Augusta National take a bow

By Randall MellApril 11, 2011, 4:48 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – We’re waiting for golf’s next big star to take charge with the game in transition.

We thought we might be crowning wunderkind Rory McIlroy before he took a detour on his way to Sunday’s coronation ricocheting his tee shot at the 10th hole off a tree and into Masters lore. McIlroy might still be the Once and Future King, but he’s got some work ahead breaking the scar tissue that comes with an epic collapse.

Charl Schwartzel stepped up as a bright new candidate claiming his first major championship.

We learned at Augusta National just how loaded the game is with youthful possibilities.

We learned Tiger Woods’ bid to regain his supremacy might be hard fought even when he masters his new swing because this new breed is as fearless as it is hungry. Schwartzel is only 26 years old. McIlroy is 21. Jason Day, at 23, made a hard charge before tying for second.

This marks three consecutive major championships won by a player in his 20s. Martin Kaymer was 25 when he won the PGA Championship last August, Louis Oosthuizen 27 when he won the British Open last July.

The game feels young again, but there was irony in being reminded Sunday that an ageless star singularly towers over the game.

We were reminded at the Masters that this invitational tournament started by Bobby Jones in 1934 is as fresh and vital as it’s ever been.

We were reminded that no matter who’s playing, whether it’s Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer or Woods, the stage is the star at Augusta National.

Some may not be fond of the exclusivity of this private club, but if you’re a golf fan, you have to love the wondrous formula the membership has created for identifying the game’s best players.

Pebble Beach and St. Andrews may be treasures, but no golf course in the world consistently delivers dramatic theater like Augusta National.

Risk and reward war more mischievously here than at any other championship venue. We saw it again Sunday with more epic tales of wonder and woe added to tournament history.

McIlroy shoots 80 to squander a four-shot lead. Schwartzel closes out his victory with four consecutive birdies. Woods experiences both wonder and woe within a single round charging early with four birdies and an eagle on the front nine before missing a pair of 3-foot putts and squandering one birdie chance after another on the back nine.

There was so much more with Geoff Ogilvy making five consecutive birdies to leap into the hunt, with Luke Donald chipping in at the 18th to give himself hope, with Adam Scott knocking down flags and putts in equal measure and Day closing hard also.

“Incredibly exciting finish,” Scott said. “It’s amazing what happens at this place.”

The stage is a living, breathing character in the action, especially down in Amen Corner, where the drama plays out with azaleas sprawling like fire at the feet of all those towering pines and with dogwoods aglow in splintered golden rays of sunlight piercing the tree tops.

And yet amid the beauty, there’s something ominous, like the rustling of vulture’s wings.

McIlroy knows the sensation now, just like Greg Norman (1996), Ed Sneed (1979) and Ken Venturi (1956) did before him. They’re the only players to lose leads off four shots or more in the final round of the Masters.

“I don’t think there’s a lead big enough around here,” Scott said.

Sunday’s denouement was head-spinning. You needed a dose of Dramamine to fend off motion sickness with all the lead changes. Eight different players led or shared the lead. At one point, nine players were within two shots of the lead.

Some may not like sportswriters gushing over this place, but there’s a reason. The event so consistently lives up to its hype. It delivers more blockbuster sequels than Hollywood. It rarely disappoints.

“There are so many roars that go on around Augusta,” Schwartzel said. “Especially the back nine. It echoes through those trees. There's always a roar. Every single hole you walk down, someone has done something, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking at the leaderboard. But sometimes, I would look at it, and it would not register what I was looking at.”

Schwartzel wasn’t alone. This Masters bordered on sensory overload. This Sunday finish delivered more plot twists than you’ll see in 10 U.S. Open final rounds.

“It was unreal,” Day said. “It's probably the most excited I've ever been in a golf tournament.

“You're out there in the middle of the fairway, and there are roars around you and you don't know what's going on. And then all you see is that little number pop up on the leaderboards, and everyone is screaming. And it's an amazing feeling to be out there in the thick of things.”

Golf may go through some dramatic changes in the next year, but no matter who finally emerges as its next big star, he’ll take second billing to the Masters when the game returns to Augusta National.

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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?

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.