Payne dealing with own back injury: Tiger 'looked better than me'


AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National chairman Billy Payne sat with the media Wednesday for his annual news conference. Topics usually range from serious, to humorous and this year’s session did not disappoint.

One topic, in particular, checked both boxes.

Payne has been dealing with back issues for several years and indicated that another major surgery in November has kept him from being able to play his beloved Augusta National.

“It is frustrating not to play golf, and I’m shooting for the middle of June,” Payne said. “Unfortunately we’re closed then. We may, however, open it up for one day. But I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s pretty tough just looking out your office and seeing the golf course and you can’t get on it, but I’m soon to be back.”

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How soon? Sooner than a certain four-time Masters champion who has had back issues and hasn’t played since last August?

“Last night, he looked good,” Payne said of seeing Tiger Woods at the annual Masters Champions Dinner. “He looked better than me. I was delighted. You know, he’s encouraged. I could tell the fire is building back up in his belly, and I suspect Tiger’s going to be back fairly quickly, and I’m looking forward to it.”