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Payne retiring as Augusta National chairman

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Billy Payne is retiring as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, the club announced Wednesday. He will be replaced by Fred Ridley.

Payne, who turns 70 in October, had served in the role since 2006 and was instrumental in modernizing Augusta National, admitting the club’s first female members and growing the game worldwide.

Ridley, a former president of the USGA, has served as the competition chairman since 2007. A former U.S. Amateur champion, Ridley, 65, is the first chairman to have played in the Masters (1976-78).

Payne will retire from his role Oct. 16 and become chairman emeritus.

“The privilege I experienced serving as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” he said in a statement. “This honor, however, is too great for one person to claim as their own for too long a period of time. I retire knowing it is simply the right thing to do – and at the right moment – to open the door and invite someone new to be called upon to lead, bring forth new ideas and craft a new vision that will honor our founders and serve the game of golf for many years to come.”

Augusta National Golf Club chairmen Years served
Clifford Roberts  1931-1976
William H. Lane  1976-1980
Hord H. Hardin 1980-1991 
Jackson T. Stephens  1991-1998
William W. Johnson  1998-2006
William P. Payne  2006-2017
Fred S. Ridley 2017 - 

Who is Fred Ridley? A closer look at the new Augusta National chairman

Photos: Fred Ridley through the years

Payne’s 11-year term – the second-longest in club history – was arguably the most transformative in the 84-year history of Augusta National.

In 2012, the club announced that it had admitted its first female members, marking a significant departure from the previous tenure of Hootie Johnson, who had vehemently defended the male-only membership policy. ANGC now has three female members: Condoleezza Rice, Darla Moore and Virginia Rometty.

Payne has also succeeded in growing golf worldwide, creating the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship on the eve of Masters week, starting amateur tournaments in Asia and South America, and spearheading golf’s return to the Olympic Games.

As much as the course has stayed the same inside the ropes, Payne has significantly upgraded areas like building a new media center and Berckmans Place, for corporate hospitality. In one of his final acts as chairman, the club purchased land from neighboring Augusta Country Club that secured the course’s border and made room for the possible expansion of the par-5 13th hole.

Payne and Ridley were elevated into their new roles in 2006, when Ridley became the chairman of the competition and rules committee.

Ridley, who becomes the club’s seventh chairman, was a past president of the USGA from 2004-05. In the 2013 Masters, Ridley was involved in a controversial rules situation involving Tiger Woods, when he gave Woods a two-shot penalty instead of disqualifying him for taking an improper drop.

Said Payne: “Fred will be an excellent chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.” 

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”

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U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:12 pm

Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.

Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.

According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.

"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."

Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.

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Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.

In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.

“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”

Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.

Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.