Just What They Wanted

By Mercer BaggsApril 9, 2006, 4:00 pm
Hootie Johnson speaks few words. He makes his point and then hes done. He asks not for an opposing opinion nor cares for a rebuttal.
 
We are very comfortable with what we are doing with the golf course for the Masters Tournament, said the Augusta National Golf Club chairman during Wednesdays press conference.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson has now won each of the last two major championships.
He explained ' once again ' that the most recent changes to Augusta National ' the addition of 155 yards; the narrowing of fairways; the planting of even more pine trees ' were done so to make the course play, in terms of club selection, like it did in the days of Saint Bobby Jones.
 
In other words: to keep players from hitting a damn pitching wedge into every green.
 
But that may have been a veiled explanation. There may well have been an ulterior motive to the alterations.
 
Pride and prejudice are to Augusta National members like green and jacket.
 
But this has nothing to do with race or gender; it has to with prestige and pedigree.
 
Masters champions are a rare and special breed. When you look down the list of past winners, from Horton Smith in 34 to Tiger Woods in 05, few names seem out of place (see Claude Harmon, Charles Coody, Herman Keiser, Tommy Aaron and Larry Mize).
 
And thats the way Johnson and Co. want to keep it.
 
They have, I believe, no desire to drape their rayon and wool around the shoulders of Ben Curtis or Shaun Micheel or Todd Hamilton or Rich Beem. That was evident when they rescinded invitations to all PGA TOUR winners in 2000, saying, in essence, Winning the B.C. Open does not make you worthy of playing in our toonamint.
 
By making this course even longer and even tougher, theyve significantly reduced the chances of a surprise winner, and further increased the winning odds ' which were already great to begin with ' of Woods and Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh. Theyve given more hope to Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
 
Thats just what they wanted to do; and, judging by this years results, thats just what theyve achieved.
 
Thats not to say that they would have been opposed to seeing Fred Couples or Jose Maria Olazabal win again; or perhaps the well-established and popular Darren Clarke; or some player on the cusp of greatness ' maybe even an up-and-coming Chad Campbell.
 
But while Rocco Mediate would make for a great story at the U.S. Open, and Miguel Angel Jimenez and his ponytail would look nice holding the claret jug, and Tim Clark may one day be a fine winner of the PGA ' Masters champions, in Green Jacket eyes, they are not.
 
At least, it seems, they would prefer them not to be.
 
By contrast, golf observers, at least those who arent rooting for or against any one player, are more interested in the race than the ultimate outcome. We care more about who is contending and how hotly the contest is being contested, as opposed to who first crosses the line.
 
The leaderboard during this final round was a fans dream. There wasnt a What the hell? name in the mix.
 
While the Green Jackets may have been rooting for a Big Five winner, fans were just happy to see them all with a chance at the start of the day. If Mediate, Jimenez or Clark should best them, then so be it.
 
Of course, none of them did.
 
This had all the makings of a glorious, sunset Sunday finish.
 
The leaderboard was outstanding, but U.S. Open-style groans seemed to far outnumber Masters-style roars. Bird chirps echoed in the silent pines.
 
Eagles and birdies were replaced, for the most part, with pars and bogeys ' and whatever in the world you call Mediates 10 on the par-3 12th.

To be fair, though, Olazabal did shoot 66, and should have shot at least 65.
 
And, while it wasnt a 31 this time around, Mickelson did close with a 35 for a 69 and an overall 7-under 281, which was equal to or lower than seven of the last 13 winning totals. He didn't make a bogey until it didn't matter.
 
Any lack of scoring by the field, it appeared, was attributable more to nerves and missed putts than to an inability to handle the courses length.
 
All in all, red numbers mattered little to the Augusta faithful.
 
They got everything they wanted out of this, the 70th Masters Tournament.
 
They got the course they wanted. They got the leaderboard they wanted. And, most importantly to them, they got the champion they wanted.
 
Which brings us to this: should Mickelson win the next two major championships, he will complete the career Grand Slam. And, having won the 2005 PGA Championship, should he win the next two, he will have won all four in succession.
 
It's time to start talking about the possibility of: the 'MickelSlam.'
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
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  • Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.