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Welcome to the Shag Bag, where the GolfChannel.com team and Golf Channel talent will regularly file thoughts and opinions from around the world of golf.
 

 
In years past, when Davis Love III was collecting tartan jackets like Chicago Cubs fans amass excuses, the Verizon Heritage was a chance for the 20-time Tour winner to unwind after a week in the 80 psi chamber at Augusta National.
 
But for the second consecutive year Love missed the Masters and spent the week in virtual golf blackout at his hunting camp in south Georgia, which seems to have instilled a familiar level of content considering Loves position on the Verizon Heritage leaderboard.
 
I'm maybe not as relaxed as I was during the '90s when I played here, but I'm certainly more relaxed than I was the last two tournaments I played in, because I was trying so hard to get in the Masters, said Love, who is tied for fifth, six strokes out of the lead. It's a little more fun.
 
Just a hunch, but if you moved the Heritage to, say, September, fun would be a relative term.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 18, 8:12 p.m. ET

 

 
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' After two days of fun in the sun on Hilton Head Island, I have two not-so-deep observations.
 
First, the Verizon Heritage, with its serene landscape, laid-back atmosphere and residents, and beautiful spring weather, is the perfect aspirin for the Masters hangover that many golf fans endure after such a thrilling week.
 
And second, Gary McCord's Last Will & Testament could never hold up in court. That whole part about being of 'sound mind' eludes him. Not sure if I laugh harder listening to him on the broadcast or in commercials, but he's definitely a few fries short of a happy meal. And a treasure in the business.
 
' Jerry Foltz
Posted April 17, 7:24 p.m. ET

 

 
Good to see Todd Hamilton back in the hunt at the Verizon Heritage, but hardly a surprise. Last week at Augusta National the two-time Tour winner figured he was due per his competitive MO.
 
Hamilton, who opened with a 3-under 68 and is tied for sixth at Harbour Town, said that he usually gets on a good run every five years or so and the five-year anniversary of his British Open breakthrough is this July.
 
I played golf in Japan for 12 years, and I went through a stretch, when I first started there, I played well, won some events. Then I didn't win anything or do that great for four or five years, and then I won a tournament, said Hamilton at Augusta National, where he tied for 15th. Then I had about another four years where I didn't do very well.
 
Of course, this is the final year of his Tour exemption and job security is the ultimate motivator.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 16, 6:49 p.m. ET

 

 
Ask 10 Tour players why Boo Weekley is making a bid for a tartan trifecta this week at the Verizon Heritage and 10 will have an easy answer ' ballstriking.
 
Without question the man from Milton, Fla., can hit the golf ball and at the tree-lined Harbour Town Golf Links it is a difference maker. On Tuesday, however, we caught up with Weekleys swing coach Mike Taylor who had a slightly different spin on his mans hold on Harbour Town.
 
These greens are small and when he gets on small greens without a lot of levels to them he putts better, said Sea Island (Ga.) Resorts Taylor. Youre not going to have any real long putts here, and he likes that.
 
Weekley and Taylor spent the week before the Masters working on putting and wedge play from 40 to 60 yards. The key, Taylor said, was squaring Weekleys shoulders and hips when he putts and a drill that features Weekley putting without looking at the ball.
 
The drill validates Shag Bags style of play. Weve been playing golf for years with our eyes closed.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 15, 3:12 p.m. ET

 

 
So what did Annika Sorenstam do while the first LPGA major championship of the year was being played?
 
Brittany Lincicome, the Kraft Nabisco Championship winner, and Kristy McPherson, who tied for second, wondered the same thing while they played at Mission Hills two weeks ago. They were paired in the final group with Cristie Kerr, who also tied for second.
 
Brittany and I were talking about Annika, wondering if she was watching, McPherson said.
 
McPherson got an answer at the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday after the Masters Pro-Am at Barefoot Resorts Dye Course in Myrtle Beach, S.C. McPherson and Sorenstam were the only LPGA representatives to play the pro-am, and they caught up at the evening concert, where Sorenstam made a point of seeking out McPherson to congratulate her for a strong performance at the Kraft Nabisco. Sorenstam did so with her husband, Mike McGee. Sorenstam played her farewell tour last season, saying goodbye at LPGA events before stepping away from golf to pursue other interests.
 
I was surprised she watched as much as she did, McPherson said. Mike was going over every single hole. To know they watched and appreciated a good tournament meant a lot.
 
Sorenstam announced last month that she and McGee are expecting their first child sometime in the fall.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 15, 9:33 p.m. ET

 

 
LAFAYETTE, La. ' Carling Coffing here and Im hanging out in Lafayette this week for the Duramed Futures Event.
 
I spent my winter time in California, then drove back to my home in Ohio, then all way down to Winter Haven, Fla., for my first event. Talk about STIFF when I showed up!
 
I spent three days hitting draws and fades on the range so I could find my timing again. It was grueling but it totally paid off during the week. My daddy/caddie (Tom Coffing) and I scuffled a bit back and forth about whos the boss out here on the golf course. Its tricky because we hadnt worked together since last season, but hes been a great coach since I was a little girl.
 
But then the night before the tournamentI realized that everyone chokes in different ways. Whats my way? Trying to do too much with nobodys help. So I apologized that night and we decided to work together as a team and hit them Coffing-style this year. Hes on course decisions and Im on executing shots. It works great!
 
The winds came HOWLING through Winter Haven and scores were high, but I hit it like a champ! My dad was awesome at calling different shots. Hed say, draw! and Id hit it like I was in an old western movie! I ended up making the cutCHA-CHING!
 
Although I struggled with my putting all week long, I ended up making $644 and was off to Daytona Beach for our next event. My dad ran me through putting drills. Move over Leadbetter because his coaching worked like a charm. Call me clumsy because I was dropping putts left and right. Thank goodness too because I hit like a weekend hack that week.
 
But I made the cut, ended up in the top 30 and banked $787. After those two tournaments Im 38th on the money list. Not bad not badonly 29 more girls to sneak by in the next 15 tournaments and they can hand over that LPGA card. But whos counting, right?
 
So here comes another week and another journey toward figuring out how to win out here. Check out my video blog here.
 
' Carling Coffing
Posted April 15, 12:20 p.m. ET

 

 
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' In his first Masters Ken Duke tied for 35th and Tuesday at Harbour Town he was still counting all the shots he let get away on the slick greens.
 
