A Different Augusta Same Masters

By Associated PressApril 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hootie Johnson defended more than just the all-male membership at Augusta National.
The chairman sat in his second-floor office three days before the Masters, gazing through a rain-streaked window at droopy, gray clouds that would dump 4 inches of water on the course before the first shot was struck.
It was an ominous sign for anyone who couldn't hit the ball long and high.
With 305 yards added to the golf course over the last two years, it seemed as if only a dozen of the 90-plus players had a chance to win a green jacket. The list figured to become only shorter on a soggy course.
Based on what happened last year -- Tiger Woods playing conservatively while everyone else self-destructed -- the back nine at Augusta National suddenly became as exciting to watch as The Food Channel.
Did the new Augusta National wreck the old Masters?
Johnson asked an office assistant to bring him the driving statistics from last year's collection of contenders. Retief Goosen, the runner-up, was 105th in driving distance. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who finished fourth, ranked 181st.
'I think we did the right thing,' Johnson said.
Augusta National has always been a work in progress.
The Masters rarely changes.
Anyone who thought the big hitters would prevail only had to glance at the top 12 positions on the leaderboard Sunday evening, starting at the top.
Mike Weir was 100th in driving distance on the PGA Tour last year, and no one will ever confuse him with an elite power player. He worked magic with his wedges, none bigger than his 92-yard shot into 5 feet for birdie on the 15th.
His putting was pure, a requirement at any major.
Only three other Masters champions -- none since Doug Ford in 1957 -- played the final round in regulation without a bogey.
'To go bogey-free at Augusta National on Sunday, I can't ask for anything more,' Weir said. 'Once it all soaks in, I'll realize how special it is.'
Len Mattiace, who ranked 130th in driving distance, delivered the drama, no shot more memorable than his 4-wood from the 13th fairway that barely cleared Rae's Creek and gave him a 15-foot eagle putt.
'All week, I've been practicing the 4-wood off of a right-to-left lie, waiting to hit it,' Mattiace said. 'When I finally had it, I said, 'This is what I've been practicing all this time for.' And I executed it.'
Just because his name is not Jack Nicklaus -- or Tiger Woods -- didn't make his back-nine charge any less brilliant.
Mattiace followed with a birdie on No. 15 by going for the green in two, and a tee shot on the par-3 16th that caught the ridge and stopped 12 feet away for another birdie.
If not for a drive into the trees that led to bogey on the 18th, Mattiace would have shot 64 and tied Gary Player (1978) for the lowest final round by a Masters champion.
Keep scrolling.
Jim Furyk (173rd in driving distance) chipped in for eagle on No. 15 and finished fourth.
Jeff Maggert (150) was another stroke back. One can only imagine how different it might have been if his fairway bunker shot on No. 3 didn't bounced off the lip and hit him in the chest for a two-stroke penalty.
Scott Verplank (189) was 5 under par on the weekend. He missed only 10 fairways all week, tied for third in driving accuracy. Others who finished in the top 12 were Mark O'Meara (145), David Toms (114) and Olazabal (181).
Length isn't everything.
Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els were the only power players among the top dozen, proving again that the Masters can be won with different styles.
Three-time champion Nick Faldo was a great thinker. O'Meara and Ben Crenshaw are great putters. Olazabal is a wizard with the short game. Palmer and Nicklaus won with power. Woods is all of the above.
Augusta National has gone through more drastic changes in the last two years than the previous 20, and more Masters are required before anyone reaches a conclusion.
Maybe the rain will stay away next year, and the course will play firm and fast.
Still, Mattiace showed that Sunday charges are still very much a part of the Masters.
Augusta National isn't easier. Mattiace had to play the best golf of his life to get to 8 under par through 17 holes and give himself a chance to win.
That's how it should be on Sunday at the Masters.
Weir reminded everyone that the biggest weapon at Augusta National is the shortest club in the bag. He took only 104 putts, fourth-best last week behind Maggert and O'Meara (101) and Paul Lawrie (102).
Perhaps the biggest difference is that No. 18 has become a hole where the Masters will be lost more often than it is won. Then again, only three players have made birdies on the final hole to win the Masters.
Some things rarely change.
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Photo Gallery
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology

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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.