Old-timers become thing of the past at Masters

By Associated PressApril 8, 2010, 2:50 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Scenes of 70-somethings trudging up and down the hills of Augusta National, sometimes using their clubs as canes and often struggling to break 90, is a Masters tradition no more.

Most of the old-timers have faded away, relegated to the par-3 tournament or ceremonial duties. They’ve been done in by a supersized course that’s just no fun to play for a senior citizen.

When the Masters begins Thursday, there will be four teenagers in the field — and only one golfer as old as 60. He happens to be the turn-back-the-clock player who almost won the British Open last year, Tom Watson.

Turns out, the guys in the green jackets came up with a gentle shove out the door that worked even better than a letter: 7,435 yards.

“This a young man’s golf course, by golly, since they added all the length to it,” said 58-year-old Fuzzy Zoeller, who called it quits after last year’s tournament. “I retired because I got to the point to where I didn’t feel like I was competitive. And if you’re not competitive, what the hell are you doing out there?”

Sixty-seven-year-old Raymond Floyd was the latest to step aside, announcing this week he’s had enough after 45 straight appearances. He didn’t even bother with a couple of farewell rounds—calling it quits right then and there.

“It was something that I toyed with pretty much all year as to whether I would play or not,” he said. “I didn’t want to go out and embarrass myself, or play the best I could and make a whole lot of putts so I could shoot in the 70s.”

This Masters will start with ceremonial tee shots by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who combined for 10 green jackets and 95 Augusta appearances during their long, brilliant careers.

Nicklaus stopped playing five years ago at age 65, the age former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson proposed as the cutoff for past champions to give up cherished exemptions that were supposed to last a lifetime.

Johnson even sent letters to three members who hadn’t been competitive in years—Gay Brewer, Billy Casper and Doug Ford—to revoke their playing privileges. That in turn sparked a backlash from the more prominent ex-champs, players such as Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player, and Augusta dropped the idea.

Palmer stopped playing anyway at age 75, slyly remarking that he didn’t want to “get a letter.” Nicklaus faded away the following year, and Player finally stepped aside last year at 73, closing his record 52-year run at the Masters with an 11-over-par 83.

“Everything shall pass,” he said Wednesday after playing in the par-3 tournament with Nicklaus and Palmer (and shooting 1-under on the mini-course, he was quick to point out).

Player insists that he won’t miss playing at Augusta.

“I had a great feast 52 times,” he said. “You win it three times, you finish second three times, you make the most cuts in a row. I’m just so grateful that I had the opportunity.”

Watson, who missed a chance to become the oldest major champion in golf history when he lost a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry, is the oldest player in this year’s field, having turned 60 last September. A two-time Masters champion, he hasn’t made the cut at Augusta since 2002.

Ben Crenshaw is the oldest of the rest at 58. Seven other players have qualified for the senior circuit: Craig Stadler (56), Mark O’Meara (53), Ian Woosnam (52), Sandy Lyle (52), Bernhard Langer (52), Larry Mize (51) and Fred Couples (50).

“I’m playing pretty nicely the last year or so,” Lyle said. “I think I’ve got eight, nine more years in me.”

It’s hard to see anyone hanging around as long as Player on this course, which has been lengthened by 450 yards in the last decade. In all likelihood, the days when someone in their 60s could make the cut—Tommy Aaron was 63 when he became the oldest player to contend on the weekend—are pretty much over.

No one wants to put themselves through what Billy Casper did in 2005.

After sitting out three years, he returned for a farewell appearance. Seventy-three and barely able to make it around the course, he quit after shooting 106 in the opening round, which would have been the highest score in Masters history if he had bothered to turn in his scorecard.

Ford played at Augusta until he was 78, but dropped out after the opening round three straight years. He packed away his clubs after just one hole the last time he went out. Still, he was angry when Johnson tried to cast him aside, going so far as to boycott the champions dinner one year.

But Ford got over his bitterness, and current Augusta National champion Billy Payne stressed that it’s up to each individual golfer to decide when enough’s enough.

“We want them to continue as long as they feel they can be competitive,” Payne said. “And just remember that the younger guys now are going to be older guys at some point. So we are always going to have our share of those.”

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”