Newsmaker of the Year No. 4: Augusta National

By Randall MellDecember 24, 2012, 1:00 pm

The news reached beyond golf’s boundaries like nothing else in the game in 2012.

Augusta National Golf Club, an exclusive male bastion of the elite and powerful, announced on Aug. 20 that the club had invited its first two women members. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore made history accepting.

“This is a joyous occasion,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said.

Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez were among a legion of famous golfers who applauded the news.

“I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf,” Woods said. “The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways.”

Newsmaker No. 10: Stacy Lewis | No. 9: PGA Tour | No. 8: Jim Furyk | No. 7: British Open | No. 6: Bubba Watson | No. 5: Anchored putting

Here’s a look at how selected media reacted to Augusta National’s news:

Christine Brennan, USA Today

Purely as a symbol in this summer that has already given us the “Women’s Olympics,” Augusta National Golf Club's decision Monday to admit two women into its previously all-male membership is stunning and historic.

The last, best-known bastion of male supremacy in the nation is no more. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore have cracked the grass ceiling. They will be wearing green jackets next spring at The Masters, and girls watching from around the nation will know – perhaps only subliminally, but they'll see it nonetheless – that someday there might be a place for them in the nation's great corridors of power. 

For that's what this news is all about: allowing women into the place where the old boys' network works its million-dollar magic. It's not really about allowing women to belong and play golf at an exclusive, beautiful, private club. It's about letting them participate in the process that continues to build our nation.

Scott Michaux, Augusta Chronicle

Augusta National inviting women members is a symbol of growth, inclusion and equality, and an important one. And by finally doing so, it makes Augusta National, the Masters and the game of golf better than it was on Sunday.

“It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall,” Payne said of an event that will seal his legacy.

It will be a prouder moment for golf.

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times

My applause for the admission of the first two women to Augusta National Golf Club is tempered by a question.

They're really going to wear the green jackets like Billy Payne promised? Are we sure they're not going to be asked to instead wear green skirts?

I hate to be cynical about the landmark decision Monday by the folks who run the Masters golf tournament, but it only makes sense that the opening of a door that has been closed for 80 years would be accompanied by lots of creaks. 

The most unsettling noise came from Payne, the Augusta chairman, who said the admission of women to the club's membership was a “joyous occasion.” How sad that there are places in this country where, in 2012, gender equity is considered a “joyous occasion.”

Cheers for Augusta for admitting former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore. But it's a shame America's golf shrine is taking so long to embrace America's values.

Bob Harig,

Payne might have put up a good front in recent years, adhering to the club's long-held policy that it would not discuss membership issues and that it had every right to do as it chose in such private matters. There is no doubt that Payne felt it important to adhere to club tradition and protocol, to follow proper procedure. But it could easily be surmised that deep down, Payne wanted this all along and was simply waiting for the right time, the right place, the right way.

Karen Crouse, New York Times

For years, the 80-year-old club’s restrictive membership policies, which excluded blacks until 1990, cast it as a remnant of the antediluvian South. Whenever its exclusion of women was held up for public scrutiny, in 2002 and again this year, the club held steadfast to its practices with little concern about repercussions from golf’s top players; its network broadcast partner, CBS; the tournament’s sponsors; or the PGA Tour, which prevents courses with discriminatory membership policies from hosting its tournaments.

Augusta National conducts business on its own terms, long responding to questions about its policies by saying that it is a private club and that membership issues are a private matter. It remained consistent Monday, releasing a terse statement, which offered no further explanation, at a somewhat surprising time. 

Michael Bamberger, Sports Illustrated

Billy Payne improved August National today.

By accepting Condi Rice and Darla Moore, he made a move in keeping with the club's traditions. He admitted two people who love golf and who are prominent in their fields and who are well known and well liked by the membership. There's nothing exceptional about that. The club admits new members every fall.

But Billy parted with tradition here in two ways. First, for a club that always says membership practices are a private matter, he announced the two new members by way of press release. And the only reason he did that was because the two new members are women.

Kurt Badenhausen,

Together Rice and Moore will make up less than 1% of the Augusta National’s membership. This small percentage mirrors the number of women who currently serve as high-ranking executives and CEOs in the United States. For real gender equality to occur, women need greater opportunities within the business landscape. Or better yet, invitations to the clubhouse will do.

Sally Jenkins, Washington Post

How little those newest members of Augusta National Golf Club, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, need the clout that joining an all-male stronghold supposedly confers. On the contrary, if anyone gained status from the club's decision to include women for the first time in its 80-year history, it was the other members. Rice and Moore will class the joint up . . . When Rice and Moore slip on their green members jackets it will be an arresting moment – but not for the reasons posed by those who demanded Augusta accept a woman as a blackmailed concession to social engineering, or some lame gesture of affirmation. It will be arresting for their sheer subversion of that tired old dynamic.

What we have here isn't a case of powerful men granting acceptance to a couple of women and uplifting them to a new level of social stature. What we have here is a couple of powerfully successful women uplifting a bunch of men to new stature – and granting them social amnesty.

Darren Rovell,

It got uncomfortable again this year, as newly installed IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is a woman and CEOs of Masters sponsors usually get an invitation to be a member. Augusta National weathered the storm and, when it made its announcement Monday, did not include Rometty as one of the first two female members. Why? Because Augusta National doesn't want to be pressured by the money, and it's important to prove that it wasn't.

Newsmaker of the Year schedule

No. 10: Stacy Lewis

No. 9: PGA Tour

No. 8: Jim Furyk

No. 7: British Open

No. 6: Bubba Watson

No. 5: Anchored putters

No. 4: Augusta admits women

No. 3: Dec. 26

No. 2: Dec. 28

No. 1: Dec. 31

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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.