Prep work seemed to be the key for Duke. He played practice rounds with Steve Flesch (Monday), Vijay Singh and Geoff Ogilvy (Tuesday) and Stephen Ames (Wednesday). But the best lesson came from his swing coach Bob Toski, who last played the Masters in 1957. Duke had Toski come up for a practice round at Augusta National the week before the tournament.
 
We were driving down Magnolia Lane and Danny Yates (Augusta National member) asked Bob what he thought? Duke said. Bob said, Boy, these trees have gotten bigger.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 14, 3:01 p.m. ET

 

 
Were for 2 for 2 in electrifying major championships this season.
 
As good as the Kraft Nabisco finish was two weeks ago with Brittany Lincicome winning with one of the great shots to close a major, the Masters was packed full of even more fireworks from start to finish.
 
Well see if the women can hold serve with the McDonalds LPGA Championship up next on June 11-14 at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md.
 
Lincicome, by the way, will get a Major League test before that.
 
The Tampa Rays have invited her to throw out the first ball when they play the Boston Red Sox on April 30 at Tropicana Field. Lincicome grew up in Pinellas Park, Fla., about 15 minutes from Tropicana Field.
 
I need to start practicing my pitching, Lincicome said.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 14, 2:57 p.m. ET

 

 
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' Players come to the Verizon Heritage for a variety of reasons ' relaxed atmosphere, good food, the lighthouse gift shop. Yet for most it is the subtle nature of Pete Dyes design that draws them to the Lowcountry, for perhaps the only week on Tour, and levels the playing field between ponder and plodder.
 
Because of Harbour Towns tight fairways and quick doglegs most of the longer hitters leave the driver on the shelf, while short and straight has its moment in the sun. The layout regularly has one of the Tours shortest driving averages (it was the eighth-shortest last year with a 275-yard average), which benefits players on the shorter side of the Tours curve who favor fairways over fliers ' like Rod Pampling.
 
Straight is the key because he can hit a lot of drivers while the longer guys have to dial it back, said Alex Murray, a swing coach who works with Pampling. It really shoots him up in the driving stats.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 14, 11:35 a.m. ET

 

 
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' Last weeks Masters was the first since 2001 played without Charles Howell III in the field.
 
The skinny kid who grew up on the other side of the fence at Augusta Country Club had played seven consecutive before missing last weeks start and on Tuesday at Harbour Town Golf Links he sounded like a man intent on returning.
 
I think every golfer wishes he was there, Howell said. But growing up in Augusta it was more of an incentive to work harder. It was motivation week. Even now, watching it as a professional, its still the same.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 14, 10:48 a.m. ET

 

 
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. ' A dozen or so PGA Tour pros loitered about the Harbour Town Golf Links practice putting green and range when a horn echoed through the moss announcing an approaching storm late Monday and signaling an early end to the start of the circuits most serene work weeks.
 
Its not that players dont covet the tartan jacket, a fashion faux pas by any measure, its just that any Tour event that follows in the wake of the Masters will suffer, or maybe its celebrate, by comparison. And, at Harbour Town , thats a good thing.
 
On Monday roars were replaced by the rustle of leaves and, of all things, laughter, a welcome respite for players worn thin by swirling winds and Augusta Nationals sinister greens.
 
Even Ernie Els, who missed the cut last week after rounds of 75-71, looked as relaxed as that syrupy swing. Joining the Big Easy at the Tours easiest week on Monday was Zach Johnson and two-time defending champion Boo Weekley, who began the week with the ceremonial firing of the cannon into Calibogue Sound, probably the largest thing hes fired in at least two weeks.
 
Welcome to the Margaritaville Classic, by any other name the Verizon Heritage.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 13, 4:43 p.m. ET

 

 
Even when Sergio Garcia is not in contention at a major championship he seems to make news. El Nino shot 75-74 on the weekend at Augusta National and tied for 38th, his best finish at the Masters since 2004.
 
A Golf Channel reporter then stuck a microphone in front of Garcia and asked how he liked the golf course.
 
I dont like it to tell you the truth, he said. I dont think its fair. Its too tricky. Even when its dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. Its too much of a guessing game.
 
They can do whatever they want. Its not my problem. I just come here and play and then go home. Thats about it.
 
Eighteen hours later, IMG, Garcias management company, released an apology.
 
Following my final round at the Masters yesterday, I made comments in an interview to the Golf Channel that I regret and want to apologize for. Out of frustration, I blamed the golf course instead of putting the blame where it belongs, on myself. I didnt get it done this week. Augusta National is one of the most iconic golf courses in the game and playing in the Masters each year is an honor. I apologize to the members of Augusta National and the fans who rightfully treasure this golf course, and would like to offer my congratulations to Angel for joining the list of legendary names who have won there. I aspire to join that list one day.
 
The galleries at Bethpage Black are sure to cut Garcia some slack at the U.S. Open later this summer.
 
' Jay Coffin
Posted April 13, 1:42 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' It seems the golf gods truly favored this years Masters, as cold, cloudy and rainy conditions blanketed the area less than 12 hours after Angel Cabrera celebrated his second major victory in Sunday afternoon sunshine.
 
The word is Cabreras celebration went late into the night with a boisterous group livening up the festivities in Butler Cabin. He also received a surprising congratulations.
 
(Former Augusta National chairman) Hootie Johnson came up and asked me to translate that hed made up his mind Saturday that he would win the Masters, said Mark Lawrie, the executive director of the Argentine Golf Association.
 
Fellow Argentine Andres Romero also picked Cabrera to win earlier in the week. We know theres no betting at Bushwood. Wonder who Johnson and Romero like in this years NBA Finals?
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 13, 9:29 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Chad Campbell came up short again in a major, but this time it wasnt a bullet-proof approach by Shaun Micheel that did him in. Campbell bogeyed the first playoff hole, his third misstep at the last this week.
 
Despite that hot start to his week, Campbell struggled the rest of the way. He played his first 16 holes of the week in 9-under and managed just 3-under the rest of the way. It is, however, a sign the Texan is on the rebound after a slow start to the season and another step closer to the major his peers on Tour voted he would eventually win.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 7:19 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' How exciting is the back nine on this Sunday? Steve Flesch said it best: I hit it to 3 feet at No. 16 and Im thinking, Oh my God how am I going to get that putt in the hole? I asked my caddie, Do you have anything to drink in that bag? I need a drink before I hit this.
 
