The Masters You Dont See on TV

By Associated PressApril 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Turn on the TV and the first thing you see are the immaculate white bunkers surrounded by grass so green it looks painted. The azaleas are always in full bloom, the ponds are still as glass, and everything is framed by massive pine trees.
Hear the announcers talk, and everything is always perfect on the rolling acreage that is Americas most course. The wind freshens instead of howls, greens always roll fairly for any well struck putt and the ghost of Bobby Jones lives on everywhere.
Thats the Augusta National most of the world sees for four days every April. For all but the privileged few, the closest theyll get to Amen Corner is on a couch in front of the living room Sony.
But theres a lot the television cameras dont catch. So heres a look at what you didnt see Friday while watching Tiger Woods drop more f-bombs than putts in the second round of the Masters:
' Ian Poulters shoes. Jones was a bit of a fashion plate himself, but he would have probably drawn the line at pink and white footwear.
' Hank Haney as a spectator. Woods swing coach stood outside the ropes of the eighth fairway waiting for his famous client to hit and telling anyone who wanted to listen that a few bad breaks was all that was keeping Woods out of the lead.
' Planes. For some reason, corporate jets buzzed the course all day long from the nearby Augusta airport, while a small plane towed a banner advertising free admittance to a strip club for all patrons showing their badges. With the power of the green jacket around here, its surprising another plane wasnt ordered into the air to shoot it down.
' Lloyd Baker, who was manning the ropes on the 9th hole fairway crossing for the 14th year in a row. The retiree should be celebrating his wedding anniversary Saturday with his wife back in Houston, but she seems to be the understanding sort. Hes at the course before the gates open at 8 a.m., ready for a day of raising and lowering ropes, and answering questions from the patrons.
For most of them the first question is `Where is Tiger? Baker said. The second question they ask is how I got this job.
' A white man in his 20s walking along and holding hands with a black woman on the 17th hole. No big deal, but 20 years ago in this part of the world people would have been pointing fingers, and maybe more.
' Black fans in the crowd. Again, no big deal, but a Masters that used to be a lily-white affair now has a more integrated crowd than most major championships.
' Kids. Theyre being admitted free when accompanied by badge holders, and they dress the part. On some holes you saw three generations, with grandpa, dad and kid all decked up in the latest Masters attire.
' Six on a board. The majestic white scoreboards at Augusta National are manned by teams of six, who slide in names and numbers as easily as the crack crew at Wrigley Field. They havent sold out to electronic scoreboards flashing advertisements, and its not likely they ever will.
' Beer. At $2 a cup, its the last great buy in American sports, and the patrons seem to appreciate it. Two young women who work the concession stand near the 18th tee announced last call Friday afternoon, and quickly there were fans trying to juggle two or three cups of suds on their way back to their viewing positions.
' Roars. For the second straight day, there werent very many of them. Augusta National has been toughened up so much that even the hint of a good shot brings excitement, but there were no eagles on the par-5 15th and just a handful on the 13th despite a relatively easy pin placement.
' Bleacher madness. The sight and thundering sound of an entire bleacher emptying out after Woods finishes a hole is worth the price of admission. Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Toru Taniguchi had to feel unloved as they watched the bleachers on No. 8 suddenly clear out as they waited to play their second shots.
' Gloaming. Thats a word used a lot by golf writers who have run out of other words to describe scenes at Augusta National and want to impress readers with their wide range of vocabulary. Loosely translated, it means a time of day when it is getting dark but not so dark that you cant find your ball. Expect to read a lot of stories about Woods sinking a putt in the gloaming Friday to keep his hopes up.
' Attitude. There wasnt any among the players, at least publicly. This is the only tournament of the year where players are afraid to complain about anything, lest they risk the ire of the green jackets who run the place. Phil Mickelson thought the course setup at the U.S. Open last year was dangerous to his health and said so loudly, but they could put alligators in Raes Creek and he wouldnt say a word.
And, finally, whats a second round at the Masters without a little false bravado from the greatest player of his time. Woods hasnt sniffed the leaderboard since the tournament began, and needs a miraculous comeback that his game has shown no signs of giving him to erase a seven-shot deficit on the weekend.
Yet he stood in the gloaming off the 18th green and proclaimed himself in great shape for the second straight day.
This golf course, you can make up shots here quickly. Just got to hang in there.
For Woods legion of fans, that may have been the best sight of all on this day.
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”