Payne: Augusta membership issues are private

By Jay CoffinApril 4, 2012, 4:41 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National chairman Billy Payne spent nearly 30 minutes with the media Wednesday at Augusta National, his annual news conference on the eve of the Masters.

The club’s all-male membership policy was the most heated topic as Payne was steadfast in saying the club will not publicly discuss membership issues. The latest interest in the topic comes since Virginia Rometty was named CEO of IBM earlier this year. The previous four CEOs of IBM – a longtime corporate partner of the Masters – have all been members of Augusta National.

“One, we don’t talk about our private deliberations,” Payne said. “No. 2, we especially don’t talk about them when a named candidate is part of the question.”

Payne was asked questions related to membership on 11 different occasions and declined each time. One of the more thoughtful questions asked Payne what he would say to granddaughters everywhere if they asked why they could not be included as members of Augusta National.

“Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that’s a question that deals with membership,” he said.

Other highlights from the meeting with the chairman:

• Payne began the conference by paying respects to former Masters champion Seve Ballesteros and journalists Jim Huber and Furman Bisher, who all died in the past year.

“I remember a very recent exchange of letters,” Payne said of Bisher, a longtime newspaper man and staple at the Masters for more than 60 years.  “He told me that he was proud of me. I told him he was my hero. Furman Bisher, there will never be another one.”

• This year’s Masters will be broadcast in more than 200 countries, many of which will have limited commercial interruptions. Weather on Tuesday evening in Augusta caused a lot of debris and Rae’s Creek was overrun, although it wasn’t high enough to reach the famous Hogan Bridge.

• The club does not have a stance on anchored putters and their place in the game.

“The long putter is obviously conforming today,” said Fred Ridley, former USGA president who is Augusta National’s chair of the competition committee. “We are followers in this regard. But we certainly will be guided by the decisions and the rulings of the governing bodies like we always have.”

• Payne formed a small committee of members to look at ways Augusta National can help grow the game.

“The problems are so easy to identify – golf is too hard, it takes too long to play, it’s not a team sport, it’s too expensive,” Payne said. “The solution is more difficult, but we must try.

“Golf is too precious, too wonderful, to sit on the sidelines and watch decreasing participation. Whether we lead occasionally or follow always, it doesn’t matter. It only matters that we try.”

• The club did not consider inviting Ernie Els this year.

“He’s a great player and we expect him to be back with us shortly and often,” Payne said. “But after evaluating all of the circumstances, we chose obviously not to extend an invitation but look forward to seeing him soon.”

• Augusta National has not yet evaluated how the PGA Tour’s new fiscal year schedule in 2013-2014 will impact the Masters’ field.

Said Ridley: “It’s my understanding that (PGA Tour officials) are in the process now of evaluating the impact of what that is going to do on the allocation of points toward their season-ending Tour Championship. As we do every year, we evaluate our invitation criteria and that will be something we are looking at based on where the PGA Tour comes out on that evaluation.”

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm