Last Stop on the Protest Line

By Adam BarrApril 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We have moved, in a little less than a year, from letters and acrimony to placards and bullhorns. This is the week so many have awaited, and just as many have dreaded. This week, all the I wonders will be answered.
 
Written on the tablet of the worlds most famous golf tournament ' which itself will share the headlines with the Iraqi war ' will be another chapter in this countrys endless struggles about civil rights.
 
Martha BurkDr. Martha Burk is scheduled to lead a public protest Saturday against Augusta National Golf Club, a private organization and the definition of Heaven on Earth to millions who have never been near it. Dr. Burk wants to get that club to admit women as members. She includes this crusade in the agenda of the National Council of Womens Organizations, of which she is chair. That agenda includes, among other things, issues pertaining to reproductive rights, workplace equity, and abuse of women in Third World nations.
 
Dr. Burk has encountered a nations worth of varied reaction, from the enthusiastic You go, girl school to the befuddled head-scratches of the Who cares? crowd to the virulent opposers who perpetuate the American habit of binding disagreement to hate.
 
This last group bothers her not at all, even when they approach in white hoods. (Dr. Burk will not tell the media where she is staying in Augusta this week. She is unflappable, but not reckless.) In a life of activism and inside-the-Beltway machinations, she has learned not to lose sleep over hate mail.
 
But Martha Burk is serious about her quest. She maintains that the clubs sponsorship of so great a tournament as the Masters forces it to sacrifice the shield of private association laws. Chiefs of industry, of consumer product companies, of conglomerates that guarantee rights of women workers, are members of the most storied golf club in the land, Burk says. The economic ties are too great to ignore, she says.
 
Besides, Dr. Burk says, this is not a legal issue, and never has been. It is a moral issue.
 
Finding himself ' and his world ' at the point of Burks bayonet is William Hootie Johnson, one of the most respected men in Richmond County, Georgia, and across the Savannah River in southern South Carolina. By all accounts Johnson is a Southern gentleman of the old school, a soft-spoken, charitable, peaceful man who has carved out over many years a reputation for fair dealing and gentility. Johnson allegedly told USA Today columnist Christine Brennan in 1999 that in time the club would indeed admit a woman.
 
But Johnson read a lot of things he didnt like between the lines of his first letter from Burk, and decided to go public with the matter ' and with his strong response. That decision, and his subsequent handling of the affair, has drawn a great deal of criticism. It remains unclear whether the clubs objection is to the possibility of woman members or to the effort to force a timetable.
 
Either way, Hootie's reaction is truly Southern. The states of the former confederacy have traditionally not liked to be told what to do, no matter what the issue, no matter right or wrong. Witness, in living memory, the struggles to equalize access to education and voting rights throughout the South. Who could believe this club membership issue, although much less important than those basic rights, would be any different?
 
The media attention, which has continued at high intensity considering the lack of true new developments in the case and the outbreak of war, has fertilized the seeds planted by fringe elements ' and so this week we can expect to see and hear from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his PUSH Coalition, seemingly omnipresent in times of controversy, as well as group called People Against Ridiculous Protests. This last group is one of many anti-Burk voices that have spoken in recent months, some complete with websites on which ' surprise ' t-shirts and other anti-Burk memorabilia are sold, presumably to defray the cost of a big Burk shout-down.
 
We will also hear from native Augustans, many of whom have never thought of the Masters as a class-oriented or gender-based event. They simply love the atmosphere, the ambience ' and the income. A lot of the natives have protest permits, and theyre planning to use them. (And a lot of them are women.)
 
What well see, when the week is over, is whether protests away from the clubs gates will do Burks cause any good. We will see if the clubs strategy of outlasting Burk and crowning a champion inside those gates Sunday makes the matter go away (for if Burk hasnt succeeded by Sunday, what momentum will she have for 2004?). Well see if a federal appeals court will reverse a district court ruling Monday in Burks suit against the City of Augusta. (The district court decided the citys protest permit ordinance was constitutional, both as written and as applied to Dr. Burks group. In that last ruling, the court said that moving the protests to a field near the club is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction on free speech.)
 
And what we will see, for better or worse, is how the game of golf comes out of this in the eye of the public. It doesnt matter that this is not a golf issue, that golf is just the stage on which it will play out. Whatever happens this week will stick to golfs reputation like glue. The national mind doesnt parse things out in detail. If things go badly in Augusta, golf will look bad, no matter who is to blame.
 
Golfs uncertain future in this country could get a lot clearer ' one way or the other.
 
Stay tuned.
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”