The Blueprint for Success

By Rex HoggardApril 13, 2011, 6:31 pm

The status quo remained largely unchanged on Sunday at Augusta National – Europe extended its winless streak to a baker’s dozen, the long putter remains Grand Slam kryptonite, Australia remains an inexplicably perfect 0-for-75 at the game’s most exclusive invitational and club chairman Billy Payne has now delivered three consecutive keepers.

Not that Payne, or any of the other green jacket members, would admit to such influence. On Sunday in the fading light, the chairman referred to the quality of play and the timeless test of the golf course.

But no one is this lucky.

Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel finished with four consecutive birdies to win the 75th Masters. (Getty Images)
In a trifecta of finishes, The Masters has served up the three-man playoff won by Angel Cabrera – or, as most American fans recall, lost by Kenny Perry; an emotional end to a surreal week with a snapshot of Phil and Amy Mickelson behind the 18th green last year; and finally Sunday’s melee, a free-for-all that had it all – tragedy, triumph and more supporting actors than a Coen brothers film.

Most majors are defined by who won. The 75th Masters may well be remembered for who didn’t, with apologies to the South African flat-liner who actually took the green jacket.

From Tiger Woods’ front-nine charge to Rory McIlroy’s back-nine collapse, the 2011 Masters may eventually suffer the same fate as the infamous 1999 Open Championship, which was ... all together now, lost by Jean Van de Velde.

Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day finished tied for second and were happy to do so, never mind that they’d missed the best chance in more than a decade to end the “Aussie duck” at Augusta National.

All totaled, eight players held at least a share of the lead Sunday, and that doesn’t even cover spirited runs by the likes of Luke Donald and Bo Van Pelt.

Even Charl Schwartzel, the soft-spoken champion who is best described as a more subdued version of Retief Goosen, made an indelible mark, closing with four consecutive birdies for a two-stroke victory that felt much closer.

“I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it,” said Ben Crenshaw, perhaps the preeminent playing historian of his generation and someone who knows a few things about emotional Masters victories. “Never have I seen so much collective good play. Nobody backed off at all. ... I don’t know how you can finish more like a major champion. I’m not sure anyone has ever birdied the last four holes to win a major.”

Early Monday talk shows from Boise to Boston were abuzz, debating, however pointlessly, whether this was the greatest Masters finish. It was not – Jack Nicklaus in 1986, followed by Woods in 1997, top that mountain, at least in the modern era. But 2011 was good, very good.

To dismiss Augusta National’s good fortune as happenstance, however, is to ignore the extremes the club goes to in order to make Sunday special. They say luck favors the prepared, and no one in golf is more prepared.

Back in the days before the club started talking about the annual changes to the former nursery, specifically the addition of some 500 yards from 1998 to 2006, there is a famous locker room tale of a long-time Tour pro who stepped to the first tee, looked around and observed, “Ain’t that something, they picked up that entire clubhouse and (oak) tree and moved it 20 yards closer to the first green.”

Similarly, the club would never admit to dialing in the back nine for speed over comfort, but after less-than-pine-rattling finishes in 2007 and ’08 that felt more like U.S. Opens than Masters, some opined that the fun had been removed from Sunday’s closing loop.

Statistics support that argument; although it must be pointed out conditions in 2007 and ’08 were not conducive to low scoring. Sunday’s back-nine scoring average was 35.592, similar to what it was in ’10 (35.585) and ’09 (35.36); and almost two strokes less than it was in ’08 (37.466) and ’07 (37.149).

Either by design or default, the cheers have returned, and we’re leaning toward the former.

“They gave us another step, step and a half on some of these pins. That's a lot here with these slopes. You give us a step, step and a half, that's quite a bit,” Woods noted on Friday. “They are just that much more forgiving.”

It’s a simple equation, really. Red numbers equal a raucous Sunday. And it may at least partially explain why the Masters has largely avoided the “fluke” champion. Unlike its Grand Slam stablemates, Augusta National has no aversion to red like the U.S. Open now and forever, and the PGA Championship used to. Nor is the club subject to the whims of weather to the extent of the Open Championship.

Outside of Mother Nature – which has, admittedly, been a more-than-willing partner in recent years – there is nothing left to chance.

Although the “how” remains a mystery, there is no debating the what. All one had to do on Sunday was close his or her eyes and listen to the unfolding mayhem. There are no scripts in golf, but at Augusta National they’ve certainly perfected the blueprint.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm