The Masters -- One Month and Counting

By Mercer BaggsMarch 10, 2003, 5:00 pm
This years Masters Tournament raises a lot of questions.
 
How much will the protestors trample the azalea-like tranquility around Augusta, Ga.? Will those playing at Augusta National be affected by the outside influence? What will Hootie say? What will Martha and Jesse do?
 
And does anyone watching from home really care?
 
For those who might not know ' what with the influx of updates as to who is getting a demonstration permit ' there are historical implications inside the ropes in the 67th playing of this event April 10-13.
 
Tiger Woods is trying to become the first player in tournament history to don the green jacket three consecutive years.
 
Last year, he became just the third player to successfully defend his title. Jack Nicklaus first did so, in 1965 and 66. Nick Faldo did the same, in 1989 and 90. Nicklaus missed the cut in his three-peat bid in 67; Faldo tied for 12th in his.
 
The Masters normally makes headlines in its 51-week layoff because of course changes and qualification adjustments. But this go-around it has been one of the most debated and discussed championships in all of sport.
 
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson started the spark that ignited into a wildfire when he responded to a letter sent by Dr. Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Womens Organizations.
 
Burk wanted a female member at the all-male private club. Johnson wanted none of that. Burk sent Johnson a private letter. Johnson sent Burk a public response.
 
Among other things, Johnson said he wouldnt be bullied by Burk. But his three-page letter didnt deter Burk; it only inspired her.
 
Burk has since been on a constant campaign to force Johnson into admitting its first non-male member. Jesse Jacksons Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has joined her crusade, while a splinter group ' or at least one man ' of the Ku Klux Klan has recently opposed her (not that Johnson welcomed the KKKs support).
 
The three-ringed circus, with Burk as the ringleader, has made its way to mainstream America, transcending the golf world. Debates have been contested, players have been polled and anyone who has ever picked up a golf club seems to have been asked his or her opinion.
 
In a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated, 49 percent of the players asked said that Augusta National should open its membership to a female. Twenty-three percent said no, while 28 percent said its up to them, not me.
 
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has supported that 28-percentile, stating the tournament, like all of the four major championships, is not run by the tour.
 
Regardless of whether you consider the matter one of gender equality, political correctness or freedom of assembly, there is a golf tournament to be held. And Woods, for one, says he wont worry about whats in the periphery.
 
Once it's time to play, it's time to play. And whether it's all the things going on outside the gates or whether it's the fact that I'm trying to win three in a row, all that goes away once it's time to tee up and go, Tiger said.
 
A total of 96 players have been invited to the 2003 tournament. The field will fluctuate, however, as others can still qualify. The winner of the Players Championship, the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list the week prior to the Masters, and the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking the week prior to the Masters will qualify if not already exempt.
 
Previously, the top three on the tours money list as well as the top 50 in the world ranking four weeks prior to the seasons first major would be granted an invitation.
 
Of course, the course has been altered from a year ago. Among them, the tee on the par-4 fifth was moved back and the fairway bunkers were extended about 80 yards closer to the green. It is now 315 yards to carry the two bunkers. The fairway and the hazards were shifted right to increase the dogleg characteristic of the hole. The fifth now measures 455 yards, with the overall yardage extending to 7,290.
 
But thats tournament talk ' something that hasnt been prevalent since Woods slipped both arms into his size 42-long jacket.
 
Perhaps soon ' for at least four days ' the conversational tide will turn from protestors to par-breakers, from harping to history, from grandstanding to golf.
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

    Getty Images

    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

    Getty Images

    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.