Masters More Than Just a Major

By Associated PressApril 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ann Curtis came in the back gates of Augusta National expecting little more than a nice day with her husband. She is not a golfer, has never been here before, but what she saw gave her a start.
 
Im not one thats easily awed, she said. Its just breathtaking.
 
Before her was a cathedral of spring'home to the Masters golf tournament, yes, but also something more. An annual rite, an emergence from the gray of winter into a blaze of color from the green grass to the pink and fuchsia azaleas to the white dogwoods.
 
Its a mystique that doesnt wear off, even for the likes of Arnold Palmer and Butch Harmon after more than half a century. Harmon was a toddler when his father, Claude, won the Masters 60 years ago. Palmer, perhaps the most beloved figure at Augusta, won the first of his four green jackets exactly 50 years ago.
 
There are so many stories here, Harmon said on the green-carpet porch of the white clubhouse.
 
Thats what is so great about this place, Palmer quietly replied.
 
Todays stars understand that, too.
 
This major is so important to all of us, Tiger Woods said. Its such a special event.
 
Woods appreciates the beauty of Augusta National, but hes here for the golf. The worlds No. 1 player sent expectations higher than a Georgia pine when he said earlier this year that the Grand Slam'winning all four majors in the same year'was easily within reason. He has won eight out of his last 10 tournaments and is an even-money favorite to win his fifth Masters, odds never before seen in golf.
 
He played 18 holes on Sunday and Monday, nine holes on Tuesday and spent the final day of practice on the driving range and the putting green, skipping the Par 3 tournament because he wanted no distractions.
 
For so many others, Augusta National is all about distractions.
 
The Masters is the only major held on the same golf course every year, and it has been televised every year since 1956. Fans and players alike grow up watching the tournament on the second weekend of April. They know the holes. They remember the shots. They can recite the history. But they cant recreate the beauty.
 
Tom Kolvek of Vero Beach, Fla., brought his wife here for her 60th birthday. He purchased a book on the history of the club and took notes before passing through the gates Wednesday, studying the contours of the land and the flowers named for every hole'Tea Olive, Golden Bell, Redbud, Holly'all of them found on this former nursery.
 
Its like going to church, Kolvek said.
 
He took a picture on every hole, even if there were no world-class golfers in the background. It is not unusual to see fans stooped over an azalea bush, the camera inches away from the blooms.
 
Christine Hancock moved to Maryland from Augusta, but she returns each year for the Masters. For her, it is the definition of spring. For others, it signals the start of the golf season.
 
A month before it happens, you get this draw to be here and nothing stands in your way, she said. Everything that symbolizes and speaks to spring is here. Its just gorgeous.
 
It is a powerful draw for those who dont have a ticket. Even in a slumping economy, the market for a Masters badge remains high.
 
One New York broker said a four-day pass was going for $3,500, and if that sounds like a steal, consider the face value'$175, by far the cheapest for a major sporting event. A ticket to the Super Bowl, which lasts four hours, was $700.
 
Inside the gates, the value only gets better.
 
Concession prices resemble those at a high school football game, with a pimiento cheese sandwich going for $1.50, candy bars for $1 and a cup of beer for $2. Its not gourmet, but no one comes to the Masters for a good meal.
 
They are here for the views, stunning changes in elevation down to Amen Corner, where Raes Creek cuts behind the 11th green, in front of the 12th green and winds along the 13th hole, where the club estimates there are 1,600 azaleas.
 
And they are here for the golf.
 
For all the flowers, there are just as many footprints left by history.
 
Each hole contains a Masters moment, from Ben Crenshaw making a 60-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole in 1984, to Sandy Lyle hitting out of the cavernous bunker on the 18th to 10 feet for a birdie to win by a single stroke 20 years ago.
 
The Masters is the youngest of the four majors, created in 1934 by the great Bobby Jones. Even so, perhaps no other golf tournament celebrates its history quite like Augusta National, and Wednesday was a perfect example.
 
Playing the 18th hole by himself was Larry Mize, who turns 50 later this year. Hes remembered as the local kid who chipped in for birdie on the 11th hole in 1987 to beat Greg Norman in a playoff, still one of the most celebrated shots at the Masters.
 
Mize has never even practiced that shot over the last 21 years.
 
Its a pure memory, he said. I dont want to ruin it.
 
Want memories?
 
Two groups back was Jack Nicklaus, who stopped playing the Masters in 2005 but decided to play the back nine for practice with his 18-year-old grandson on the bag, just so the kid could see the course for himself. Nicklaus played with Gary Player, who will set the record this week by taking part in his 51st Masters.
 
The Golden Bear is now 68, and he had to hit a fairway metal into almost all the par 4s, but he was greeted by a standing ovation as he walked off the 18th tee.
 
He then played the Par 3 tournament and headed home.
 
Im going to leave this to a lot of young folks, he said.
 
Still, he was here, and he undoubtedly will be back next year. The aura of Amen Corner in the spring is too alluring.
 
What gives the course its mystique? Nicklaus left that for others to ponder, but his answer was simple:
 
Its obviously a pretty place.
 
Related Links:
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.