Caddie Jackson has rich Masters memories

By Damon HackApril 9, 2013, 12:18 pm

Carl Jackson does not worry about the weight of the bag, even after all these years.

The Masters is too important to miss, even with the gray sprinkled in his light mustache, even if Augusta National’s humps and hollows seem to shout for a younger man.

“I go to feel the spirit,” the 66-year-old said last week from Roland, Ark., in anticipation of his yearly loop with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. “The tournament has a spirit about it and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or the sun is shining. I see why the older players hate to let it go.”

Jackson first caddied in the Masters in 1961, at age 14, wearing “a caddie diaper,” he jokes.

As a regular in the caddie yard, Jackson was once approached by President Dwight Eisenhower and asked why he wasn’t in school.

Jackson had dropped out in ninth grade because his family needed the money. He’s missed only one Masters since.

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Though he now lives and works in Roland as the caddie manager at Alotian Golf Club, Jackson returns to his native Augusta this week for the same reason we go home for the holidays.

The memories are thick, whether rich or painful: the wins with Crenshaw in 1984 and 1995, of course, but also the losses; the knowledge that the club employed five of his brothers; the opportunity, once more, to lose himself amid loblolly pines and flowers of springtime.

He lived through the racial tensions of the times – the membership issues, the demise of the black caddie when the club allowed the use of PGA Tour caddies – and has emerged with his optimism intact.

He chronicles much of his life in the upcoming book “Two Roads to Augusta,” written with Crenshaw. It traces the backgrounds of both men and how each, with the help of the other, has left an indelible mark on the year’s first major.

Jackson’s mind is a treasure trove of Masters stories.

He remembers, in 1996, carrying Crenshaw's bag during a practice round that included Tiger Woods, fresh off back-to-back U.S. Amateur titles.

Jackson kept a pack of Marlboro Lights in his caddie bib.

“I would always throw down the pack to suggest where a certain pin would be,” Jackson said. “I’d suggest that Ben try certain putts, and then Tiger would follow. Tiger followed Ben on every one of those greens.”

Woods missed the cut, but he tracked down Jackson before he left.

“I could tell he was in a hurry, but he found me just to say thank you,” Jackson said. Woods then told Jackson, “Those pins were exactly where you said they were going to be.” Woods won by 12 shots the following year.

Jackson more famously rode shotgun to Crenshaw’s titles, the second coming days after Crenshaw’s mentor, Harvey Penick, died in 1995.

Crenshaw arrived at Augusta with his game in tatters. After a practice round, Jackson pulled Crenshaw aside and directed him to the practice area.

“You have to be careful when you interfere with a pro’s swing thoughts, but what I’ve always respected about Ben is if I’ve got something to say I found a way to say it,” Jackson said.

The caddie told his player to put the ball farther back in his stance and to turn his shoulders more.

“After about three balls, he had it,” Jackson said. “It held.”

With players such as Greg Norman and Davis Love III on the leaderboard, Crenshaw was somehow able to keep his swing and emotions intact.

He arrived at the 18th hole with a two-shot lead. Jackson could already see the moment was weighing on Crenshaw.

“I was watching and being protective of Ben the whole week,” Jackson said. “People in the gallery kept reminding him of Mr. Penick. He lost it on 18 fairway, really. Hit a great drive and had an 8-iron to the green and some of the gallery started congratulating him and offering condolences. I had to say, ‘Ben, we have more golf to play here.’ And sure enough he hit a bad 8-iron into a dangerous position.”

Crenshaw’s ball landed short of the right bunker.

“If he hits it a little short or soft, it will come back down the fairway,” Jackson said. “I suggested to Ben to play it way over to the right and let the slope bring it back toward the hole and he agreed to that. Some reporter said it was a terrible chip, but he didn’t know we were going where we could make bogey.”

Crenshaw did just that, rolling in a short putt and dissolving into tears as Jackson tried to hold him up.

Crenshaw through the years has repeated a refrain about Jackson he said that Sunday: “I can’t say enough about that man.”

Jackson and Crenshaw will team again this week, and they know their time at the Masters is short. They’ve stood side by side at every tournament since 1976, the only exception the 2000 Masters when Jackson missed the tournament while fighting colon cancer.

Crenshaw is 61 and the course is long and the chances for a third green jacket seem less than remote.

“Ben's fire’s still burning,” Jackson protested.  “That champion’s fight, it has to subside before you can quit. I watch good putters, but they can’t do it like Ben. His putting stroke was made for fast greens, period. That man knows something about feel that nobody else knows.”

The same can be said of his caddie.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

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They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

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“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

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Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.