We can only assume he meant water, although considering the gravity of the moment its hard to say.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 5:54 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Tiger Woods has come up short in his bid to win his fifth green jacket, scrambling for a bogey at the last for an 8-under total, but he and playing companion Phil Mickelson made it exciting.
 
Not since the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie that Jean van de Velde blew has the winner of a major been a footnote to the bigger picture. Give Woods and Mickelson credit for taking advantage of benign conditions and give officials kudos for setting up their golf course for fun.
 
Havent heard roars like that in a while, and you heard them early, too, said Jamie Mulligan, swing coach for John Merrick who went for a 66 on Sunday. How awesome was that? That was just fun to watch.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 5:49 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Amid the buzz of Phil Mickelsons run up the leaderboard and Tiger Woods eagle at the eighth, we scaled the tower adjacent the 18th hole to watch the proceedings and ran into a basketball legend.
 
Clad in white overalls and holding a flagstick, Bob Weinhauer is in his first year as a Masters volunteer. Before he joined the overall-clad army of volunteers, however, Weinhauer was an NBA executive. Weinhauer was the architect behind the Houston Rocket team that won the 1994 NBA Championship with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem 'The Dream' Olajuwon.
 
Weinhauer, who is retired and lives in Savannah, Ga., was in his first year as a volunteer at the Masters and is looking forward to his first chance to play the course next month during volunteer day. Golf, it seems, has replaced basketball as his passion.
 
Do I play? Just five times a week. It keeps me young, Weinhauer said.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 4:22 p.m. ET

 

 
Who said the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday?
 
Earlier in the week, Jose Maria Olazabal reportedly brought tears to the eyes of past Masters winners when he read a letter from two-time Masters winner Seve Ballesteros at the Champions Dinner. Ballesteros is recovering from a malignant brain tumor.
 
Mickelson brought to mind the best derring-do of Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer at the seventh hole, when Mickelson hooked his approach around the trees to within a foot or so to set up birdie, and again at the ninth hole when he scrambled for par out of the trees.
 
' Randall Mell
Posted April 12, 4:12 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' The uber-pairing is working in opposite directions. Phil Mickelson is 4-under through six holes while his playing companion Tiger Woods is 1-under and losing ground on a day that is ripe for scoring.
 
Interestingly, after the Woods/Mickelson matinee headed out the crowd around the first tee thinned with them. Or, as one scribe put it, Plenty of good seats were to be had.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 2:51 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' We ran across PGA of America's Kerry Haigh early Sunday and he pointed out that the Masters leaderboard is awash with players from last years victorious Ryder Cup team.
 
We jokingly recommended the PGA try to work Augusta National into the Cup rota, which prompted a smiling, So youve heard, from Haigh.
 
The next Ryder Cup in the U.S. with a site TBD is 2024. Tiger Woods for Captain?
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 2:37 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Sundays undercard got underway quietly, sans any fireworks those who want confrontation had coveted.
 
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson stepped to the first tee, exchanged pleasantries and headed off for the final round, both parring the first hole, which, for Woods, was an improvement over Saturday's opening double-bogey.
 
As for the subplot in the group, Woods caddie Steve Williams and Mickelson kept their distance.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 1:56 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Interesting scene on the practice range early Sunday. Swing coach Butch Harmon appeared to be working with former Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who missed the cut but hung around to enjoy the weekend.
 
Although Harmon spent about 20 minutes with the Spaniard, observers shouldnt read too much into it. Harmon trimmed his staff in recent years to a select few Tour types that includes Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Nick Watney.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 12:26 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Got a peek at Sundays pin sheet and, as expected, the powers are looking to inject life into the final-round proceedings.
 
According to numerous sources early Sunday, officials are using a new pin on No. 17, about eight paces from the left edge and forward, and on No. 6, which is also cut in the lower left side of the green instead of the traditional back right placement.
 
It looks like there are some (pins) that are in swales which should make things exciting, said one rules official.
 
A perfect forecast should take care of the rest.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 11:45 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Only at Augusta National would the days first two-ball, a pair of players some 17 strokes behind the leaders, draw a crowd that rivals some final pairings at other events.
 
Yet as Kevin Sutherland and Mike Weir teed off just before 10:30 a.m. (ET) the fairways were lined with patrons five-people deep in some areas. We fully expect back-nine fireworks today, but all the roars at Augusta National couldnt lift those two into contention.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 10:37 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Its more than five hours before the days marquee pairing heads out, and more than six before the leaders head off, and Augusta National is already packed with patrons.
 
One of the weeks most enjoyable endeavors is people-watching. We spotted Lee Elder basking in the sun adjacent the pro shop on Saturday and so far this week the LPGA has been well represented as well.
 
Over the course of the week we spotted Kristy McPherson, who finished second at last weeks Kraft Nabisco Championship, Vicky Hurst and Yani Tseng, who drove up from her Orlando, Fla., home at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.
 
Reason No. 976 the Masters is the best ticket in town.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12, 8:55 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' We got the pairing the whole golf world was pining for, just not the spot on the tee sheet everyone thought they would get.
 
The good news: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will tee off together Sunday afternoon at Augusta National. The rub: they go off well before the leaders and seven shots adrift.
 
Sunday will mark the 24th time the two have been paired together in a Tour event and the first time at a major since the 2001 Masters. And, for the record, Woods has posted a better round than Mickelson 11 out of those 23 head-to-heads (four ties), including that 2001 run at Augusta National.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 8:07 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' It may be time to start to worry if, in fact, Tiger Woods has that gene embedded in that complicated DNA.
 
Its not so much his third-round 70 thats cause for concern so much as it is a swing that seems an octave off and a history of never coming from behind after three rounds to win a major championship.
 
On Friday the frustration seemed to reach a crescendo when Woods marched to the practice range after his second-round 72, kicked his golf bag and then added another blow with a golf club.
 
We asked Woods swing coach Hank Haney a few years back how to explain his mans performance when playing from the pack and his answer, essentially, was that when Woods is firing on all cylinders hes usually pacing the field. When hes not its a tall task to make up ground at a major with something less than an A game.
 
Still, its hard to write the man off on Sunday.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 5:55 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Sean OHair posted the days best early round, a 68 that put him at 4-under. After his round he was surprisingly optimistic about his chances going into Sunday despite being seven shots behind the leader.
 
