Golf is the Focus of this Years Masters

By Associated PressMarch 14, 2004, 5:00 pm
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The road to the Masters is no longer such a bumpy ride.
 
No one is asking players if they are outraged that Augusta National has never had a female member. No editorials are urging Tiger Woods, himself a minority, to boycott the major championship he has won three times.
 
The big rivalry these days is Tiger and Vijay, not Martha and Hootie.
 
The talk on the PGA Tour is about who's playing the best golf, not who's wearing the green jackets.
 
One year after Martha Burk led a relentless campaign against the home of the Masters and its all-male membership, the incendiary issue that once threatened to become an inferno has all but fizzled.
 
'If it was as big a deal as she made it out to be, we'd still be talking about it,' Charles Howell III said. 'We're still talking about Iraq. We're still talking about Osama bin Laden. We're still talking about the economy. We're still talking about how to play better golf.
 
'But I don't think anyone is talking about Martha Burk.'
 
Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has been in the news only twice this year.
 
One time was to demand that Fred Ridley resign his membership at Augusta National upon his election in February as president of the U.S. Golf Association.
 
The other was to announce she would not return to the Masters to protest.
 
After nine months of vitriolic debate between Burk and Masters chairman Hootie Johnson, the controversy faded in a grassy lot about a half-mile away from the gates of Augusta National. That was as close to the club as local authorities allowed Burk, citing safety concerns along Washington Road.
 
The protest turned into a circus, complete with an inflatable pig, a one-man faction of the Ku Klux Klan, a smattering of Burk protesters and just as many people protesting Burk. Media outnumbered them all.
 
Burk said her absence from Augusta this year should not be a sign that her fight is over.
 
'Far from it,' she said. 'We're not giving up. We're going forward with a corporate campaign. We'll have a new Web site on Augusta before the tournament, heavily slanted toward the corporate end of things. We're changing our emphasis toward more scrutiny of who the members represent.'
 
Johnson, however, believes he had the public's support all along.
 
'It should be obvious by now that the story was not only hollow, but also ridiculously misguided,' Johnson said.
 
'Privacy and freedom of association are integral parts of the foundation of America and are important to a wide variety of groups,' he said. 'Standing firm for those principles was the right thing to do. ... The public has spoken, and we are simply looking forward to hosting another exciting Masters that everyone can enjoy.'
 
Burk spends most of her time at home, working on a book to be published next year on how Augusta National's discrimination of women is emblematic of the problems women face in the business world.
 
Sorting through a stack of newspaper clippings, Burk came across the original column about the club's all-male membership that inspired her to write to Johnson.
 
When asked by Golf Digest magazine who won the 2003 Masters, Burk replied with a laugh, 'I did.'
 
'If you count the column inches of coverage and the ability to raise a profile in the press, there's no question I won,' she said. 'As far as the guy at the top of the scoreboard, I couldn't tell you.'
 
Burk was in the news almost every day since July, when Johnson issued a scathing statement that Augusta National would not be bullied into inviting a woman to join 'at the point of a bayonet.'
 
Burk attacked corporate sponsors of the Masters for ignoring their public policies on gender discrimination. So Johnson made the Masters the first sporting event to be commercial-free on network television.
 
Two newspapers published a list of the club's 300 members and the companies they represented. One editorial asked Woods to boycott the Masters; another urged Augusta National members to replace Johnson.
 
Burk asked PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to no longer recognize the Masters as an official tournament.
 
The media pressure was unlike anything golf had seen.
 
'It was a non-golf media frenzy that made it what it was,' Davis Love III said. 'It was just a distraction. It didn't have anything to do with playing the golf tournament. We were sick of it.'
 
Woods, the No. 1 player in golf, caught the brunt of the heat.
 
'It was tough because they kept asking the same questions from every conceivable angle,' he said. 'I think that's what all of us got annoyed about. Once we gave the media our opinions, that wasn't good enough. They would come at us from a different angle. And they would be at us every single week.
 
'But once it was over and done with, they moved on to the next biggest thing. And that was Annika.'
 
