Tiger Starts Defense of Masters Title

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Jack Nicklaus sloshed through mud outside the Augusta National clubhouse, seemingly oblivious to the biting breeze, the chilling drizzle, the total lack of anyone else on the putting green.
'Ah, what a beautiful day,' he said, pulling out three balls for some last-minute Masters practice.
Hardly. Thursday was a day for staying inside after another wave of showers turned golf's hallowed grounds into a muddy mess, forcing the first round to be called off without a shot being struck.
They returned Friday morning, Tiger Woods and the rest of the 93-man field, as the 67th Masters finally got under way.
Sandy Lyle hit the opening tee shot under gray, damp clouds as the temperature struggled to reach 50 degrees. Fanfare was minimal. Club chairman Hootie Johnson wasn't on the first tee, as the Masters did not have honorary starters for the first time since 1982.
Players started on the 1st and 10th tees, with hopes of playing 36 holes to get the first major of the year back on schedule.
Nicklaus arrived at the course Thursday morning, only to get word that no golf would be played. He went back home for a while, but couldn't stay away.
'I didn't have anything else to do,' the six-time Masters champion said. 'So I figured I would go do some putting and chipping.'
He girded himself for the dreary, dank weather by layering a shirt, two sweaters and his rain suit. The folks staying in the nearby cabins had a better idea, judging from the smoke billowing from the fireplaces.
'I've never seen anything like this here,' said Ray Floyd, the 1976 Masters champion. 'I know the decision not to play was tough, but what else can you do?'
Indeed, while Augusta National has been trying to stave off Martha Burk and her protests against the all-male membership, there was nothing the exclusive club could do about another woman: Mother Nature.
For the first time since 1939, the opening round was postponed by rain.
'I'd like to see something good happen here because of all the negative press,' David Toms said. 'But we don't play in a dome.'
A dome would have come in handy this week. It's been raining since Sunday, knocking out one entire day of practice and cutting short the popular Par 3 Tournament.
Even so, some 30,000 fans showed up Thursday, ready to see some golf. They walked gingerly through the brown slop, but their shoes and pants were still splattered with mud. (Certainly, this will be a banner week for Augusta's dry cleaners.)
A few dozen fans even made it all the way down to Amen Corner, staking out a space with their folding chairs. No one ever came by.
'They're probably desperate to see a shot,' Scott Verplank said.
David Ziff traveled from Atlanta for his first Masters experience with a friend who arranged for the tickets. Driving down Washington Road, they heard on the radio that the first round had been called off.
'I'm going to walk the course, look around and go back to Atlanta,' said Ziff, holding three bags of Masters merchandise. 'At least I can say I've been here.'
Woods, chasing history as he goes after an unprecedented third straight title, didn't even make it to the golf course.
'Evidently, they felt it was unplayable,' he said.
More showers were expected Friday morning. When they do get around to golf, the soggy turf should play right into the hands of Woods and others who hit the ball far and high on a 7,290-yard course that will seem even longer.
Stamina also figures to play a big role. Memo to those who took Arnold Palmer in the office pool: The 73-year-old King isn't likely to make the cut for the first time since 1983.
'If you're not under 32 and can hit 280, you've got no chance,' said Loren Roberts, who is 47 and averages 254 off the tee.
The course was unplayable, even with the club's high-tech, underground drainage system. Some 4 inches of rain have inundated the course; on the third and seventh fairways, there was simply nowhere to take relief from casual water.
Players are allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway at regular PGA Tour events to cope with the mud. That doesn't happen at the majors, and club officials made it clear that the ball is played as it lies at the Masters.
'There would be a woman member here before that happens,' Chris DiMarco quipped.
And speaking of women, Burk and her National Council of Women's Organizations still plan to protest Saturday - the first day sunshine is in the forecast.
In Atlanta, Burk called on Augusta National members to take a stand against Johnson and turn in their green jackets if they don't agree with him on the issue of female members.
'The choice,' Burk said, 'is to stand up and support Hootie, or stand down.'
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Photo Gallery
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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  • McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

    Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

    Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

    Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

    Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    "I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

    But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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    With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

    Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

    The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

    "I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

    Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”