Much of the optimism can be attributed to the growing feeling among players that officials will set up the back nine on Sunday for scoring. The other reason for OHairs buoyant attitude is his recent play, which has been solid of late despite his final-round near miss two weeks ago at Bay Hill.
 
Its not like Bay Hill was my last tournament ever, OHair said when asked about his runner-up showing to Tiger Woods.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 4:12 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Most players miss a cut and rarely miss the next flight out of town. Hanging around a tournament after missing a cut is akin to being the last one at a party; youve over-stayed your welcome.
 
It says something about Augusta National then that Jose Maria Olazabal and Mathew Goggin were both spotted working hard on the practice range Saturday afternoon. Both had missed the cut.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 2:36 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Much is made of the Australian drought at Augusta National and Geoff Ogilvy, perhaps this generations best chance at an Aussie breakthrough, has been baffled by his play at the Masters in recent years.
 
We caught up with Ogilvys swing coach Dale Lynch this week who was equally perplexed, particularly because the Sand Belt courses Ogilvy grew up playing are very much like Augusta National.
 
Theyre all (Alister) Mackenzies, same type of grass, Lynch reasoned. It just doesnt make any sense.
 
Sense may be returning, as Ogilvy has inched his way up the leaderboard and is 4 under, five shots back, through three holes.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 2:12 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' A few years back your Shag Bag correspondent was fortunate enough to get pulled in the media lottery to play Augusta National and although we came away with a long list of revelations (the tee shot at No. 10 could be the best in the game) we were most taken by how Nos. 7, 8 and 9 get a little lost in conversation.
 
For the first Masters, which was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, the nines were reversed, with players starting their rounds on what is now No. 10 and finishing the tournament at the present-day ninth hole.
 
For the second Masters in 1935 the nines were reversed, same say to avoid the possibility of frost delays at what is now the 10th hole, but its easy to see the genius of the original finish.
 
The current seventh hole, at least before the Masters tees were moved back some 80 yards between the 2002 and 06 changes, was a classic risk/reward par 4, the eighth is a perfectly framed par 5 with clever back-left pin position and the ninth has been the scene of plenty of Sunday drama in Masters past.
 
Of course, Nos. 16, 17 and 18 arent too bad, either.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 12:34 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' How is this for supreme focus. Tiger Woods, readying for his 1:05 p.m. (ET) tee time, emerged from the Augusta National clubhouse at 11:45 a.m., swiftly moved through the crowd and past his caddie Steve Williams and manager Mark Steinberg. Woods never broke stride or said a word. The only sign he was there was a subtle pat on the back for Steinberg.
 
In combat they call it a 1,000-yard stare. At the supposedly Tiger-proofed Augusta National its probably closer to 1,500 yards.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 11:52 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' It seems Augusta National has a little bit of everything for this years Masters field. Following cold, windy conditions earlier in the week, players got calm on Day 1 and crazy on Day 2. What awaits Saturday is anyones guess.
 
A fast-moving storm rolled through the area late Friday, but how much the extra moisture will impact Round 3 play is a question. Because the storm only lasted a few minutes the area was not saturated and Augusta National enjoys a state-of-the-art SubAir system that removes moisture from the ground.
 
Its the amazing thing about this golf course, Rory Sabbatini said. It can change from nine to nine.
 
How the course is set up will likely dictate how much red is on the leaderboard and how many roars we hear.
 
(Saturday) could be the toughest of the three days as far as course setup, Phil Mickelson said.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 10:55 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Just before 11 p.m. Friday, a severe storm rolled over Augusta National, dumping heavy rain and hail, but an early tour of the property Saturday did not reveal any damage.
 
Officials didnt seem too concerned with the storm impacting play and tee times were not affected.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 11, 9:16 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Still waiting on an official statement, but Rory McIlroy is on Saturdays tee sheet and did not get disqualified for kicking the sand in frustration after leaving his initial shot in a bunker adjacent the 18th green.
 
A broadcast in the United Kingdom originally speculated the Northern Irish phenom had violated the rule that prohibits testing the condition of the hazard, but Augusta National officials did not see it that way.
 
Instead, McIlroy, who is playing his first Masters, will go off in the 10:55 a.m. (ET) group with defending champion Trevor Immelman.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 8:55 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' In 2008 Kenny Perry made the Ryder Cup his priority primarily because the matches were being played in his home state of Kentucky. That focus even extended to the seasons major championships, which he only played one.
 
On Friday, following his second-round 67 that gave him a share of the Masters lead, Perry said the majors are atop his dance card this time around. A Grand Slam title would complete an otherwise grand career and, besides, his interest in this years team matches may be limited.
 
The Presidents Cup is not in Kentucky, Perry smiled.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 6:51 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' So much for weather forecasting. By 4 p.m. (ET) it was supposed to be raining with the possibility of hail and high wind gusts. By 6:40 p.m. there was no rain, no hail and only the winds. One out of three isnt too bad.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 6:41 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Anyone still concerned with Tiger Woods play this week at Augusta National isnt paying attention.
 
His second 72 left the world No. 1 seven shots behind Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry and when asked if he was worried about his position he was quick to dismiss any concern.
 
Anthony Kim took it a step further a few moments later, If I was Tiger Woods I wouldnt be concerned about it either. Look what he did at Bay Hill.
 
Woods track record seems to back that up. He was six shots back in 2005, four back in 02 and two back in 01. At his maiden triumph in 1997 he was leading by three strokes and rolled home a dozen clear of the field.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 5:26 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Perspective can be a funny deal. When Anthony Kim left Augusta National on Thursday he was running hot and worried he would miss the cut in his first Masters after an opening-day 75.
 
When he awoke Friday morning to gusting winds and a leader who appeared to be running away from the pack things didnt look much better. But as he ate breakfast he ran across a story about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a suspected drunk driver on Thursday, and suddenly bogeys and missed cuts didnt seem that important.
 
You never know what can happen even at 22, Kim said. That story really helped my golf game.
 
To prove a point, Kim vaulted his way into contention with a second-round 65 that featured a record 11 birdies.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 5:02 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' To say Chad Campbell flies under the radar is akin to saying Augusta Nationals greens can be fast. The big man has taken understated to a new level.
 
Asked on Friday after his second-round 70 left him alone atop the leaderboard at 9 under if he gets noticed when he is at home in Colleyville, Texas, Campbell didnt have an answer.
 
How about by your dry cleaner? one scribe persisted.
 
