Notes Beating Mother Nature Par-3 Contest

By Associated PressApril 8, 2010, 5:03 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s hard work making Augusta National look so beautiful.

Especially when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne admits that, as recently as a month ago, he worried whether the golf course would be in its usual shape for the Masters because of the unusually harsh winter. All of the South experienced rain, frost and low temperatures in recent months, and there was one day when 4 to 6 inches of snow blanketed Amen Corner.

“Our job is to worry about it,” Payne said Wednesday. “So I think it’s very fair to say that even a month ago, we were worried about whether or not we could recapture the quality and the brilliance of what we wanted to look like at the Masters. Our very capable staff kept assuring us, ‘Quit worrying and quit bothering us.’

“They are just geniuses at what they do,” Payne said. “There’s a lot of love that goes in the preparation of that course and we are quite proud of it.”

While there are always some spots where the grass comes in slower, the process was even longer and more noticeable this year, Payne said. And fans will see a difference in Amen Corner, which lacks its usual explosion of color because the azaleas have yet to bloom. That could change by Sunday, though, with the forecast calling for sun and warm temperatures much of the week.

PAR 3 CONTEST: Louis Oosthuizen figures any trophy at the Masters is better than none.

And he’s sticking to that story.

Oosthuizen became the third straight South African to win the Par 3 Contest at the Masters on Wednesday, finishing at 6 under. It’s somewhat of a dubious distinction, however, considering no winner of the Par 3 has ever gone on to capture the green jacket.

“There’s always a first time to break the curse,” said Oosthuizen, who has three top-five finishes on the European Tour this season, including a win at the Andalucia Open. “Everyone is aware of it, but to have your name on anything at the Masters I think is great.”

Graeme McDowell, who was an early leader at 2 under, joked that he’d never rooted for someone to pass him on the leaderboard before. When Oosthuizen pulled into a tie at 4 under, Ernie Els suggested he put a ball in the water.

“Then I made another long (putt) and he said you might as well go for it,” said Oosthuizen, who finished two strokes ahead of Matteo Manassero, David Duval, Jerry Pate and K.J. Choi.

“It was just a fun thing,” Oosthuizen said. “We were so relaxed out there.”

Indeed, the mood at the Par 3 is far more lighthearted than it will be Thursday, when the players tee it up for real. Some players have their kids caddie for them, and the Big Three – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player – reunited, much to the fans’ delight.

McDowell and Jim Furyk had the only aces in the contest, both coming on the ninth hole.

“There’s so much luck involved,” said McDowell, who used a 52-degree wedge. “I was just trying to make sure I got it past the flag to have a chance on the way back.”

TORN LOYALTIES: Stewart Cink tees off two groups ahead of Tiger Woods, so his mother will have no choice whom to watch.

It wasn’t like that the first time they played in the same tournament.

Cink recalls playing in the Insurance Youth Golf Classic – the “Big I” – in Texas in 1990 when he was 17 and Woods was 14. Cink had a morning tee time in the opening round. When it was over and he was ready to leave, he noticed his mother heading back onto the course.

“She said she wanted to go see what this ‘Tiger Woods’ was all about,” Cink said. “I remember I had to go find something to do because she had the car. But that was really the first time people were starting to find out about Tiger.”

Cink wound up playing in the final group of that tournament with Woods and Notah Begay. Woods ended up winning, becoming the youngest winner of the tournament.

ASIAN AMATEUR: The winner of the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship is at the Masters, and the runner-up went on to qualify for the British Open.

But Augusta National chairman Billy Payne is just as excited about the rest of the field.

Augusta National Golf Club and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club help sponsor the Asian Amateur as a way to spur development in golf’s fastest-growing market. The first tournament, held the last week in October in Shenzhen, China, drew 116 players from 30 countries in the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation.

“The top two-thirds were good – really good, competitive golfers,” Payne said Wednesday. “But the experience of those that were not as good was just as important to us because of the way they now view the opportunity, and the way they now know that in us and the R&A, they have an ally. This is going to be a long-range, long-reaching effort on our part to help grow the game in these regions.”

FEATURE GROUP: The Masters is putting a spotlight on youth for its featured pairing on the Internet. Each round it will pick a group to follow on the back nine and broadcast it through live streaming on

For the opening round, it picked the group of Mike Weir, Lee Westwood and Matteo Manassero, the 16-year-old British Amateur champion and youngest player to ever compete in the Masters.

Club chairman Billy Payne was asked Wednesday if it had been determined who would be the featured pairing.

“I think yes, we have,” Payne said.

Payne then asked spokesman Steve Ethun to confirm it had been released, and when Ethun said, ‘No, sir,’ Payne turned back to the reporter and replied with a slight smile, “We’re still working on it.”

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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.