Notes Kid Friendly Players Pursuit Couples Quest

By Associated PressApril 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Its all about the kids at the Masters this year.
 
First Augusta National officials put the Par 3 Contest on TV. The lighthearted event is always a crowd-pleaser, but the cute quotient was off the charts with players kids toddling around in miniature white coveralls. When the tournament begins Thursday, youngsters 8 to 16 will be admitted free.
 
They have to be accompanied by a season-ticket holder, of course, and its one child per ticket holder.
 
We are absolutely thrilled when we imagine how many of these kids will be influenced by this opportunity, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Wednesday.
 
The Junior Pass Program is similar to the Royal & Ancients at the British Open, where juveniles have been admitted for free when accompanied by an adult the last few years. The idea behind adopting it for the seasons first major was twofold, Payne said.
 
The Augusta National members are committed to growing the game of golf, and getting kids interested is a big part of that. But because tickets to the Masters are so hard to come by, adults have rarely brought children once the tournament began.
 
The program also will help teach young fans golf etiquette, Payne said.
 
I thought, `What a great combination: Bring kids in to see their heroes and, at the same time, expose them to the great attributes of how our fans act and behave and enjoy the game of golf, Payne said. Thankfully, at Augusta, we dont have to worry about loss of ticket revenue. So it was just a good idea.
 
Payne wouldnt say how many children Augusta National expects'the club doesnt say how many badges it sells for the tournament. He did say the club has gotten very good feedback from ticket holders.
 
Masters officials also introduced Golf Goes Worldwide, asking people around the world to submit their ideas for expanding the game. Ideas can be submitted in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese and Korean until June 1 on www.masters.org.
 
Just hours later, there were ideas from more than a dozen people. Several suggested family discounts. Others said kids should be limited to nine holes or Par 3 courses. The ideas will be shared with golfs governing bodies, and could be used by Masters officials in the future.
 
Our two founders believed that we should not only put on the best tournament, but be a very positive influence in the game, Payne said. All we promise here is to give it our very best. This is a long-term undertaking. We think we are going to be successful, and were going to try real hard.
 
RECORD NUMBER
Gary Player finally has Arnold Palmer beat.
 
When Player tees off Thursday morning, it will be his 51st Masters. That tops by one the record he shared with The King for most Masters played. Player already holds the record for most consecutive British Opens played'46.
 
The word that comes to mind is thankful, the 72-year-old said. Most people my age are dead! To be able to walk around here easily, to be playing Augusta at my age is a great thrill.
 
Though hes only made the cut four times in the last 20 years, that hardly matters. The South African won nine major titles during his illustrious career, including three right here at Augusta National. He is one of only five golfers to win the career Grand Slam, and hes still a big draw, even with people who didnt see him play in his prime.
 
When he, Palmer and Jack Nicklaus played together in the Par 3, they drew some of the biggest cheers of the week so far.
 
Though Player said last year that he might stop at 51, dont count him out. Hes a fitness fanatic, and looks'and acts'years younger than he is. He may not be in contention at the Masters, but hes not embarrassing himself, either. He shot a 77 in the second round last year.
 
You never take it for granted, Player said, referring to playing in the Masters. Its a great thrill.
 
GOLD-MEDAL GOLF?
Golfers get silver, crystal and all kinds of baubles for winning tournaments. Why not gold?
 
Olympic gold, that is.
 
Making golf an Olympic sport could help expand the game, Phil Mickelson said. Sports included in the Olympic program are eligible for developmental funding, he said, and that could be used to create interest and support young players around the world.
 
We seem to be stagnant in growth. We lose as many golfers as we gain each year in the United States, Mickelson said. If we could make this an Olympic sport, I think golf could really grow.
 
The International Olympic Committee will vote next year on whether to add any new sports to the program for the 2016 Games. Golf was most recently considered in 2005, after baseball and softball were dropped from the London Olympics, but IOC voters rejected the idea.
 
Masters chairman Billy Payne, whose previous claim to fame was being the man who brought the 1996 Games to Atlanta, has made no secret of his desire to see golf as an Olympic sport. In fact, golf would have been played at Augusta National during the Atlanta Olympics had the IOC decided to include it in the program.
 
The pride of representing your country, which has always been displayed in golf through different kinds of formats, is very strong, very powerful and wonderful theater and entertainment, Payne said.
 
If golf ever does make the Olympic cut, count Mickelson in.
 
Having golf become an Olympic sport is a very important thing for the game of golf, he said. And I would definitely play if given the opportunity to represent my country.
 
MISTAKEN IDENTITY
Poor Trip Kuehne. He finally gets back to the Masters and no one seems to know who he is.
 
As winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Kuehne'and the folks at Augusta National'have known since October that hed be playing in the Masters. But instead of his picture, his younger brother Hanks mug is in the official players guide.
 
And at Wednesdays Par 3 Contest, his name was spelled Keuhne on all the placards.
 
At least nobody called him Kelli.
 
DIVOTS
Fred Couples will try to make his 24th consecutive cut this weekend, breaking the record he currently shares with Gary Player. Couples is the only Masters champion to have never missed the cut at Augusta National. There are 20 players making their Masters debuts. Rory Sabbitini could already be out of the running this weekend. He won the Par 3 Contest and no Par 3 winner has gone on to win the Masters in the same year.
 

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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.