I think he knows who I am, but I dont get any discounts or anything, Campbell smiled.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 3:33 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Its a simple equation: high winds at Augusta National equals high scores on the leaderboard. Fridays gusts also added up to slow play.
 
Chad Campbell teed off at 9:17 a.m. (ET) and needed more than five hours to round the course. In the wake of last years final round, which was buffeted by high winds and also took more than five hours, officials were asked about the pace of play earlier this week.
 
We want our players to move along as quickly as possible, said Fred Ridley, chairman of the clubs competition committee. A lot of it depends on the conditions. When it gets windy, this golf course plays very difficult.
 
Officials adjusted the pace of play policy before last years event, adding five minutes to allow for threesomes to play in three hours and 45 minutes and twosomes to finish in four hours and five minutes.
 
Although Sean OHairs group was put on the clock three times on Friday he said it had less to do with deliberate play than the demanding conditions. Its a simple equation.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 3:11 p.m. ET

 

 
Rory McIlroy is living up to his magnificent mane. The 19-year-old with the large hair, sunk an 8-footer for an eagle at 13 to remind us of his large game. At 4-under on the day, the kid from Northern Ireland, cool and composed with a crazy 'fro, is looking to post the best round so far Friday. We've been watching for roars but maybe we should just be watching for Rory.
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 10, 2: 58 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' There is no betting at Bushwood, but the United Kingdom has slightly different rules which always seem to lead to interesting possibilities.
 
Before he teed off on Thursday and rolled to an early lead with five consecutive birdies, Chad Campbell was listed at 440 to 1 to win the Masters on the UK Web site Betfair Sports. Maybe even more interesting is that someone wagered $200 that the Texan would win his first major. Winning payout: $88K.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 1:13 p.m. ET

 

 
Well, hello there, Todd Hamilton! Nice to see ya. The '04 British Open champion who's playing in 4th Masters, eagled the 15th hole Friday to move into 2nd place behind Chad Campbell. The no. 373 ranked player in the world, who's made just two cuts this year in nine starts on Tour, had his best finish at Augusta National last year with a T-36. In his 12 major career starts, the Illinois native's best showing, other than that victory at Royal Troon, was a T29 at the 2003 PGA Championship.
 
Ah, but if you recall that Claret Jug capturing by Hamilton, you'll remember the journeyman beat some of the world's best in Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson that Sunday. Wonder if he can do it again...
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 10, 12:24 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' One of our favorite Tour types, Jim McGovern, is on the grounds this week trying life on the other side of the ropes as an analyst for a British radio outlet.
 
The likeable journeyman is perfect for radio because of his straight-forward style and players insight, but the self-deprecating McGovern had a different spin.
 
Perfect face for radio, McGovern delivered the old saw with a perfect deadpan.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 12:03 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' I asked K.J. Chois swing coach, Steve Bann, what he thought of long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, whom Choi was paired with in Rounds 1 and 2.
 
The wide-eyed response was telling. On (no.) 5 he outdrove Kenny (Perry) by 60 yards . . . 60 yards. Kennys not short.
 
Quiros will have some competition in the long-drive contest, however. Dustin Johnson, another first timer, had just an 8-iron for his second shot at the par-5 no. 2 on Thursday.
 
The long ball lives, even at a lengthened Augusta National.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 10:43 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Thursday was a day for scoring because of both the hole locations and a lack of wind. I have never seen such docile hole locations all the way through a golf course for a major championship. Today, will be a different animal.
 
There is a nice mix of tough and accessible hole locations, but there is some weather coming in this afternoon. You hate it when luck plays a factor in determining the outcome of major championship, but we are probably going to see that today.
 
The guys who tee off in the morning will get a break. Not only are they going to have softer greens but they are going to have softer conditions as well. Those going off in the afternoon, like Phil Mickelson, are going to have a tough go.
 
In Amen Corner, there are some really tough pins at 12 and 13. With swirling winds in the afternoon you will see some big scores.
 
' Brandel Chamblee
Posted April 10, 10:04 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' In his outrageously funny tome You Gotta Play Hurt, sports writing legend Dan Jenkins paints a picture of his early days covering the Masters perched atop the clubs stately clubhouse with a pot of coffee and a plate of biscuits and redeye gravy.
 
The days of covering the event from the clubs verandah may be over ' the victim of blogging and Facebook and an instant news cycle ' but not the beauty of breakfast in golfs most exclusive diner.
 
Early Friday we continued our own Masters tradition with a quick meal overlooking Augusta Nationals first tee. The surreal scene included champions, both past and present mixed among club members and media types, and a sweeping view of the first tee as groups marched down the hill.
 
The best perch in golf also has the best price. Two eggs, sausage and coffee was $10 plus tip.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 10:02 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' John Merrick kept his week going with a birdie at no. 2 to move to 5-under, two shots behind Chad Campbell who tees off at 9:17 a.m.
 
Merrick, playing his first Masters, received a sort of Augusta National for Dummies from swing coach Jamie Mulligan, who is attending his 19th Masters this week.
 
Mulligan crafted two pages of Augusta National dos and donts that his man studied before Thursdays opening round. Seems the kids a good learner.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 10, 9:03 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Another opening round in the 70s is hardly reason for concern for Tiger Woods, who walked away from his day-one 70 secure in the notion that he did no harm to his title chances despite conditions that yielded 38 under-par cards.
 
When asked about his relatively mundane first-round history at Augusta National, Woods bristled, Yeah, thats how I won it four times too.'
 
Hard to question those methods.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 8:23 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Weve got bookend Campbells on the leaderboard. There is Chad, who opened with 31 and signed for 65, and 2005 U.S. Open champ, Michael, who opened with 41 and signed for 80. One is in first place, the other in last, and one will enjoy his dinner, the other will not.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 6:17 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Tempering expectations and nerves your first time around Augusta National is difficult, but John Merrick seemed to do just fine on Thursday.
 
The Masters first-timer opened with a 4-under 68 despite limited prep time. Merrick made an early trip to Augusta National with his father three weeks ago but because of poor weather conditions managed just nine practice holes on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday.
 
The day my dad and I came out it was perfect, just like this, Merrick said, minus the people.
 
Despite his limited exposure, or maybe because of it, Merrick was able to keep his nerves in check.
 
Its macro, said Merricks soulful swing coach Jamie Mulligan. I told him, your goal is to get here 20 times so you dont need to get too fired up.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 6:13 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Heres the strangest tradition like no other: Tiger Woods has never broken 70 in the first round of the Masters, a stretch that goes back 14 years, and he is even par through nine holes on Thursday and not looking to break new ground this year.
 
