Masters More Than Just a Major

By Associated PressApril 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ann Curtis came in the back gates of Augusta National expecting little more than a nice day with her husband. She is not a golfer, has never been here before, but what she saw gave her a start.
 
Im not one thats easily awed, she said. Its just breathtaking.
 
Before her was a cathedral of spring'home to the Masters golf tournament, yes, but also something more. An annual rite, an emergence from the gray of winter into a blaze of color from the green grass to the pink and fuchsia azaleas to the white dogwoods.
 
Its a mystique that doesnt wear off, even for the likes of Arnold Palmer and Butch Harmon after more than half a century. Harmon was a toddler when his father, Claude, won the Masters 60 years ago. Palmer, perhaps the most beloved figure at Augusta, won the first of his four green jackets exactly 50 years ago.
 
There are so many stories here, Harmon said on the green-carpet porch of the white clubhouse.
 
Thats what is so great about this place, Palmer quietly replied.
 
Todays stars understand that, too.
 
This major is so important to all of us, Tiger Woods said. Its such a special event.
 
Woods appreciates the beauty of Augusta National, but hes here for the golf. The worlds No. 1 player sent expectations higher than a Georgia pine when he said earlier this year that the Grand Slam'winning all four majors in the same year'was easily within reason. He has won eight out of his last 10 tournaments and is an even-money favorite to win his fifth Masters, odds never before seen in golf.
 
He played 18 holes on Sunday and Monday, nine holes on Tuesday and spent the final day of practice on the driving range and the putting green, skipping the Par 3 tournament because he wanted no distractions.
 
For so many others, Augusta National is all about distractions.
 
The Masters is the only major held on the same golf course every year, and it has been televised every year since 1956. Fans and players alike grow up watching the tournament on the second weekend of April. They know the holes. They remember the shots. They can recite the history. But they cant recreate the beauty.
 
Tom Kolvek of Vero Beach, Fla., brought his wife here for her 60th birthday. He purchased a book on the history of the club and took notes before passing through the gates Wednesday, studying the contours of the land and the flowers named for every hole'Tea Olive, Golden Bell, Redbud, Holly'all of them found on this former nursery.
 
Its like going to church, Kolvek said.
 
He took a picture on every hole, even if there were no world-class golfers in the background. It is not unusual to see fans stooped over an azalea bush, the camera inches away from the blooms.
 
Christine Hancock moved to Maryland from Augusta, but she returns each year for the Masters. For her, it is the definition of spring. For others, it signals the start of the golf season.
 
A month before it happens, you get this draw to be here and nothing stands in your way, she said. Everything that symbolizes and speaks to spring is here. Its just gorgeous.
 
It is a powerful draw for those who dont have a ticket. Even in a slumping economy, the market for a Masters badge remains high.
 
One New York broker said a four-day pass was going for $3,500, and if that sounds like a steal, consider the face value'$175, by far the cheapest for a major sporting event. A ticket to the Super Bowl, which lasts four hours, was $700.
 
Inside the gates, the value only gets better.
 
Concession prices resemble those at a high school football game, with a pimiento cheese sandwich going for $1.50, candy bars for $1 and a cup of beer for $2. Its not gourmet, but no one comes to the Masters for a good meal.
 
They are here for the views, stunning changes in elevation down to Amen Corner, where Raes Creek cuts behind the 11th green, in front of the 12th green and winds along the 13th hole, where the club estimates there are 1,600 azaleas.
 
And they are here for the golf.
 
For all the flowers, there are just as many footprints left by history.
 
Each hole contains a Masters moment, from Ben Crenshaw making a 60-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole in 1984, to Sandy Lyle hitting out of the cavernous bunker on the 18th to 10 feet for a birdie to win by a single stroke 20 years ago.
 
The Masters is the youngest of the four majors, created in 1934 by the great Bobby Jones. Even so, perhaps no other golf tournament celebrates its history quite like Augusta National, and Wednesday was a perfect example.
 
Playing the 18th hole by himself was Larry Mize, who turns 50 later this year. Hes remembered as the local kid who chipped in for birdie on the 11th hole in 1987 to beat Greg Norman in a playoff, still one of the most celebrated shots at the Masters.
 
Mize has never even practiced that shot over the last 21 years.
 
Its a pure memory, he said. I dont want to ruin it.
 
Want memories?
 
Two groups back was Jack Nicklaus, who stopped playing the Masters in 2005 but decided to play the back nine for practice with his 18-year-old grandson on the bag, just so the kid could see the course for himself. Nicklaus played with Gary Player, who will set the record this week by taking part in his 51st Masters.
 
The Golden Bear is now 68, and he had to hit a fairway metal into almost all the par 4s, but he was greeted by a standing ovation as he walked off the 18th tee.
 
He then played the Par 3 tournament and headed home.
 
Im going to leave this to a lot of young folks, he said.
 
