AUGUSTA, Ga. – Kyle Stanley, who grew up in Washington state, feels as though he’s back home in the South. He played college golf at Clemson, which is about two hours away.
But he won’t be able to stay on the practice range at Augusta National the way he did at college.
Along with having family in the South, one thing that appealed to Stanley about Clemson was a lighted driving range that coach Larry Penley had installed near the football field.
“You could pretty much practice whenever you wanted. It was pretty cool,” Stanley said.
The latest he stayed out there was 3 a.m., and his motto never changed. His last shot had to be his best one, or he wouldn’t leave. Stanley said there were times he got all the way out to his car, wasn’t satisfied and returned to the range until he hit his best shot.
A strong work ethic took time to develop.
Stanley said a turning point in his golf career came when he was in high school and missed the cut in the state tournament at Spokane. He faced a four-hour drive home with his father.
“I remember just talking to my dad, and he kind of explained to me, ‘Listen, if you want to be really good, if you want to be one of the best players in the world, you’re going to have to work at it.’ I made the transformation pretty quickly,” Stanley said.
His role model was Vijay Singh because of the long hours the former Masters champion puts in on the range.
It has brought Stanley to a big stage. He is a Masters rookie, yet he was tested early this year by making a triple bogey on the 18th hole at
Torrey Pines to lose a three-shot lead, then losing a playoff to Brandt Snedeker. A week later, Stanley made up an eight-shot deficit in the final round to win the Phoenix Open and earn a spot at the Masters.
“It feels like it’s been a long year already,” Stanley said. “There’s a couple of weeks that definitely took a little bit out of me.”
TIGER FUNDRAISER: Tiger Woods began Masters week by launching a fundraising campaign on his personal Facebook page aimed at sending 10 students to college through the Earl Woods Scholarship Program.
Woods started the scholarship program in 2006 in honor of his father, who died that year.
Participants can contribute as little as $1 to the scholarship program. Woods will match every contribution. The six-week campaign ends on May 7. Whoever contributes the most money will be invited to the AT&T National at Congressional that starts June 28, which will include a spot playing in the pro-am and a private putting lesson from Woods. Airfare and lodging is included.
“There is an entire generation of young people who see education as their way out of poverty and struggle,” Woods said. “These are extremely talented kids, but they can’t afford college. The most important thing about this campaign is that a small amount can make a big difference. If enough fans each contribute just a few dollars, the impact is felt for generations. It’s so much bigger than 10 scholars.”
The Earl Woods Scholarship Program began with five students in Orange County, Calif., and since has expanded to include 60 scholars from around the world.
ROOKIE EXPERIENCE: Scott Stallings is among 15 players at the Masters for the first time, which is not to suggest he has a hard time finding his way around the golf course. Stallings already had been on the course 14 times before the first official day of practice Monday.
Yes, he’s excited to be here.
“I just wanted to get my work in,” Stallings said. “I couldn’t imagine being here for the first time and trying to cram everything in and still be able to soak up the whole experience.”
Stallings didn’t necessarily play 14 rounds. He missed a month on the PGA Tour, returning only three weeks ago because of a shoulder injury.
But that didn’t keep him from making his rounds at Augusta, with a little encouragement from Kentucky friend Kenny Perry.
“I think his exact words were, ‘What are you doing? Get your butt down there,’” Stallings said with a laugh. “I’ve made five trips, and on two of those trips, I was just chipping and putting.”
Perry also sent Stallings his yardage book, with notations about the greens. Perry lost in a playoff in 2009.
FALDO MEMORIES: In a compelling television moment that showed how much the back nine at Augusta National can weigh on a player, Nick Faldo debated the club selection for what seemed like 10 minutes during the final round in 1996 before finally settling on a 2-iron. He put it on the green for a two-putt birdie, a pivotal shot in his comeback to beat Greg Norman.
Only the indecision was not about clubs.
Faldo said Monday that he carried a 5-wood in his bag that week, and during every practice round, he put down a ball from 215 yards away to practice. Sure enough, he had that yardage on the 13th hole Sunday, yet he had not hit that 5-wood all week in competition.
And it turns out that wasn’t the right club.
“I put it behind the ball, but because of the severity of the slope … it’s difficult to describe. It’s a downhill lie, and it’s like playing a shot off the banking of a race track. I put the club down, and it wouldn’t sit square.”
He put the club back and opted for the 2-iron.
Faldo said his line to caddie Fanny Sunesson was, “I’m all right. Let’s start again.”
“We were fine down there,” he said. “It’s fun now to listen on TV. Ken Venturi is doing the call, and he’s throwing up all sorts of ideas, that I’m not sure what I’m doing. That all added to it. The bottom line is I was crunching numbers, working out where I could miss it.”
DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION: Anyone expecting to see Ian Poulter in a colorful wardrobe might be disappointed during practice rounds at the Masters. Before he checks out his closet, he checks the forecast.
And it’s supposed to be hot until the tournament gets under way.
“All white,” Poulter said, though that’s not entirely true. “I’ll have an accent of pink tomorrow, maybe the belt buckle and the visor.”
Poulter became a greater fan of weather after the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., when temperatures climbed into the 100s before some players had time to finish breakfast.
“Even in white, in that heat, it was uncontrollable sweating,” he said. “This place, at times, can get that hot.”