Of course, hes only broken 70 three times in the final round during that same span and isnt doing too shabby in the green jacket department.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 5:08 p.m. ET

 

 
Not surprising to see Zach Johnson birdie the par-5 No. 2 today. He scorched the par-5s to a tune of 11-under par en route to winning the green jacket in 2007, despite not going for a single one in two that week. Johnsons strategy then was to lay up and make birdie from 60 to 80 yards with his wedges, a game plan hes sure to follow again this week.
 
I ran into Johnsons swing coach, Mike Bender, and sports psychologist, Morris Pickens, at Amen Corner during Wednesdays practice round at Augusta National. Both appeared optimistic about Johnsons chances this week for a second green jacket. Asked what Johnson was working on prior to this, his fifth Masters, Bender said: Chipping and putting. Its Augusta. Otherwise, theres not much he has to do. Hes playing extremely well.
 
Johnson finished T20 at the Masters a year ago and has posted at least one PGA Tour win in each of his last three seasons, including this years Sony Open in Hawaii.
 
' David Allen
Posted April 9, 3:57 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Psychologically, there is a difference between 69 and 70. Rounds in the 60s look and feel better than those in the 70s.That said, Norman played really well, and if he'd made his five-foot birdie putt on 18 it would have been icing on the cake.
 
At the end of the day Norman, 54, will be ahead of some world class players. That in itself is great. But as good as Norman is, he left some out there and will think tonight that he can play better.
 
' Frank Nobilo
Posted April 9, 3:44 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Chad Campbell started with five consecutive birdies, a Masters record. It seemed counter intuitive then that Campbell, who switched equipment companies this year, has been struggling this year with his putting, at least statistically, and yet found himself leading a tournament that is normally considered a putting contest.
 
The answer seems to be Campbells ballstriking, an underappreciated asset at Augusta National but crucial when the greens are slightly soft like they were early Thursday.
 
Augusta National, it seems, defies definition.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 3:40 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' For Australians, few major championship venues bring as much emotional baggage as Augusta National. Either youve had a personal misstep (Greg Norman) or youre emotionally vested in a misstep (the Australians who watched Norman).
 
Early Thursday one sports psychologist was asked why it is so hard to win the Masters:
This place makes everybody a head case, sighed one head doctor.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 3:17 p.m. ET

 

 
Its probably not a good sign for one of the 'best-players-to-never...' to be wielding a belly putter. Looks like Augusta National is already under Sergio Garcias skin ' and in his head. Playing in his 38th major, cameras caught Garcia banging clubs down in frustration and waving his arms in disbelief at various times Thursday. It feels like another Garcia Groundhog Day at a major.
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 9, 2:55 p.m. ET

 

 
Chad Campbell opened his first round with five straight birdies, two short of the Masters record for consecutive birdies (7) set by Steve Pate (1999) and Tiger Woods (2005). Both Pates and Woods birdies came on holes 7 through 13. Woods streak led to a third-round 65 and helped catapult him to his fourth green jacket.
 
The record for consecutive birdies to open the Masters is four, set by Ken Venturi in 1956. Venturi finished runner-up that year to Jack Burke, Jr., coming up one shot short. If only he had made five in a row!
 
' David Allen
Posted April 9, 2:50 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' A little early to celebrate but our Tim Clark pick isnt looking too bad. As for that Par 3 jinx the wedge expert was having no part of it.
 
I just wish wed play a few par-3 courses on Tour, said Clark, who wedged his way to four birdies on Augusta Nationals par 5s.
 
Even better news for the South African is rain is in Fridays forecast which should keep the layout soft enough for him.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 1:48 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Weather has been a huge factor here the last few years and made the golf course play very difficult. An east wind makes holes no. 1, 13 and 15 play into the wind and no. 7 and 14 play downwind, which allows short hitters to have a better chance to play this golf course well. There is not much wind today, but what we do have is a west wind. The hole locations are such that scoring should be pretty good today. So if you like low scores, today is your day.
 
' Brandel Chamblee
Posted April 9, 1:04 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Dustin Johnson was last in his group to tee off early Thursday. Its just as well, the extended wait made his soaring tee ball that much more enjoyable.
 
Johnson, a son of the south who grew up in South Carolina, is playing his first Masters, and the anxiety was evident as one of the Tours fastest players fiddled with his grip and took extra practice swings.
 
DJs opening drive flew to the top of the hill, just left of the fairway bunker and the second-year Tour player was quickly on the leaderboard at 2 under through three holes.
 
Hes waited 15 years for that (tee shot), smiled Johnsons swing coach Allen Terrell.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 10:24 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' The thing about major championships is that you cant run away. You have to get in the fray somehow. You cant sneak through on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then, all the sudden, pick up the trophy on Sunday.
 
That is a big mistake that some of the younger guys make. You have to want to get into the fray, you really do. But, that is easier said than done. You have to train yourself for the mayhem.
 
This tournament is different from any other because it is played at the same venue every year, and you are up against people who have a distinct advantage. Everybody grows up watching people play this golf course, so you have all these expectations on what it is like and how it is going to play.
 
There is nothing worse than having your bubble burst.
 
' Frank Nobilo
Posted April 9, 9:04 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Jack Nicklaus may do it someday, though its never been his nature to be just a ceremonial golfer, even as he nears 70. Did you see Jack open birdie-birdie in the Par 3 Contest? I turned to colleague Steve Burkowski and said, Burko, Jacks playing like it matters!
 
It does matter, said Burko. Its Jack. And its the Masters.
 
' Rich Lerner
Posted April 9, 8:56 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' For the second consecutive year Arnold Palmer began the proceedings at the Masters. The King, serving solo as the events honorary starter, split the middle of the first fairway to loud cheers at 7:50 a.m. (ET).
 
This may be the last year Palmer is alone in his opening salvo duties. With Gary Player playing his final Masters there has been talk the South African would make the ceremonial proceedings a two-ball.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 9, 8:21 a.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' It is the familiarity of historic turf, almost as much its storied past, that seems to separate the Masters from other major championships. Each year players show up more than a little curious about the annual tinkering that goes on at Augusta National.
 