Still, he was here, and he undoubtedly will be back next year. The aura of Amen Corner in the spring is too alluring.
 
What gives the course its mystique? Nicklaus left that for others to ponder, but his answer was simple:
 
Its obviously a pretty place.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Video: The Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Garcia (73), Fleetwood (74) off to slow starts at BMW

    By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 8:30 pm

    PULHEIM, Germany – Sebastien Gros carded a 4-under 68 in windy conditions to lead by one shot after the opening round of the BMW International Open on Thursday.

    The Frenchman had four birdies to take the lead before the turn, and a six-footer on the 15th hole moved him two ahead. But a bogey on the next hole left the 28-year-old Gros just one ahead of Jorge Campillo, Scott Jamieson, Aaron Rai and Henric Sturehed.

    Sturehed eagled the par-5 No. 13 to take the lead in the morning at the Gut Laerchenhof club.

    Christofer Blomstrand, Nico Geyger, Mark Tullo, Victor Perez, David Howell and Nicolai von Dellingshausen are a further stroke back on 2-under 70.

    Defending champion Andres Romero was among a large group at 1 under, including 2013 winner Ernie Els and three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

    Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.

    Local favorite and 2008 champion Martin Kaymer shot 72, ahead of Sergio Garcia (73) and Tommy Fleetwood (74).

    Getty Images

    Ryu thriving again after simple advice from Inbee Park

    By Randall MellJune 21, 2018, 7:07 pm

    So Yeon Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last year.

    She reigned as world No. 1 for almost five months.

    So when she couldn’t keep her momentum going at year’s start, she got frustrated. She wasn’t happy with two top 10s in her first 11 starts.

    “I lost a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year,” Ryu said Thursday as she prepared to lead a strong field as the defending champion in Friday’s start of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. “My expectation level was way too high.”

    So she sought the counsel of her pal, world No. 1 Inbee Park, who gave her some plain-spoken advice.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    “Get over it,” Park told her. “You know what to do. You’ve done it, so it’s not really a big deal. Don’t worry about it. You were No. 1. You’ve achieved a lot of things as a professional golfer. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.”

    Ryu got over it winning the Meijer LPGA Classic last week, the sixth LPGA title of her career, her third in 15 months. She’s feeling good again leading a stellar field this week at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., a strong tune up before next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the year’s third major championship.

    World No. 1 Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson are among the top nine players in the world scheduled to compete this week. Twenty-four of the top 30 are in the field.

    “When you come to defend your title, you obviously have a lot of pressure, but after I won last week, now I sort of think, maybe I have a chance to defend my title,” Ryu said. “So I've got total confidence, by last week.”

    Getty Images

    Watch: Spieth, JT hole bunker shots in back-to-back groups

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 6:57 pm

    Jordan Spieth has a thing for holing bunker shots at the Travelers Championship, where he made one in a playoff to win last year.

    He did it again in Round 1 at TPC River Highlands, knocking in this shot for eagle at the par-5 sixth to reach 4 under par for the tournament



    In the next group, Justin Thomas did the same thing to reach 1 under. Keep an eye out for the best part of this highlight, when Thomas' caddie Jimmy Johnson tries to hand him his putter.

    Getty Images

    River Highlands a 'breather' for Zach Johnson (63)

    By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 6:43 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – After enduring the pressure-cooker of the U.S. Open, Zach Johnson was more than happy to drift north to the friendly confines of TPC River Highlands.

    Birdies were rare last week at Shinnecock Hills, but they’ll be plentiful all week long at the Travelers Championship. Browned-out and crispy conditions transitioned to lush and verdant, and players can attack flags without fear of turning a possible par into a struggle to avoid triple.

    Johnson did just that in the opening round, carding eight birdies against a single bogey to take the early lead with a 7-under 63.

    “It’s a different kind of breathing. It’s a different kind of exhaling, if you will, but they’re both good,” Johnson said. “You can put some red on the board here. We know that. We’ve seen it. You can go the other way in a hurry if you press it; it can keep going in the other way. So you kind of have to let it happen. This is one of those courses where you have to let it happen.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Like many in this week’s field, Johnson took it easy after a grueling major championship, staying away from the course Monday and easing into his prep over the next two days. Those decisions paid off quickly as he rattled off six straight birdies on Nos. 11-16 to take sole possession of the lead.

    While Johnson tied for 12th last week at Shinnecock Hills, that was just his second top-15 finish since the Sony Open in January. But the veteran is no stranger to fast starts at TPC River Highlands, having now opened with 65 or better four times in his last eight appearances dating back to 2011.

    It’s a course where he continues to have success, even if his past consistency hasn’t lived up to expectations.

    “I feel like every time I get here it feels like I should shoot nothing, and it bites me,” Johnson said. “The last couple years I’m like, ‘All right, you can’t have any expectations in that regard. You’ve just got to go out and execute, you know, put the ball in the fairway and you will have opportunities.’”