New Augusta Chairman Studies Old Traditions

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For the last eight years, a corner coffee table in the chairman's office at Augusta National held a framed photograph that illustrated the powerful heritage at the home of the Masters.
 
It showed a stone-faced Clifford Roberts standing next to a smiling Hootie Johnson, both in their green jackets, the chairman in memoriam and the chairman emeritus, No. 1 and No. 5 in the 74-year lineage of the club.
 
The sixth chairman is Billy Payne, who is two months away from presiding over his first Masters.
 
On the corner coffee table is a picture of his grandchildren.
 
Payne is the first Masters chairman who never met Roberts, the man who ruled the club and its tournament with an iron fist, and who many believe still rules in spirit. He died in 1977, some 10 years before Payne first played the course as a guest of Charlie Yates -- a former British Amateur champion who learned golf from Bobby Jones and played in the first Masters.
 
But those who think this 'new era in golf' also extends to the Masters might want to heed that time-tested axiom at Augusta.
 
Slow down.
 
'Let me make it clear,' Payne said, leaning forward in his chair. 'History will never forget Cliff Roberts and his contributions to this club and this tournament. He will always be the chairman. I will be nothing more than someone who appeared on the list. Maybe there will be an asterisk by it that said, 'First Georgia resident.'
 
'But other than that,' he added, 'there's so much preservation of custom and tradition that's such an important part of the job. Just to be among the list of men whose lives have been so dedicated to this place, that's enough.'
 
OK, so don't hold your breath on that first woman in a green jacket.
 
When he accepted the job eight months ago, Payne didn't see any reason to open a dialogue with Martha Burk, and that hasn't changed. Members will deliberate and decide all issues related to membership, and the club doesn't discuss membership.
 
'And I don't have anything to add to that,' he said.
 
Payne is hardly a puppet. He combines hard work with big dreams. Proof of that comes from a vision he had leaving church in 1987 that grew into reality when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics.
 
There will be changes at Augusta. They will not be made overnight.
 
'We are not compelled ever to move too quickly,' he said.
 
Payne, however, has shown to be a quick study. The club has enormous archives of its history, and the chairman rarely goes to sleep without delving into Roberts' files. He has tried to learn what made Roberts tick, how he communicated and how people responded. He was amazed at the attention Roberts paid to even the most minor detail, such as knowing the exact metallic weight of trophies.
 
'I would have liked him,' Payne said. 'I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to know him.'
 
No doubt he stumbled across Roberts' desire to keep the Masters the most exclusive major championship, which is guiding Payne as he prepares for his first significant change.
 
The other majors have 156-man fields. The Masters had only 92 players tee off last April, typical of a tournament that never has had more than 109 players in its field.
 
'The player field being small, many tournament formalities and regulations are eliminated,' Roberts once wrote. 'The first consideration is to provide a first-class golf course in as beautiful and nearly perfect condition as effort can make it; and secondly, to show our player-guests every possible courtesy.'
 
Payne wants to restore starting in 2008 the eligibility criteria that PGA TOUR winners receive an automatic invitation to the Masters. Johnson did away with the category after the '99 Masters when the tour began scheduling events -- usually with weak fields -- the same week as the World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
 
But bringing back the 'win-and-you're in' category is not that simple.
 
Should the Masters recognize winners from opposite-field events in Mexico, Milwaukee and Reno, not to mention the seven events after the FedExCup? And does it continue to take the top 40 on the PGA TOUR money list or the top 30 in the FedExCup? Or both?
 
'There's a lot of arithmetic in this,' Payne said. 'What you don't want is all of a sudden to have 100 playing participants, and we have arguably eroded the quality of the tournament. Notwithstanding folks' opinion of how the best way to get there is, we're going to do the best we can.'
 
His goal is to keep the field around 90 players, and 'anything that puts that number at significant threat has got an uphill battle.'
 
The other change will be in new media coverage of the Masters. There was streaming video of Amen Corner on the Masters' Web site last year, and Payne said that likely will be expanded.
 
'I think you'll see more toes in the water, testing our theories,' he said. Payne didn't elaborate -- another trait of chairmen at the Masters -- although he is not convinced Web-based video competes with a network telecast.
 
He does believe his mandate is to bring the Masters to a larger audience, just as Roberts made sure the tournament had radio coverage when it began in 1934, television coverage in 1956 and then catered to the international press to expand its worldwide coverage.
 
'We treasure our reputation in the media world of being, in many cases, the first to do things, and consistently, the best,' he said. 'That same philosophical approach will dictate through time how we utilize these new media opportunities.'
 
Any changes will reflect a new generation at the Masters, even if old traditions die hard.
 
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.