We wandered out to the fifth hole late Wednesday to get a look at this years most-talked-about groom, the slightly retouched fifth green that will offer a new pin position in the top left of the green. To the Shag Bags untrained eye it appeared to be only perfectly manicured turf, the experts, however, took notice.
 
It's actually a reasonable pin to putt at, the one at the left, but it's an incredible pin to look at from the middle of the fairway, 180 yards away, Geoff Ogilvy said. It looks like it's off the front edge of the sixth tee.
 
Phil Mickelson, who is playing his 17th Masters this week, had a slightly different take on the new possible pin position.
 
It's not an easy one but I don't know many easy pins out here, Lefty reasoned.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 8, 7:16 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Its nothing new for Vijay Singh to shut down a practice range, but it was a twist late Wednesday afternoon at Augusta National to see the Fijian watching young Spanish phenom Alvaro Quiros blast bunker shots.
 
The man may be a work-a-holic, but Singh has an appreciation for the finer points of the golf swing and that is refreshing.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 8, 5:22 p.m. ET

 

 
Throngs of voices yelling at once: 'over here!' and 'give us another picture!' were aimed at the 'Big 3' as they walked off the ninth hole today. It seemed like a Hollywood event, not the Par-3 Contest, and it sounded like paparazzi flashing the cameras, not patrons. Turns out it was on a spectacular green carpet, not red.
 
Moments before, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were fist-bumping each other, celebrating the Black Knight. In his final Masters appearance, Player made one of the most thrilling 3s you'll ever see, while the other members of the 'Big 3' looked on. His first shot went into the water, then he reloaded and got nothing but cup. Makes sense. The Man in Black golf-star deserved a movie-star ending.
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 8, 4:47 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' The menu for Tuesdays Champions Dinner was particularly festive, with Trevor Immelman bringing a distinctive South African flair to the proceedings.
 
Among the items in the offing was South African spinach salad, babotie with yellow rich (a traditional curried meat with fruit), chicken sosaties (grilled chicken on skewers) and melktert (a traditional milk tart).
 
Just a hunch, but were guessing a few of the previous champions decided to order off the menu.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 8, 4:31 p.m. ET

 

 
Bernhard Langer's son is a chip(shot?) off the old block. Well, both sons are, I suppose. But I'm not talking about his teenage son Stefan, who the German Hall-of-Famer has teamed with for two Father/Son Challenge titles in recent years. No, his much younger ' and shorter ' son Jason, who's caddying for his father at today's Par-3 Contest just smoothly rolled in a putt ' with his pop's long putter that towered over him like Dirk Nowitski.
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 8, 2:52 p.m. ET

 

 
Phil Mickelson told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt that his children Evan, Amanda, and Sophia had to drop out of their caddie roles for him today in the Masters' Par 3 Contest as they've all come down with a virus. Not only is the kiddie crew on the DL, but their mother Amy is also a WD. Jim MacKay will be the impromptu sub off the bench. Sorry, but Bones just can't pull off the same cuteness effect.
 
' Dena Davis
Posted April 8, 2:40 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Warmer temperatures drew the high-profile crowd back to Augusta Nationals oak tree on Wednesday. Among some of the sights and sounds was double-heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, who is on property as a spectator.
 
Its cool, Compton said, but Id rather be playing.
 
We also got a tip from a member of the Justin Leonard camp. If youre looking for a late office-pool entry try Leonard. His coach Randy Smith made a slight putting adjustment earlier this week, and as one of the Tours best lag-putters, he's istroking the ball even better.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 8, 1:40 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Normally, what happens in the Champions Dinner stays in the Champions Dinner, but Augusta National chairman Billy Payne let a few details slip from what was an emotional evening.
 
Jose Maria Olazabal read a note from Seve Ballesteros, who is recovering back home after brain surgery.
 
Very emotional and very loving, Payne said. As it was read you could feel the affection in the air.
 
Gary Player, who is playing in his final Masters, introduced reigning champion Trevor Immelman with a recounting of the first time the elder South African met Immelman when he was 5 years old.
 
It was a fantastic speech, Payne said. I was glad to be there.
 
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 8, 12:10 p.m. ET

 

 
AUGUSTA, Ga. ' One of the more interesting parts of Masters week is the chairmans press conference, Augusta Nationals version of the State of the Union, and Wednesdays installment had a few interesting items.
 
  • How difficult the golf course had played in recent years was an early question and chairman Billy Payne said hes confident calmer weather conditions this year will change the way the course plays. I think we have it about right. But Im quick to add this week is an important test, he said.
     
  • On Davis Love IIIs World Ranking near-miss to be at this years tournament, Payne ' who is a longtime friend of Loves ' said it was unfortunate. Its the way the ball bounces. Theres no such thing as a perfect system, but hes going to get back, he said.
     
  • Payne also gave details on Augusta Nationals new 25-acre practice facility that will open in time for next years tournament. The new range will be twice as large as the current facility, feature teeing areas on both sides and tree lines that will be similar to the fairway lines on the golf course. The current range will remain and be used by the members. Unless our members get longer (off the tee), Payne said.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 8, 11:56 a.m. ET

     

     
    AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Cold, windy conditions kept most players off the golf course on Monday and Tuesday. Tiger Woods played just a few holes on Monday and none on Tuesday, Boo Weekley weathered just nine on Tuesday and Robert Karlsson hadnt even been on the golf course as the sun set on Tuesday.
     
    Abbreviated prep time may not be a big deal for players like Woods, who will tee off in his 15th Masters on Thursday, but first-timers could be feeling the added pressure.
     
    Some, like Oliver Wilson, made pre-tournament trips to Augusta National that could help the learning curve. Wilson, who played college golf at Augusta State, came to town last week and enlisted the help of a friend of his who caddies at the course for a round. The Englishman went around the course using only a putter and wedge. Not a bad game plan for a rookie.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 8, 9:54 a.m. ET

     

     
    AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Its a tradition like no other. No, not the 350-yard drive down Magnolia Lane or the back nine on Sunday, at least not for the assembled golf scribes.
     
    For those who cover the game, one of the highlights of Masters week is being a part of the proceedings under the oak, the towering tree that stands behind Augusta Nationals clubhouse. Each spring golfs hierarchy gather under the tree for a scene unrivaled anywhere else in the game.
     
    Unfortunately, frigid temperatures and gale-force winds on Tuesday limited the scene to just a few hardy souls. Players, it seems, arent the only ones adverse to adverse conditions.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 7

     

     
    AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Tiger Woods entered Augusta Nationals press center Tuesday afternoon and quickly lurched into a wide smile when it was announced he was playing in his 15th Masters.
     
