Notes Winners Back in Masters

By Associated PressApril 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For years, a win on the PGA Tour meant a trip to the Masters.
 
That policy could be making a comeback.
 
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday the club may reconsider its qualifying procedures, which removed the automatic invitation for tour winners beginning with the 2000 Masters.
 
``We will give serious consideration to the possibility of tournament winners receiving an invitation,'' Johnson said during his annual pre-Masters news conference. ``This will probably be a couple of years off.''
 
Eight Tour winners from the past year didn't qualify for the Masters: Joey Sindelar, Jonathan Byrd, Vaughn Taylor, Woody Austin, Bart Bryant, Brent Geiberger, Andre Stolz and Heath Slocum.
 
Since the change was made -- giving more weight to yearlong performance through the world rankings and PGA Tour money list -- the number of non-American players has risen dramatically.
 
In 1999, there were 29 foreign-born players in the 96-player field for the last Masters that included Tour winners. This year, it's 44 out of 93 -- a nearly 52 percent increase.
 
But Augusta National has always striven for a worldwide feel to its signature event, so there's no concern about having nearly half the field comprised of non-American players.
 
``The fact that international players have qualified in great numbers would not be a factor in re-evaluating our qualifications,'' Johnson said.
 
On a related note, Johnson conceded that broadcast ratings in Japan were a factor in the club's decisions to extend a special invitation to Shingo Katayama, who will be playing his fourth Masters in five years.
 
Not so for Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, whose streak of 13 straight Augusta appearances ends this year -- even though he was a star on Europe's Ryder Cup team last fall and showed his affinity for the Masters by traveling to China and Indonesia in a last-ditch attempt to qualify.
 
``Colin will be back in the Masters tournament one way or another, surely,'' Johnson said. But ``for a golfer like Colin to come real close, then we give him an invitation, that's not something we would want to do.''
 
Katayama, known for his cowboy hat and effusive personality, has 16 wins on the Japan PGA Tour. He became a bit of a cult figure in this country with his fourth-place finish at the 2001 PGA Championship.
 
Listening to Johnson, the Masters invitation seemed to have more to do with Katayama's homeland than his performance.
 
``We have a long relationship with Japan,'' Johnson said. ``They have been the most populous golfing nation for many years. We do have a big broadcast over there, and that does influence us.''
 
That's a change from last year, when China's Zhang Lian-Wei received a special invitation but Johnson insisted it had nothing to do with promoting the Masters in the world's most populous nation.
 
PAR-3 CONTEST:
The ``Par-3 Jinx'' is assured of lasting another year.
 
Jerry Pate won the par-3 contest Wednesday at 5 under par, the highlight of an always-entertaining event that featured holes-in-one by Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and amateur Luke List.
 
Pate, the 1976 U.S. Open champion, took part in the event as one of the non-competing invitees to the Masters. Anyone who has won a U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Amateur or British Amateur can attend the Masters, play practice rounds and take part in the lighthearted tournament held on the club's nine-hole, par-3 course.
 
The par-3 winner has never gone on to win the Masters -- and he won't this year, either.
 
Crenshaw had his hole-in-one at the 70-yard second, while List aced the 115-yard seventh and Floyd knocked in his tee shot on the 135-yard ninth.
 
``I hit it real close, about a foot past, and it spun back in,'' Floyd said. ``It was a real nice way to finish the day.''
 
Crenshaw finished one stroke behind Pate.
 
FIRST SHOT:
Mr. Palmer, the Masters is holding your tee time.
 
For the third year in a row, the tournament will begin without an honorary starter, a position that Augusta National is holding open for four-time winner Arnold Palmer.
 
Palmer played in his 50th -- and final -- Masters last year. He has left open the possibility of starting the tournament with an honorary tee shot, but he's not quite ready to take on the ceremonial duties.
 
``We are going to hold that position until Arnold is ready to go,'' Masters chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday. ``I hope it won't be too long.''
 
FEMALE MEMBERS:
Masters chairman Hootie Johnson quickly shut down any debate about Augusta National bringing in its first female member.
 
When a reporter tried to bring up the issue Wednesday, Johnson replied, ``We've adopted a new policy. We don't talk about club matters, period.''
 
The issue created a storm of controversy in 2003, when protesters led by Martha Burk converged on Augusta to demand that women be admitted as members.
 
Johnson refused to budge on the private club's all-male membership, even going to a commercial-free telecast so sponsors wouldn't be subject to protests or boycotts.
 
Burk's protest near the club drew only a few dozen people, and the Masters feels confident enough in its position to restore commercials on this year's telecast.
 
DIVOTS:
Tiger Woods and Ernie Els both have a chance to take the world's No. 1 ranking this week. Woods would vault to the top spot if he wins, no matter where Els and current No. 1 Vijay Singh finish. Depending on where the other two finish, Woods could reclaim the top of the rankings with a finish as low as fifth. For Els to become No. 1, the South African must win with Singh lower than tied for third and Woods lower than tied for second.
 
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.