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Hooks and Cuts from Augusta

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AUGUSTA, Ga. –  In the tone and manner of a respected Southern preacher, Masters chairman Billy Payne drew a collective amen from the faithful when he weighed in on Tiger’s “egregious” conduct.

  1. • What Arnold Palmer’s done better than any golfer in history is make people feel good. He did it again when he holed that cross-country putt on the final hole of the Par 3 Contest.

• The wind may gust up to 25 miles per hour Thursday afternoon, meaning the early-late groupings could hold a huge advantage ... and meaning Tiger Woods could be in for a tough start.

• Tiger’s new Nike commercial is a bit unsettling. It’s too early to sell product, isn’t it? In Nike’s view, there’s never a bad time to stir some controversy.

• I like Ernie Els to win. I think Jim Furyk will be there. Ian Poulter is ready to contend. Ben Crane is a Zach Johnson-like long shot. And I think one of the Molinari brothers will be around on Sunday afternoon.

• A CNBC Sports Business reporter in a Golf Channel interview pointed out the omission of the Nike slogan at the end of the Tiger ad ... Just Do It.

• Fuzzy Zoeller pulled a few kids out of the gallery on Monday at the 12th for a closest to the pin contest. Hundred bucks to the winner. A 10-year- old hit it to 20 feet. Fuzzy went to high-five the youngster. The youngest went low to pick up the c-note that Fuzzy had stuck in the ground with a tee. The boy’s name? Bobby Jones. I swear.

• Two-time major winner John Mahaffey, covering the Champions Tour for Golf Channel, says Freddy can win this week. “He’s drawing the ball,” said Mahaffey. “And that’s taking the strain off his back. Plus, he’s putting great.”

• I chatted with two guys from Ireland making their first visit to the Masters. “We bought two sandwiches and four drinks for nine bucks,” one said. “At the Ryder Cup in ’06 back in Ireland, I bought a hamburger and soggy fries on a paper plate for $45 U.S. dollars.”

• One accomplished Tour pro said to me that if should Tiger win, that it would be a sign that “something’s really wrong with this guy. He proved he had no conscience but this would be mind boggling.”