    Im not teeing off on the first hole yet to start the thing, Woods joked, a reference to the ceremonial starters post that currently is held by Arnold Palmer.
     
    Thankfully for all involved, that role will be filled for years to come.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 7

     

     
    AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Top players flocked to last weeks Shell Houston Open in an attempt to ready for this weeks Masters, playing the juiced-upped Redstone layout to get a feel for speedy greens and closely-clipped chipping areas.
     
    Turns out it was windy conditions that suspended play earlier in the week in Houston that may have been the ultimate tune-up.
     
    Players were greeted with 20 to 25 mph wind gust on Tuesday and temperatures that didnt reach 55 degrees at Augusta National.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 7

     

     
    AUGUSTA, Ga. ' There are a lot of reasons to savor Gary Players final Masters this week, but for selfish reasons those of us who carry notebooks for a living will be hit particularly hard.
     
    Among some of the Black Knights best on Tuesday:
     
  • I'm hitting the ball so short now, I can hear it land.
     
  • The hole is getting the size of a Bayer aspirin, you wonder whether you can press it in there or squeeze it in there.
     
  • So I've managed to break 80 the last two years, but it's getting to a stage now where I don't know whether I can do that out here, it's so long and I'm getting weaker.
     
  • I realize that the talent that I had was loaned to me. It was not on a permanent basis, something that I could take credit for.
     
  • Asked if he would join Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter if asked by Augusta National officials: Of course I would. I'll even exercise harder to make sure I out-drive Arnold.
     
    You just cant teach that kind of insightful honesty.
     
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted April 7

     

     
    Brittany Lincicome wasn't looking like a good bet to make the U.S. Solheim Cup team because of recent struggles with a swing change and minor injuries that nagged her a year ago.
     
    With Sunday's Kraft Nabisco Championship victory, and the double Solheim Cup points that went with it, Lincicome jumped from 26th on the U.S. Solheim Cup points list to No. 12. The top 10 automatically qualify for the Aug. 21-23 event at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
     
    'Brittany Lincicome came back from the dead this week,' U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel said on the LPGA's website.
     
    Lincicome made an even larger leap in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, moving up 64 spots to No. 22, making her the fourth highest ranked American in the world behind Paula Creamer (4), Cristie Kerr (6) and Angela Stanford (7). Kristy McPherson, who tied for second at the Kraft Nabisco, is No. 8 in U.S. Solheim Cup points this week and No. 32 in the world rankings. Cristie Kerr, who also tied for second, moved to No. 2 in U.S. Solheim Cup points behind Paula Creamer.
     
    ' Randall Mell
    Posted April 6

     

     
    RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Brittany Lincicome's brilliant final shot into the 72nd hole Sunday to set up eagle and her victory at the Kraft Nabisco topped a promising day for American women in golf.
     
    Lincicome used a 'grip hybrid,' the equivalent of a 3-iron, from 210 yards, nestling the spectacular shot to 4 feet to defeat her pal, Kristy McPherson, and 11-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr by one shot in a thrilling finish.
     
    With Americans having won just two of the previous eight major championships (Kerr and Morgan Pressel), the day ended with Americans finishing 1-2-3 and with American Alexis Thompson and Tiffany Joh as low amateurs.
     
    'I think American golf is on the upswing again,' Kerr said.
     
    ' Randall Mell
    Posted April 5

     

     
    RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' The final round of the Kraft Nabisco is playing out nicely for U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel, who's working as an analyst on the CBS telecast.
     
    The back nine's a battle of three Americans.
     
    Daniel, in an interview Saturday afternoon, said the TV work helps her immensely in getting a feel for players under pressure, especially when the telecast is a major. She is doing seven telecasts this year, six for Golf Channel.
     
    'The Solheim Cup is set up like a major, and if somebody plays well in a major the chances are they're going to handle the pressure of a Solheim Cup and the way a Solheim Cup course is set up,' Daniel said.
     
    The Solheim Cup is scheduled Aug. 21-23 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. Daniel has noticed how popular she has become when she makes tournament appearances with two Solheim Cup captain's picks in her pocket.
     
    'Everybody is really nice to me,' Daniel said laughing. 'I have players two fairways over who will be out there waving to me. It's one of the reasons I don't go out on the course a lot. It kind of puts undue pressure on players. I don't need to be out there. I have my spies.'
     
    ' Randall Mell
    Posted April 5

     

     
    RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' The caddies aren't mike'd here at the Kraft Nabisco, but the gallery aside the ninth hole could hear what a good caddie can mean.
     
    After Kristy McPherson pulled her tee shot left into the rough at the dogleg left par 5, she plucked what looked like a mid-iron from her bag. She told her caddie, Thane Aalyson, that she wanted to try to draw her lay-up shot around a big tree at the corner of the dogleg. Aalyson talked her out of it and into hitting a wedge over the tree. He said she risked running her mid-iron through the fairway and back into the heavy rough and not getting that much closer to the hole. She took a wedge over the tree and into the middle of the fairway, then hit a hybrid just short of the green. She chipped in from about 40 feet for birdie to pull within a shot of Cristie Kerr going to the back nine. She followed with another birde at the 10th to tie Kerr.
     
    ' Randall Mell
    Posted April 5

     

     
    RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Cristie Kerr's Zen Golf master is following her on this Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco. Dr. Joseph Parent, who started working with Kerr after her disappointing finish at this event a year ago, is easy to spot in his blue Zen Golf hat.
     
    'Our focus is on making the goals about process and not results,' he said with Kerr up by two shots going to the ninth tee.
     
    ' Randall Mell
    Posted April 5

     

     
    RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' 'What is it about the fifth hole? Something happens here every year.'
     
    That's what one fan told another after Kristy McPherson hit her tee shot at the par 3 into the water during Sunday's Kraft Nabisco. Last year, Kerr hit two shots in the water there on Sunday to fall out of contention.
     
    A number of fans on this Sunday got into a public discussion with confusion unfolding over where McPherson should drop. Her tee shot was short, skipping off the water and jumping up on the bank before rolling back in the water. More than one fan shouted that the ball rolled up past the yellow hazard line before backing up into the water.
     
    McPherson had to return to the tee box after the rules official was unable to determine definitively. McPherson made a great bogey, though, rolling in a 12-foo