he said, though he added, I dont know of anything that would lead me to believe that we would make any changes.
Even though Duke and Baird made it to the Masters, they suggested one change: Include anyone who wins the year before on the PGA Tour, even if its one of those minor tournaments held opposite the majors and World Golf Championship events.
Thats the way it used to be. Under the current policy, only those who win full-field tournaments are invited to Augusta. That left out Mark Wilson, winner of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, and Michael Bradley, who took first in the Puerto Rico Open.
The only thing I would criticize is there are guys who win PGA Tour events and dont get to play here, Baird said after competing in the Par-3 tournament on Wednesday with his young children in tow. To me, thats terrible. Anybody who wins a PGA tournament should be in this tournament.
Besides, the exclusive ' if somewhat quirky ' nature of getting into the Masters is part of its charm. Anyone who wins a green jacket receives a lifetime invitation. Several spots are reserved for amateurs in a perpetual tribute to club co-founder Bobby Jones, who never turned pro.
That why theres a gas station owner in the field, Steve Wilsons reward at age 39 for winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, while Davis Love III will be stuck at home.
Thats why someone like Duke, a late bloomer if there ever was one, will get to tee off Thursday, knowing hes starting even with all the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelsons of the world.
Its been a dream of mine to play here since I was a kid, Duke said. Its really, really unbelievable.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

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    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.