Indeed, the media left Burk for another woman.
 
Not long after Mike Weir won the Masters, attention shifted to Annika Sorenstam preparing for the Colonial, the first woman in 58 years on the PGA Tour.
 
Nowadays, any conversation about women and golf is more about the seven females who have competed on men's tours, including 14-year-old Michelle Wie in Hawaii.
 
With the Masters only a month away, the focus is almost exclusively on golf.
 
Arnold Palmer is playing in his 50th consecutive Masters. And Vijay Singh is closer to Woods' No. 1 ranking than anyone in the last five years.
 
The only scrutiny of Woods is that he failed to win a major last year for only the second time. The big controversy is how Love handled a heckler at the Match Play Championship.
 
As for Burk and her cause?
 
'It shows how strong our game is,' Nick Price said. 'All that stuff came at us, but the game survives.'
 
The Masters again will go without TV sponsors. Johnson said he liked the commercial-free broadcast so much that he's giving the three sponsors -- Coca-Cola, IBM and Citicorp -- another year off.
 
Burk sees it differently.
 
'I don't think it will ever be business as usual again, as long as they continue to discriminate against women,' she said. 'It's possible some company that doesn't care about its public image -- like Hooters or the Howard Stern radio show -- could be a sponsor. But I don't think any legitimate corporation would do it.'
 
She noted that Augusta National raised its ticket prices for weekly badges from $125 to $175. The club said it was normal business practice, although it was largest increase ever.
 
While Burk won't be at the Masters, she says her campaign will not be forgotten.
 
'I wish we could have had a clear victory down there in regard to the demonstration,' she said. 'On the other hand, we got our point across. The American people know what this is about now.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
     
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    TT postscript: This 65 better than Aronimink 62

    By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 9:21 pm

    ATLANTA – The start wasn’t much to look at, but that finish was something else. Tiger Woods eagled the final hole on Thursday and shares the 18-hole lead at the Tour Championship. Here are the things you know you want to know:

    • First of all, let’s give a pat on the back to the man who most deserves it today: Me. Early this morning, I sent this tweet:



    Never doubt my good feelings. Ben Crenshaw doesn’t have my good feelings. We may have 54 holes to play, but I gotta good feeling we’re going to be changing that Tiger Tracker avatar Sunday night.

    • Now onto Tiger. After all, he did hit 10 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation and took 28 putts. It wasn’t looking good early when he had nine putts through four holes and was 1 over par. But he birdied Nos. 5 and 6, turned in 1 under, and really turned it on down the stretch with two birdies and an eagle over his final seven holes. And if you take a good look at the scorecard below you’ll notice he didn’t make a bogey after the first hole.



    • How good is a 65 at East Lake? Better than his opening 62 at Aronimink, according to Woods: “This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink. Conditions were soft there. This is – it's hard to get the ball closer. There's so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close.”

    Woods added that you had to play “conservatively” and be patient – take what the course allowed. Tiger missed five putts – four of them for birdie – inside 15 feet. But in the 93-degree heat, he kept his composure and made putts of 26 and 28 feet for birdie, and 28 feet for eagle.

    • This week feels different. It feels like Tiger is really ready to win again. He seems very serious, very focused. He talked about “getting the W” on Wednesday and said on Thursday, “[T]he objective is to always win.”

    After shooting 65, Woods signed a few autographs and eventually made his way to the putting green. If he gets those 15-footer to fall, we’re going to be two wins away from tying Sammy.

    • So, what about that eagle on 18, you ask? Tiger said he “hammered” a driver – which was listed at 320 yards – and then hit a 5-wood from 256 yards to 28 feet. As for the putt: “It took forever for that putt to start breaking, grain coming down off the left. But once it snagged it, it was going straight right.”



    Right into the cup. Right into the lead. Our man is making history this week.

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    Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

    Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

    Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

    Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

    Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

    Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

    Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

    The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

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    Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

    By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

    Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.


    Getty Images

    Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 20, 2018, 6:17 pm

    Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

    Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

    It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.


    Full-field scores from the Portugal Masters


    A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.

    Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.