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
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.