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Masters brings welcome reprieve from unruly crowds

By Associated PressMarch 31, 2018, 10:16 pm

Welcome to Augusta National, a Baba Booey-free zone.

For one week, the Masters brings a measure of civility back to a game that has grown more obnoxious outside the ropes in recent years.

For these four days in April, the odds of TV mics picking up the calls of the over-served - ''Baba Booey,'' ''get in the hole,'' ''mashed potatoes'' and worse - are virtually nil because, to put it simply, the green jackets who run the club do not allow it.

It is, in the eyes of many pro players, a welcome reprieve from what has become an increasingly uncivilized game - filled with more volume, more raucous behavior, more people there to get heard on TV than to watch golf. In only a few events this year, high-profile players Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have dealt with out-of-line comments. Garcia and Thomas even ended up getting hecklers ejected.

''Everybody seems to want to say something,'' Steve Stricker said. ''The fans all want to voice their opinion, and they feel like they paid to get in so they're going to yell a few things out there at you.

''We have to think about it and worry about it a little bit, but we're not over that line yet. It's on the verge. It seems like we're at a tipping point.''

The Masters is different. This is the course where a fan - make that patron - can place a lawn chair to reserve a spot near the 18th green, or any green, leave for four hours, then come back and see all his or her belongings there, undisturbed.

Running across the hallowed grounds is verboten.

And when the PGA Tour finally relaxed its rules regarding cellphones, Augusta National did not. The home of the season's first major meticulously tracks its tickets - and does not hesitate to pull them from people who do not follow the rules.

Masters Tournament: Scores | Full coverage

''It's quite simple: At Augusta, people know if you shout the wrong thing, you're out of there within 10 seconds,'' Garcia said.

There's a lot more leniency at regular PGA Tour events. Shouts, screams and some irreverence are a growing trend.

''It's a good problem to have,'' commissioner Jay Monahan said. ''You have more people, young people, coming to our events than we've ever seen. Some of these people are new, and we're trying to bring new people into our sport. ... This issue is going to come when you have outdoor events with the number of people we have.

''We've got a significant number of people and resources to make sure the right behavior is happening on the golf course. We've had some high-profile incidents the last few weeks. We're monitoring it and we'll get it right. I think a lot of that behavior will be self-policing.''

The mute button has been difficult to find, especially in an era when people often share every thought via social media.

There might be other factors, too.

McIlroy suggested limiting alcohol sales at events after a spectator kept yelling his wife's name during the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando a few weeks ago.

''I was going to go over and have a chat with him,'' McIlroy said. ''I think it's gotten a little much, to be honest. ... They need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.''

No longer are there only quaint groups watching golf in utter silence and then responding with restrained applause. Decency and decorum are, for the most part, going the way of wooden drivers.

Rowdy crowds have become the norm, with many fans starting to treat the game like any other sporting event. They jeer unpopular golfers. They cheer balls hit into the water. They fear nothing. It's Phoenix Open fervor everywhere. It's Ryder Cup passion at every stop. It's courtside cackles and sideline taunts instead of greenside graciousness.

''It's great for the tournament. It's great for us. But golf is different than a football game, and there's etiquette involved and you don't want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,'' McIlroy said.

Thomas had a fan ejected for yelling what he called ''unacceptable things'' at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles in February. The following week at the Honda Classic, he had another person removed for saying, ''Get in the bunker.''

''I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately,'' Thomas said. ''I wish it wasn't. I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play.''

At the Dell Technologies Match Play last week, Garcia pointed out a guy who ''was shouting not very nice things at me.'' Security removed him.

''The crowds in our game have gotten bigger, so obviously it's not just golf crowds that you get now,'' the defending Masters champion said. ''And sometimes, unfortunately, you get one or two guys that are probably having too much fun and a little bit too much liquid and unfortunately it happens. That's the way it is.''

Tiger Woods' return from a fourth back surgery has boosted golf galleries, but recent fan misbehavior can't be blamed solely on the ''Tiger Effect.''

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter - and Howard Stern's satellite radio show, where the host gleefully shares clips of the ''Baba Booey'' shout-outs - are partially responsible for tempting fans with a chance at 15 seconds of fame.

Golfers might be the ones who have to adjust, at least at most events.

''Guys on the tour are bit too sensitive right now,'' Adam Scott said. ''We might need to just find a way to block it out because it's only going to get worse. We've come from playing in silence to something new. It's how it's going to evolve. I think it's generally a good thing. I don't think we should be turning people away, but we should be pointing them in the right spot.

''It's a delicate balance because you want some atmosphere out there. This is sport. I think we're just seeing the evolution of the game. It's gone from a gentleman's game, let's say, to - on purpose - the tour is taking it more mainstream and this is what we're going to get: more sports crowds.''

And more ''Baba Booey'' and ''mashed potatoes'' shouts.

Just not this week. Not at the Masters.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”