Notes Stephens a Man of Few Words at Augusta

By Associated PressJuly 26, 2005, 4:00 pm
Jack Stephens kept out of the spotlight during his seven years as chairman of Augusta National, except for presenting the Masters champion the green jacket in Butler Cabin and his annual news conference on the eve of the tournament. But his droll humor and rich Arkansas drawl made for some entertaining moments.
 
Stephens often made his point without saying much at all'if he even said anything.
 
When cigars were all the rage in 1998, he was asked whether Augusta National or any part of the course would be designated non-smoking. Stephens stared at the reporter and smiled, then reached into his pocket and put a pack of Winston cigarettes and his lighter on the table.
 
Sitting next to him was Will Nicholson, chairman of competition.
 
No, sir, Nicholson said, turning snickers into laughter.
 
Were not going to make it No Smoking.
 
One issue during Stephens tenure from 1991 to 1998 was the Masters limited television coverage. While other majors had a broadcast that stretched five hours or more, the final round of the Masters was only three hours, and usually didnt start until the leaders were approaching the turn.
 
Stephens once said he might consider extending the broadcast, and so in 1997 he was asked for update.
 
Progress is slow, Stephens said.
 
He was asked why it was slow, and to describe the discussions with CBS Sports.
 
Honestly, Stephens replied, progress is slow because we dont want to do it.
 
Reporters continued to press Stephens on extending the broadcast, pointing out that it could rob the television audience of dramatic shots that occur over the front nine. One reporter asked him if he ever watched the Super Bowl.
 
Fourth quarter, Stephens said.
 
Stephens, the fourth chairman at Augusta National, died over the weekend at age 81. His final year as chairman was in 1998, when Tiger Woods was defending champion after winning by 12 shots with a record score of 270. There was talk about Tiger-proofing the course, although Stephens never seemed to worry. He was asked what he would do if Woods were to set another record and demolish the field.
 
I suppose well anoint him, he said.
 
Stephens also could be succinct with players. David Duval finished at 8-under 280 that year and was in Jones Cabin, anticipating a playoff as Mark OMeara lined up a 20-foot birdie putt for the victory.
 
Dont worry, David, Stephens assured him. Nobody ever makes that putt.
 
The putt went in, OMeara thrust both arms in the air to celebrate his first major, and Duval was shocked. As Stephens left for the green jacket presentation in Butler Cabin, he looked back at Duval.
 
Hey, good tournament. Well look forward to seeing you next year.
 
SERVING YOUTH
Three teenagers have petitioned LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw to become members before their 18th birthday, none of them named Michelle Wie.
 
Votaw made a compromise to U.S. Womens Open runner-up Morgan Pressel, allowing her to go through qualifying school in the fall but not allowing her to become an LPGA member until she turns 18 on May 23. He rejected the request of 15-year-old Carmen Bandea, who has never played an LPGA event.
 
The latest petition is from In-Bee Park, 17, who won the U.S. Junior Girls three years ago and has been runner-up two of the last three years. She has top 10s in two LPGA Tour starts, both in Las Vegas.
 
Votaw has not decided whether to waive the LPGAs age limit of 18 for Park, although it appears unlikely.
 
And he stands by his decision to make Pressel wait until she graduates from high school'three days before she turns 18. The only player granted a full waiver was Aree Song, who was 17 when she joined the tour last year.
 
Then again, Song had already graduated from high school. Plus, she had played in 14 events on the LPGA Tour, starting with the Kraft Nabisco at age 13 when she was in the final group.
 
Votaw said he was confident that Pressel would finish high school and keep her 4.0 GPA, but noted her limited experience on the LPGA Tour.
 
Five tournaments this summer isnt the same as 14 from the age of 13, he said.
 
MISSING INGREDIENT
Scott Verplank has gone nearly four years since his last win, at the Canadian Open, although it hasnt been for lack of effort.
 
He hit a brilliant shot in a playoff at Doral last year, only to have Craig Parry hole out a 6-iron. He was poised to win The Players Championship this year until his 10-foot par putt caught the edge, and Fred Funk got up-and-down from a bunker. He was runner-up again last week in Milwaukee.
 
You can look at that two ways, Verplank said. Either Im really due, or it aint gonna happen. I try and look at it like Im really due.
 
DIVOTS
The average score at Milwaukee was 69.26, the lowest on the PGA Tour at a single course since the field averaged 69.08 at the 2003 Honda Classic at Mirasol. ... The USGA is accepting ticket applications for the 2006 U.S. Open, to be held June 15-18 at Winged Foot. The deadline is Aug. 15, followed by a random drawing. The U.S. Open has been a sellout the last 19 years. ... Scott Verplanks runner-up finish in Milwaukee moved him into 10th place in the Presidents Cup team standings. There are three tournaments left to qualify.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh each have been No. 1 for 15 weeks this season.
 
FINAL WORD
I hit balls for maybe 20 minutes, hit a few putts, smoke four or five cigarettes, drink three Diet Cokes and go to the first tee.'John Daly, on how he prepares for a tournament.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.