It is Rocket Science

By Rex HoggardMarch 26, 2011, 12:39 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – In 1986 we saw the eagle-birdie-birdie run that began on Augusta National’s 15th hole, but not the birdie at the second or the first of three consecutive birdies at the ninth that started Jack Nicklaus’ historic run at Greg Norman and immortality.

In fact, it would be another 16 years after the Golden Bear’s golden Masters moment before any fan not lucky enough to score a ticket would get a good look at the storied club’s front nine, the “Area 51” of major championship golf for decades.

This was an inescapable thought as a small army of EA Sports technicians and programmers – gaming rocket scientist, really – explained the painstaking detail that went into integrating Augusta National’s subtle humps and bumps into “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters,” the newest member of the franchise which launches on March 29 (photo gallery).

“Around the greens we scanned to within 1 millimeter,” one technician said, and one immediately wonders if they could try the same putt, electronically of course, that Nicklaus made on the 17th hole 25 years ago. You can, and much more.

In fact, a new feature called Masters Moments recreates famous shots from the tournament’s past, including Phil Mickelson’s bold second shot off the pine straw at the 13th hole last year. And, yes, even in the virtual world Lefty’s towering 6-iron seems ill-advised yet addictively doable.

EA Sports’ portable scanner has delivered as advertised down to every blade of grass and pine needle. But it wasn’t easy.

It took an EA Sports crew 10 days last August to digitally record Bobby Jones’ masterpiece. Or, to put the process in perspective the techies figured it took about an hour-and-a-half per par to properly scan a hole – and that’s not including the two full days it took to create the proper HD snapshot of Amen Corner.

The result is a virtual Augusta National that is as close to the original as one can get without actually making it onto the property. Everything short of the sprawling depth of the place and dramatic elevations changes, the consensus difference for any first-timer, has been replicated with surprising accuracy.

Not that it should surprise anyone that Augusta National would perfect even the virtual edition. EA Sport’s magicians met regularly with members of the club’s staff, including the superintendent.

Shots were tried and retried, like Woods’ famous chip-in at the par-3 16th hole on his way to victory in 2005, until the game reacted the same way reality would (Read Jay Coffin's take).

In fact, the simulation is spot on almost to a fault. Putts from above the hole at the seventh have no chance of stopping, while tee shots into the 12th that come up short are destined for Rae’s Creek (there is no Fred Couples mode).

Even the club’s Par 3 Course was scanned to perfection, along with the clubhouse, the cabins and the proper vocabulary. It’s not fans, it’s patrons; it’s not rough, it’s second cut; it’s not pins, it’s hole location; and it’s not easy, it’s hard.

Truth is, the game’s greatest accomplishment is immediately evident after playing just a few holes. EA Sports has created a putting contest, just like the real thing.

For decades those watching from home were left to their imaginations to fill in the details. In many ways the masterpiece that was Augusta National was a color-by-numbers if one couldn't land a ticket.

The tee shot at the first hole, the second into the par-5 second hole, all the things that just nine years ago remained a mystery are there in pixelized clarity.

Thanks to EA Sports’ rocket scientist and Augusta National the guess work has been removed. In fact, the only thing “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters” is missing is the chill-inducing drive down Magnolia Lane. But then maybe that’s best, life is always better with a little mystery.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm