Majors are Supposed to be Hard Even the Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods called it the hardest Masters he had ever seen, and the numbers back him up.
 
There were twice as many bogeys as birdies, and that doesn't account for the 230 double bogeys or worse. There were only 34 rounds under par all week. Perhaps the most surreal sight at Augusta National was the large leaderboard behind the 18th hole awash in green numbers, which represent over par.
 
Zach Johnson finished at 289, matching the Masters record for the highest winning score.
 
And we're only getting started.
 
Johnson's score was the highest to win a major since Paul Lawrie shot 290 and won a playoff in the '99 British Open at Carnoustie, long considered the toughest links in the world, known in British tabloids as 'Car-nasty.'
 
That's where these guys are headed this summer.
 
In between is a trip to Oakmont. The last time the U.S. Open went there, Ernie Els shot 74 in a playoff and still won.
 
By the time they get to the PGA Championship, Southern Hills might seem like Indian Wells.
 
Majors are supposed to be hard.
 
And yes, that includes Augusta National.
 
Along with being the highest-scoring Masters in more than 50 years, it also was one of the most quiet Masters in recent memory.
 
The sound at Augusta National is as inherent as the sights. It was muted for much of the week as the world's best players hung on for dear life on a bone-dry course, in swirling wind, in weather more suited for a Green Bay Packers game in late October and on greens so firm it was difficult to get the ball close for birdie, much less par.
 
The degree of difficulty was indicative not only by the scores, but by the starting times Sunday. The last group teed off at 2:15 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual because it was taking so long to putt out.
 
Does all this mean the Masters was a disaster?
 
Hardly.
 
Augusta National is known for its explosive nature, particularly on the back nine on Sunday. It was a double eagle by Gene Sarazen on the 15th hole in 1935 that put this tournament on the map. It was a 30 on the back nine by Jack Nicklaus in 1986 that for many remains the most famous Sunday in Masters history. Phil Mickelson won his first Masters with five birdies over the final seven holes.
 
Sometimes, conditions don't allow for such fireworks.
 
That alone doesn't make the Masters any less memorable.
 
An hour before the final round, Jim Nantz and CBS Sports showed a colorized broadcast of the 1960 Masters won by Arnold Palmer. The winning score was 282. Palmer didn't birdie either of the par 5s on the back nine, but rallied to win with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie on the 18th.
 
What makes the Masters so special among the four majors is returning year after year to Augusta National. It might be longer. Sometimes it's sloppy after a week of rain. Sometimes the dogwoods and azaleas blaze a little brighter.
 
It's still the Masters.
 
Golf fans know every hole on the back nine at Augusta National, and since TV coverage was expanded in 2002, they are starting to know every hole on the front. Some years it will be easier to make birdie, some years it will be tough to make par.
 
This was the latter.
 
It would be easy to suggest that Augusta National ruined its major by adding nearly a quarter-mile of length since 2001, but that would be measuring the Masters based only on this year.
 
What happened was a perfect storm -- no measurable rain during the week, or even the weeks before the Masters; gusts up to 25 mph, swirling through the trees, as always; weather so cold on the weekend that the wind chill never got into the 50s on Saturday, and fans were kept outside the gates for an hour Sunday morning until the frost melted.
 
The last time no one broke par at the Masters was in 1966, when Nicklaus, Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer finished at even-par 288. Nicklaus won the next day in an 18-hole playoff, and he wrote about the conditions in his autobiography.
 
He said a cold, dry winter had left the fairways sparse. The club decided not to mow too short, which led to flier lies from the fairway. Compounding the problem was the rock-hard greens, which made it difficult to get any shots anywhere near the hole. And wind gusts were 30 mph.
 
'One thing was certain as we wound up practice,' Nicklaus wrote. 'There would be no record scores this year.'
 
Even with scoring so high, the Masters still had its share of flurries and failures, of eagles and double bogeys.
 
Rory Sabbatini's eagle putt on the eighth hole was from 75 feet, although it probably rolled closer to 100 feet by the time it traveled left onto the fringe, then veered right back to the hole. Woods hit 5-iron to the top shelf on the par-5 13th, then went from screaming, 'God, bite!' to slapping hands with his caddie when it stopped 3 feet from the pin.
 
Luke Donald holed a 30-yard pitch for eagle on the eighth, only to follow with a triple bogey when he chipped three times before keeping his ball on the ninth green. Padraig Harrington found water on the 15th in three of four rounds, and played the par-5 in 5 over for the week.
 
It became cliche during the week to say, 'I went to the Masters and the U.S. Open broke out.'
 
But it wasn't like that.
 
The Masters will return to Augusta National year after year. And there was one other sign that you knew this wasn't a U.S. Open.
 
Tough as it was, no one complained.
 
Related Links:
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  • Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

    You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

    Race to the CME Globe

    Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

    Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

    The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

    Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

    Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

    So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

    Rolex Player of the Year

    The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

    Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

    Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

    Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

    It’s simple math.

    The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

    1st - 30 points

    2nd – 12 points

    3rd – 9 points

    4th – 7 points

    5th – 6 points

    6th – 5 points

    7rd – 4 points

    8th – 3 points

    9th – 2 points

    10th – 1 point

    Vare Trophy

    Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

    Money-winning title

    Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking

    World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

    Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

    At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

    Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

    By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

    Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

    ''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

    Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

    ''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

    Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

    ''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

    ''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

    ''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

    He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

    ''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

    Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

    ''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''