Parry Never Takes the Masters for Granted

By Associated PressApril 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There's nothing better than the weekend at Augusta National for Craig Parry - not just during the Masters, but even before it gets started.
 
Parry played with an Augusta National member on Sunday, a day like no other at major championships. It was hard to tell the course was getting ready to stage one of the most famous tournaments in golf. Augusta looked more like a member-guest outing at a regular tournament.
 
Mark O'Meara played with a good friend from Utah. Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer played with their sons.
 
'This is special,' Parry said. 'It's quiet. I think it's the best time to come, because there are no spectators. You just go out there and enjoy it for what it is.'
 
Another reason Parry enjoys it so much is that he never knows when his next Masters will be his last.
 
The 39-year-old Australian nearly won the green jacket in 1992, leading the tournament with 15 holes to play until he fell apart and shot 78. He tied for 13th that year, which remains his best finish. Worst yet, he has only played the Masters six times since.
 
'Every year I come here feels like my last year, so that makes it special,' Parry said.
 
He had no reason to believe he would be back this year. Parry wasn't even among the top 75 in the world ranking to start the season, but picked up top 10s in the Mercedes Championships and the Ford Championship at Doral, and in between won the Heineken Classic in Australia.
 
That allowed him to get into the top 50 after The Players Championship - the final cutoff for the Masters - but he had to wait to get his invitation from Augusta National. Those who qualified last year got their invitations the week after Christmas.
 
But he couldn't wait to arrive. There weren't many other places he would rather be.
 
Ditto for Steve Flesch, especially considering his alternative would have been the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta. Flesch was among five players eligible for the Masters who withdrew when the tournament started two days late because of rain, and now will finish Monday.
 
'It's been so bad lately, you can't get into any kind of rhythm playing,' Flesch said, noting that weather has interrupted play at eight of the 14 tournaments this year.
 
He played the back nine at Augusta on Saturday afternoon. As some players were just starting the second round Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, Flesch was headed to the first tee at Augusta to join Jonathan Kaye for a relaxing round with no spectators, no distractions, no worries.
 
Nothing captured the spirit of the afternoon quite like Faldo, a three-time Masters champion who was fidgeting with a camera on the putting green as he waited for the 10th tee to clear so he could play with his son, 16-year-old Matthew. It was the lad's first time playing Augusta National.
 
'He was born three weeks before I won my first Masters,' Faldo said, recalling his first green jacket in 1989, when he holed a 25-foot birdie on the second extra hole to beat Scott Hoch.
 
Matthew rapped a few putts, amazed at the speed of the green. Did his dad mention that the greens are probably faster than anything he has seen?
 
'He'll figure it out soon enough,' Faldo said.
 
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was on the grounds, for reasons unclear, although he took time to chat with Jerry Kelly. It was a diverse blend of players - members and their guests, first-timers like Mark Hensby, former champions Gay Brewer, Charles Coody, Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw, and players who simply couldn't wait to get started.
 
For Flesch, sunshine was the biggest treat.
 
Adam Scott turned into a prophet when he said at the Sony Open in Hawaii, the second week of the year, 'For a tour that tries to follow the sun, it seems we play under water a lot of the time.'
 
In consecutive weeks in California, the Nissan Open was cut to 36 holes over five days because of rain, and the Match Play Championship lost one day because the course was under water.
 
Florida was just as bad. The Bay Hill Invitational lost all but three hours of the first day because of rain, and The Players Championship the following week got so much rain the tournament didn't finish until Monday, when the leaders had to play 32 holes.
 
Then came the two-day delay in Atlanta.
 
'It seems like this year has taken forever, but I can't believe we're already at Augusta. Does that make sense?' Flesch said. 'It just doesn't seem like I've played any golf this year.'
 
That should change this week. The forecast is for mostly sunny skies, with a mild chance of showers on Thursday.
 
Augusta National is as green as ever, with azaleas and dogwoods bursting in bloom. With a golf club in hand, there was no better place to be.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”