Jack Newman: My Masters

By Mercer BaggsMarch 28, 2011, 10:24 pm

Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

Pantone Matching System Color 567. It’s the particular shade of green in the official colors of Michigan State University.

Green has always been a good color for Jack Newman. His Hoover High Huskies (Des Moines, Iowa) sported green and gold. His MSU Spartans were the aforementioned green and white.  Even his 2006 Ford Taurus is “steel” green.

And then there is Augusta green, also known as Pantone 342.

That shade, chosen to match Augusta National's rye grass fairways, is reserved for the Masters champion, the color of the less-than-chic, but oh-so-coveted blazer.

Newman can remember the first time he saw Augusta National Golf Club up close.

“Green, just green everywhere,” he said. “Everything was perfect.”

Newman got a chance to play the course, and the Masters Tournament, thanks to his victory in the 2008 U.S. Public Links Championship.

Before Masters week 2009, he played the course 15 times on four trips to Augusta, Ga.

“I didn’t have Friday classes in the fall and spring semesters so I’d fly out Thursday night, meet up with my family, play 36 (holes) Friday and another 36 Saturday,” he said.

Those four outings included dad Bob, and brothers Andy, Dan and Dave on different occasions. Andy, now 36 and a former PGA section pro in Iowa and Minnesota for 11 years, served as Jack’s bagman for the tournament proper, just as he did at the Publinx.

When asked if he ever considered using a local caddie during the Masters, someone with more course knowledge, Newman replied, 'I did. But it was such a special time, we just wanted to keep it in the family.'

Family is a big part of Jack's life, and Jack has a pretty big family – three older brothers, one older sister, four nephews and one niece. He was awarded eight passes by tournament officials, but still had a total of 17 people in a house rented for the week. At nights they would have dinner and play cribbage, which helped Jack clear his mind.

Newman did, however, take advantage of a Masters tradition that allows amateur participants to stay in the Crow’s Nest above Butler Cabin during tournament week. He spent two nights there, overlooking all that was green and sharing stories with then reigning U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson and British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton.

“It was awesome. They were great guys and we had a great time. But when it got closer to tournament time I wanted to relax and focus, and be around my family,” Newman said.

Leading into the 73rd edition of the Masters Tournament, the then 21-year-old college junior had some quality company in practice rounds. He arrived in town the Friday before and played the course both Saturday and Sunday, the latter of which included nine holes with Rocco Mediate and 18 with Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker, who nearly won the tournament the year before.

Monday, he managed only 15 holes of practice in windy conditions, but did so alongside 2007 champion and fellow Iowan Zach Johnson. Anthony Kim joined them for three holes, helping them close out the front nine. After that it was off to the annual Amateur’s Dinner and then promptly in front of a TV set for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game between his Spartans and North Carolina. Unfortunately, Carolina Blue got the better of Pantone 567.

Tuesday, Newman played the back nine with Crow’s Nest roomie Saxton, before Kim and former British Open champion Todd Hamilton caught up with them on the par-3 16th. It was there that Newman enjoyed another Masters tradition: attempting to skip a ball across the water and onto the green. Saxton and Hamilton couldn’t keep their balls dry and Kim’s finished in a bunker. Going fourth, Newman hit a low line drive that skipped once, twice and three times before settling on the front of the green.

The patrons erupted in applause. It would not be the last time that they would give Jack a standing ovation.

Wednesday was the Par 3 Contest. Newman was grouped with former champions Fuzzy Zoeller and Sandy Lyle. Earlier in the morning, he got in nine holes on the tournament course with a 19-year-old Rory McIlroy and Kenny Perry.

“I got some advice throughout the week from the guys,” Newman said. “Rocco just told me to be myself and Rory said to just keep doing what I did to get to this point – don’t stray. I appreciated everything they had to say.”

With his father as his caddie, Newman nearly won the Par 3 Contest, ultimately finishing two back of champion Tim Clark. Despite a field-best five birdies over the nine holes, it was a double-bogey at the eighth that relegated Newman to a tie for second with two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal.

“On No. 8, I had 110 (yards) and flew the green, into the water for double. I didn’t even know I was close to the lead,” Newman recounted.

He certainly didn’t do it on purpose. Well aware that no one had won the Par 3 Contest and the Masters Tournament in the same year, Newman just had one goal in mind: “Pick up as much hardware as I could.”

As for his goal for the week, Newman, likewise, was single-minded: “I didn’t want to just make the cut. I felt that would be limiting me. I wanted to finish high enough to qualify for next year.”

Things certainly started in that direction Thursday afternoon. Teeing off at 12:02 p.m. ET with Mediate and Fred Couples – one of Newman’s golfing idols – Jack shot even-par 72 to finish the day in a tie for 39th. Friday, however, wasn’t quite as kind, as Mother Nature blew through Augusta.

Newman’s second round began at 8:55 a.m., and with three consecutive pars. Then came three bogeys over his next four holes. A birdie at the par-4 ninth, however, gave him a 2-over 38 at the turn and kept him in contention to qualify for the weekend.

