Rookie Ready for Masters - and Pimento Sandwiches

By Associated PressApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Let Tiger Woods worry about the green jacket. Johnson Wagner is more focused on the orangish'or is that yellowish?'delicacy thats as much a part of Augusta National as the azaleas.
 
Celebrating his last-minute invitation to the Masters, Wagner made a run on the pimento cheese sandwiches Monday. He managed to woof down three of them right out of the chute.
 
Im going to OD on pimento cheese, Wagner quipped. I love em, just love em.
 
He might be feeling a little bloated by the time he strikes his first tee shot Thursday. After all, the listed ingredients include cream, sodium citrate, salt, sorbic acid, vinegar, ammonium sulfate, sugar, calcium propionate, soybean oil, and'oh yeah'those little red specks of pimento.
 
Not that Wagner is worried about such things.
 
Hes planning on experiencing Augusta to the fullest, right down to the menu.
 
Ive been pinching myself all day, Wagner said. This is just incredible.
 
Who can blame him for being so giddy?
 
A week ago, Wagner was a player going nowhere. He had missed six cuts in nine starts this year and ranked 193rd on the money list. Not exactly Masters material. But, with the first major of the year having reinstated its rule that gives all PGA TOUR winners a spot in the exclusive field, the 28-year-old had one more chance to get in.
 
The Houston Open.
 
He sure took advantage of it.
 
Wagner opened with a 63'matching Adam Scott for the course record'and zealously guarded the lead the rest of the way, earning his first Tour win by two strokes.
 
The first thought was, Oh my gosh, I just won on the PGA TOUR, said Wagner, who had planned on taking a trip to the beach with his wife and another couple this week. But immediately after that, I said, Holy cow, Im in the Masters.
 
In addition to his pimento cheese indulgence, Wagner relished some of the other traditions at this time capsule of a golf course.
 
He couldnt wait to get to the par-3 16th during his first practice round, yearning for a chance to skip his ball off the pond that runs nearly the length of the hole. The object is to hit a low screamer, have it ricochet off the water and come up dry somewhere near the flag on the other side.
 
Wagner actually thought of getting in a little practice after he arrived at his hastily arranged house near the course sometime after midnight.
 
They had a swimming pool, and theres just a perfect little grass hill next to it, he said. I thought, This is a great chance, but I think there was (another) house on the other side. They probably wouldnt appreciate it.
 
Going sans practice, Wagners first attempt lodged in the bank at the ponds far end'pretty pathetic, he said. The next one rolled up just in the front of the green, and he moved on with a smile on his face. Mark off another line on that Masters checklist.
 
For one day at least, Wagner even felt like a bit of a celebrity.
 
It seemed like every time I looked in the gallery, someone said, Hey, Johnson, congrats, great playing last week, he said. It was amazing that so many people knew my name and knew what happened. It was probably the greatest day on the golf course Ive ever had.
 
Otherwise, it was a typical Monday before the Masters. Some 40,000 fans milled around the one-time nursery, posing for pictures in front of the famous scoreboard along the first fairway or queuing up in lines that seemed to stretch on forever outside the merchandise store. Youngsters dressed in garish yellow coveralls and matching caps with Litter written above the bill got some last-minute instructions on how to keep the grounds looking immaculate.
 
And, of course, everyone strained for a look at Woods. The worlds No. 1 player, four-time Masters winner and overwhelming favorite arrived Sunday, played another 18 holes Monday morning and planned one more practice session before beginning his quest for a Grand Slam.
 
Hes the only player capable of doing that, Steve Stricker said. You know, I wouldnt be surprised if he does do it.
 
In recent days, Augusta National was softened by 3 inches of rain, with the chance of more thunderstorms this weekend. That could present a much different setup than a year ago, when bone dry fairways allowed Zach Johnson'all 160 pounds of him'to keep up with the big hitters.
 
Johnson was able to lay up on the par 5s and still do most of his scoring, finishing with a 1-over 289 that matched the highest winning score at the Masters.
 
It would be nice if the fairways could be dry again, said Nick OHern, the left-handed Australian who might have trouble outdriving some of the guys down at the muni. You just hit it as far and as straight as you can. Theres no shaping the ball, except to the greens. Just get up there and smash it.
 
Even on the rain-soaked grounds, plenty of players managed to get a sampling of Augustas fiendish greens.
 
Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who got in with a special foreign invitation, worked on some chipping from just behind the three-tiered ninth green. Two of his skittish attempts didnt even make it past the fringe. Another skidded by the cup and kept right on rolling down to the second level, finally stopping some 40 feet away.
 
And this was just practice. Imagine what that shot might look like when hes playing for real.
 
Wagner is a Masters rookie, but he does have some experience at Augusta National. He got a chance to play a few rounds for fun 4 1/2 years ago as a guest of his great-uncle, who happens to be a member. He even managed to get off a joke when he pulled up to the gate on Magnolia Lane.
 
Hey, do yall have any tee times for the morning? Wagner asked the security guard.
 
Good one, rookie.
 
Now go have another pimento cheese sandwich.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Getty Images

    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

    Getty Images

    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

    Getty Images

    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.