From Burger King to Magnolia Lane
'Our newsprint supplier is hosting a group of us at Augusta and one of the players can't stay for the entire trip....could you join us and fill-in for two days?' At the time, I was about a ten handicap and obviously found the time to accept the invitation. My memories of the three rounds I played there are, of course, vivid. As I recall, I shot 83, 84, and 85 with birdies on 16, 13, and 15 over the course of the visit. But my most vivid recollections were of the famous rules and regulations that govern a visitor to Magnolia lane. First, I was not allowed on the grounds until the man I was replacing had left the property. I spent two hours in a Burger King on Washington Road waiting for his departure. When I drove up to the clubhouse, I was met like an honored guest at the clubhouse door, registered into my motel-like room next to the clubhouse and my clubs were taken to the storage area to await the morning round. I recall standing in the doorway of my room at sunset looking across the practice green into the twilight and feeling lightheaded with anticipation. Could I do this?
Would I actually be allowed to do this? I joined my colleagues for dinner in the clubhouse and the wine and stories flowed freely until a late hour. If I slept that night, I don't recall it because I saw the sun come up and the dew begin to steam off that most manicured of acres. I met my caddy the next morning and we headed to the range with a bag of practice balls. 'How far to you hit your 7 iron,'? The young man said as he placed the two dozen or so balls on turf as pristine as most greens. '
Hopefully, about 150 yards if I don't throw up,' I said with more than a little truth in the remark. He said nothing but took the empty bag and sauntered downrange about 150 yards. I soon became aware that everyone's caddy had done the same and the premise was that they would gather the balls as we hit and re-fill the shag bags. All I can say is that my caddy covered a lot of the range during my warm-up.....and much of it was far-ranging from his original 150 yard posting.
Finally, on a glorious late spring morning, our group was second to tee-off and my heart was racing. The Vice-Chairman of the Board of the New York Times was in the group ahead and was standing over his second shot from just shy of the initial bunker on the right of the 1st fairway. It looked like nine miles away from the tee. One of my playing partners said he felt we could tee away and that I should hit. Mr. Vice-Chairman hit his shot and began to walk slowly up the hill. You can imagine the rest of the story. I hit the drive of my life (with my eyes closed) and very nearly clipped the corporate eagle in the back. I thought I tried to yell 'fore' but my mouth was so dry it probably came out like a whisper. My superior eyed the near-miss and turned with a fist pumping in my direction. He later said he was acknowledging a strong tee shot rather than counting the remaining hours of my employment.
Most of the three rounds have blurred over time, but the total experience is indelible in my heart. We were all treated like conquering heroes as we hacked around that day and the next. If the caddies were amused at our talent, they graciously did not show it. The paths the patrons had worn less than a month previous were still bare and the TV towers were still in place. There was an eerie stillness everywhere as we were among probably fewer than five groups on the course that day. I have been fortunate to attend the Masters on five different occasions and those three rounds on that magnificent acreage only served to heighten my conviction that it is truly the most beautiful place on this earth if you are a golfer.
-Bob, Eureka, CA
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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.
The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.
The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.
This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.
After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.
“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”
Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.
Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.
“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.
To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.
“More punishment,” he said.
DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.
Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.
Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.
Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.
It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.
With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.
Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.
TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:
• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.
• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.
• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery.
• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”
• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.
• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.
• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.