At No. 9, Newman rifled a drive through the heart of the wind, stuck his approach shot to 8 feet, and then converted a less-than-routine birdie putt.

History shows in all its cruelty that no putt is a gimme at Augusta National and Newman learned quickly that there is nothing simplistic about the green complexes.

 “In the fall, the greens weren’t too fast, only a little more so in the spring,” he said.

“A week or two before, I could see an extra 2 feet of trickle. By the start of Masters week they were lightning quick. It wasn’t as if I had never had straight putts on very fast greens, but there are so many undulations there that it increases the speed and makes it so much more difficult. If you miss (your approach shot) on the wrong part of the green, it’s almost a guaranteed bogey – or, you’ll at least have to make a 15-, 20-footer for par. You have to put your ball in the proper segment of the green.”

After a bogey at 10 and a par at 11, Newman reached Augusta National’s most famous hole, the par-3 12th. It was playing right at 150 yards that day. In practice rounds, Newman made a couple of birdies on the hole known as Golden Bell and thought, “This isn’t really hard.”

That outlook changed during competition as Newman made bogey there on Day 1.

After watching Mediate plop one into Rae’s Creek on Day 2, Newman followed suit. “I ballooned an 8-iron. Right into the water,” he said. Double-bogey.

Not normally a conformist, Couples made it three-for-three and found the creek as well.

Newman went on to birdie the par-5 13th and the par-3 16th. His final birdie of the tournament came courtesy a beautiful 8-iron from 170 yards. With the pin on the right portion of the green, his tee shot hit right in front of the pin, hopped once and settled 6 inches away from an ace.

At the end of the day, Newman signed for a 4-over 76. His 4-over total missed the cut by three strokes.

After his round, Newman was greeted by family and friends, as well as Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic, who offered him a sponsor’s invitation into the event not three hours from his hometown of Des Moines.

That was a wonderful bonus to what was a wonderful week. But it wasn’t the highlight. That came Thursday.

After good night’s rest prior to his opening round, Newman ate breakfast, went through his warm-up routine, and then made his way to the first tee. After watching Couples and Mediate tee off, it was his turn.

“Fore, please. Jack Newman now driving.”

“I’m sure I breathed,” Newman said, only half-joking, “but I don’t really remember.

“I wasn’t really nervous until that point, when I put my tee in the ground. Somehow, I managed to make a good swing and knock it down the middle, about 280 (yards).”

Newman three-putted the first hole for bogey and made three other bogeys over his first nine holes to just one birdie, turning in 3-over 39. He dropped another shot at the 10th, before trading a birdie at 11 for a bogey at 12.

Newman reached the green in two on the par-5 13th, but once again three-putted, this time for par.

“That actually got me going,” he said. “The whole thing was a struggle until the back nine. When I three-putted for par at 13, it really got me upset. Being a little mad took away from the nerves.”

Four over par for the tournament with five holes to play in his first round, Newman got angry. He didn't turn green, but he did start carding red.

After a drive down the left side of the par-4 14th fairway, Newman hit his approach shot to 10 feet and made the putt for birdie. At the par-5 15th, he laid up short of the water in two. A wedge from 60 yards out finished 10 feet from the hole, setting up his second consecutive birdie.

He made it three-in-a-row at the 16th, before ending his run with a par at 17.

Another great drive put Newman dead center in the 18th fairway.

“Walking off the 18th tee, Chris Winkel, who way my coach then, said, ‘Well, let’s see if you can finish it off,’” Newman recalled.

And Newman obliged. He hit his approach shot to the uphill green a little long, his ball coming to rest on a sprinkler head. After his free drop, he faced a downhill, 18-foot slider.

“I hit the putt a little too hard. Some people have joked that the ball would still be rolling today, if it hadn’t hit the cup. But it did, and it went in, so that’s all that matters,” Newman said with a wry smile.

“The crowd went nuts. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling.

“But the best thing, when you watch it on TV – the one time you get to see me on TV – when I go back to my bag, there is a Michigan State fan, this guy all decked out in Michigan State gear going bonkers. It’s great to receive that kind of support.”

Newman exited the grounds that Saturday morning. He regrets – just a little – leaving that early instead of sticking around for at least one more day to enjoy the tournament from outside the ropes.

One of his practice partners should have won that year. Perry had one arm inside the green jacket before flubbing it away. Angel Cabrera went on to defeat Perry and Chad Campbell in a sudden-death playoff.

Few will remember how well Cabrera putted late that Sunday to earn victory. Most will forever remember it as another major opportunity gone awry for Perry.

Newman will remember the 2009 Masters as only 95 other people can – as a playing competitor. It’s only two years down the line, but it’s safe to say that the clarity with which he recalls the events now will remain just as vivid in the future.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Newman. “It’s certainly something I will never forget and I can only hope to have the chance to live it again some day.”

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Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

“If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

“I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”

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So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

Horschel told GolfChannel.com last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

“I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

“Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

“I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

“We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

“We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

“But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

“They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

And now?

Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

“Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

“Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

“I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

“That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

“It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.