Wednesday Notes from Augusta

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- It's a tradition like no other: an aging golfer strikes a shot at the first hole to signal the start of the Masters.
 
Not this year.
 
Sam Snead, who hit the ceremonial tee shot in 2002, died six weeks later at age 89. The club didn't replace 'Slammin' Sam,' marking the first time since 1980 that the tournament will begin without an honorary starter.
 
'He loved this tournament,' Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday on the eve of the opening round. 'He was a great contributor to our heritage. And we will miss him.'
 
Augusta National began having honorary starters in 1963, when Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod assumed the role. No one is quite sure why those two were picked.
 
Hutchinson played in the Masters 11 times, but he made the cut only once and never finished higher than 51st. McLeod's best finish in 15 trips to Augusta National was 50th.
 
Hutchinson was an honorary starter until 1973, McLeod lasted three more years. No one held the role from 1977-80, but Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen -- with three victories between them -- took over in '81.
 
Ken Venturi filled in for an ailing Nelson in '83, but Lord Byron returned the following year to find himself in a threesome. Nelson and Sarazen were joined in 1984 by Snead, a three-time winner.
 
That group lasted until 1999, when Sarazen died. Nelson dropped out after 2001 because of advancing years. Snead went solo last year despite failing health, knocking his shot into the gallery and striking a fan in the face.
 
Johnson said the tournament likely will hold off naming another honorary starter until four-time champion Arnold Palmer decides to hang it up.
 
Palmer said the 2002 Masters would be his last, then changed his mind after Johnson reversed the policy regarding past champions. The 73-year-old Palmer would like to play through next year, which would be his 50th Masters.
 
'I have talked with Arnold about being an honorary starter,' Johnson said. 'And he has said that he would be honored to be one at the appropriate time.
 
'He still feels that he's playing enough active golf, tournament golf, that he doesn't want to do that now. But I am hopeful that we will have him some time in the future. And we're going to wait on him.'
 
Related Link: Arnie, Jack Can't Say Goodbye
 
Protest Numbers
Martha Burk may be trying to lower expectations for the turnout at Saturday's protest on the issue of women members at Augusta National.
 
Burk said Wednesday that a conservative group she did not name was offering people $75 to book a seat on a protest bus to Augusta if they would reserve the seat and not show up.
 
'That could affect our numbers,' Burk said.
 
Her group has a permit to protest during Saturday's third round. After a court ruling was not overturned Wednesday, the protest will take place at a 5.1-acre site near the course but not at the front gate as Burk wanted.
 
Burk hoped to have 24 people protesting at the gate and another 200 across the street.
 
Related Links: Last Stop on the Protest Line
 

Rain Disrupts Par-3
Padraig Harrington and David Toms were declared co-winners of the par-3 contest, which barely got going before the rains came.
 
Harrington and Toms each had a score of 6 when storms brought the popular event to an end. Many players didn't even get on the nine-hole, 1,060-yard course.
 
Davis Love III had the only hole-in-one, sinking his tee shot at the 70-yard second hole -- the shortest on the course.
 
No player has ever won the par-3 tournament and gone on to win the Masters in the same year.
 
Happy Haas
What a deal: Jay Haas traded in a weekend in front of the TV for a chance to play at Augusta National.
 
The 49-year-old PGA Tour veteran finished second at The Players Championship two weeks ago to move into the top 10 on the money list and qualify for the Masters.
 
'It's pretty special,' said Haas, making his first appearance here since 2000. 'Two, three years ago, it was looking like I'd never make it back.'
 
But Haas has been on quite a resurgence of late, thanks to a change he made in his putting after working with part-time PGA Tour pro Stan Utley.
 
'It got me interested in the game again,' Haas said. 'I was getting frustrated out there, trying to grind and grind and grind and not feeling like I was getting anywhere.'
 
Less than a year from becoming eligible for the Champions Tour, Haas hardly seems like a guy ready to go play with the seniors. He has two second-place finishes this year, is sixth on the money list and has moved from 125th to 31st in the world rankings.
 
'I'm happy to be here,' Haas said. 'Now, the goal is to make sure I get to come back.'
 
He can guarantee a return trip by finishing in the top 16.
 
Garcia's 'Big' Swing Change
Sergio Garcia is still trying to get used to his new swing.
 
Garcia has altered his back swing, trying to make his follow-through a little longer and get his club aiming at the target.
 
'It's a big change,' the Spaniard said. 'And it's not easy. I'm getting used to it a little bit, and I just think it's feeling better.'
 
Garcia made the change about a month ago after consulting with his father. They hope it will lead to more consistency.
 
'We decided it was the right time,' Garcia said. 'I felt like it was getting a little away from me, the other swing. So I just tried to improve it a little bit.'
 
So far, so bad. Garcia missed the cut at Bay Hill and The Players Championship, which can't help his confidence coming to Augusta.
 
'This is always one of those weeks where you try that bit extra,' Garcia said. 'Hopefully, my swing will come together and we will be able to have a good week.'
 
Related Links:
  • Arnie, Jack Can't Say Goodbye
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • 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.