The Dog Had a Badge
I was standing among the television trucks in the main parking lot at Augusta National Golf Club, just across the path from one of the entrances to the grounds. Beside this service entrance was a tent that a few Richmond County sheriffs deputies used as their base for the week. A deputy arrived, holding the leash of a handsome German Shepherd. As police officer and police dog walked by, I noticed a familiar, credit card-sized object pinned to the dogs collar.
Discrediting the evidence of my eyes, I strode over to the deputies and asked if I could admire their canine colleague.
Sure enough: The Shepherd wore a Masters badge with a violet stripe along the bottom, for tournament support staff. Such badges show the name and photograph of the bearer, and so did this one. This badge belonged to Schnapps, and his fuzzy headshot adorned the upper right-hand corner.
Schnapps, who Im told was polite because his handler had not identified me as a perpetrator, let me examine the credential. When I was done, I stared at him for a moment. I blinked. Schnapps blinked. He licked my hand and shifted where he sat. No one knew what to say.
Finally, a deputy piped up:
Yknow, they check his badge every time, too. Run it through the little card reader. He cant get in without it.
I then had a nice conversation with one of the deputies about what magnificent animals dogs are. But I dont remember much of our talk. I was wondering if the dog could maybe use his connections to get me Super Bowl tickets.
Knowing what I do about the Masters and the singular club that sponsors it, I found my thoughts at an interesting fork. Either 1) the folks at the National have a pleasantly quirky sense of humor, or 2) they are so serious about security that they plan to start issuing badges to other animals who may come on the grounds, such as the raccoons that surely hang out behind the media center, looking for half-eaten egg salad sandwiches.
Ive met some of the club members who work on the tournament, and Im betting on the sense-of-humor route. But what if its not? What if they put Schnapps picture on his badge to make sure some other German Shepherd didnt try to sneak in?
Sir, Im sorry, but this isnt you. See, the caramel portion of your ruff doesnt blend into the black part of your face this way.
There is an unusual balance about this place. Augusta National is one of the most beautiful, calming places on earth. Yet it is a closely regulated mini-society, in which everyone has a place and the genteel atmosphere depends on folks following the rules. The club was patiently developed by a man who consorted with presidents and had a reputation for being absolutely unbending. Yet Clifford Roberts had such a finely developed sense of humor that he would go to the trouble to make a film (for the clubs use) in which he appeared to walk across water, specifically the pond on the 16th hole. The popular film poked fun in a number of directions, including back at its director.
People love to come back every year. Few run afoul of its many rules, written and unwritten: Attendees are not fans, and they are certainly not a mob. They are patrons. Players seek to nestle their shots close to hole locations, never pin placements. Never call a mound anything like a body bag, even in jest ' not if you ever want to come back.
At a cocktail party this week, I heard recounted a story in support of the notion that every time things look sweet at the National, they may not be. A player agent, a member of a class not revered by the National, was lunching with his player in the clubhouse after midday. The dining room was not crowded; in fact, hardly anyone was there. Neither the agent nor the player was making more than conversational noise. Nobody was dressed in anything alarming.
Nonetheless, after awhile, one of the few members in the room came over to the table and said, Gentlemen, youve been here long enough. Time for you to move on.
The agent was dumbfounded. Did he just say what I thought he said? was all he could think to say to his companion.
The identities were kept secret, so there is no way to determine whether this story was more than apocryphal. Doesnt really matter. True or not, it is a symptom of the envy that sometimes arises in situations involving haves and have-nots. Its the toughest ticket in sports, the club everyone secretly wants into (or at least wonders what it would be like), the golf course best represented over the years as what Heaven must be likeof course tales get told.
Fact is, its their club. When things get inconvenient, the men in the green jackets can sometimes be heard reminding everyone that they could, at any time, pull the rug out from under the whole enterprise. They organize this tournament out of love; they owe the world of golf exactly nothing. And if they ever owed anything, they have long since paid in full.
As inconvenient as some people sometimes find the maze of rules surrounding the Masters, those rules deserve a lot of credit for making the Masters what it is. As a ticket-taker and I concluded Tuesday while watching a patron get into a lather over slow badge checking, the secret this week is to be patient.
So next time I have to wait in line, Ill gladly find a way to pass the time. Perhaps Ill bring a box of Milk-Bones. Heeere, Schnappsnice doggiethats a boy
DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites
Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.
While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.
Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.
McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.
Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:
12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
18/1: Justin Rose
20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day
30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson
80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner
100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman
Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win
After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.
The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.
A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.
The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.
That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.
Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.
Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race
A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.
Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.
Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.
Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:
1. Brooks Koepka
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Justin Thomas
5. Bubba Watson
6. Jordan Spieth
7. Rickie Fowler
8. Webb Simpson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Phil Mickelson
11. Xander Schauffele
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Kevin Kisner
14. Tony Finau
15. Brian Harman
On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.
Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:
1. Francesco Molinari
2. Justin Rose
3. Tyrrell Hatton
4. Tommy Fleetwood
1. Jon Rahm
2. Alex Noren
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Paul Casey
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.