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
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  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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    Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

    Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

    Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

    Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

    Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

    Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

    Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

    Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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    JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

    Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

    “It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

    Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

    Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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

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

    But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

    “He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

    Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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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.