Newsmaker of the Year No. 4: Augusta National

By Randall MellDecember 24, 2012, 1:00 pm

The news reached beyond golf’s boundaries like nothing else in the game in 2012.

Augusta National Golf Club, an exclusive male bastion of the elite and powerful, announced on Aug. 20 that the club had invited its first two women members. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore made history accepting.

“This is a joyous occasion,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said.

Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez were among a legion of famous golfers who applauded the news.

“I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf,” Woods said. “The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways.”

Newsmaker No. 10: Stacy Lewis | No. 9: PGA Tour | No. 8: Jim Furyk | No. 7: British Open | No. 6: Bubba Watson | No. 5: Anchored putting

Here’s a look at how selected media reacted to Augusta National’s news:

Christine Brennan, USA Today

Purely as a symbol in this summer that has already given us the “Women’s Olympics,” Augusta National Golf Club's decision Monday to admit two women into its previously all-male membership is stunning and historic.

The last, best-known bastion of male supremacy in the nation is no more. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore have cracked the grass ceiling. They will be wearing green jackets next spring at The Masters, and girls watching from around the nation will know – perhaps only subliminally, but they'll see it nonetheless – that someday there might be a place for them in the nation's great corridors of power. 

For that's what this news is all about: allowing women into the place where the old boys' network works its million-dollar magic. It's not really about allowing women to belong and play golf at an exclusive, beautiful, private club. It's about letting them participate in the process that continues to build our nation.

Scott Michaux, Augusta Chronicle

Augusta National inviting women members is a symbol of growth, inclusion and equality, and an important one. And by finally doing so, it makes Augusta National, the Masters and the game of golf better than it was on Sunday.

“It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall,” Payne said of an event that will seal his legacy.

It will be a prouder moment for golf.

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times

My applause for the admission of the first two women to Augusta National Golf Club is tempered by a question.

They're really going to wear the green jackets like Billy Payne promised? Are we sure they're not going to be asked to instead wear green skirts?

I hate to be cynical about the landmark decision Monday by the folks who run the Masters golf tournament, but it only makes sense that the opening of a door that has been closed for 80 years would be accompanied by lots of creaks. 

The most unsettling noise came from Payne, the Augusta chairman, who said the admission of women to the club's membership was a “joyous occasion.” How sad that there are places in this country where, in 2012, gender equity is considered a “joyous occasion.”

Cheers for Augusta for admitting former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore. But it's a shame America's golf shrine is taking so long to embrace America's values.

Bob Harig,

Payne might have put up a good front in recent years, adhering to the club's long-held policy that it would not discuss membership issues and that it had every right to do as it chose in such private matters. There is no doubt that Payne felt it important to adhere to club tradition and protocol, to follow proper procedure. But it could easily be surmised that deep down, Payne wanted this all along and was simply waiting for the right time, the right place, the right way.

Karen Crouse, New York Times

For years, the 80-year-old club’s restrictive membership policies, which excluded blacks until 1990, cast it as a remnant of the antediluvian South. Whenever its exclusion of women was held up for public scrutiny, in 2002 and again this year, the club held steadfast to its practices with little concern about repercussions from golf’s top players; its network broadcast partner, CBS; the tournament’s sponsors; or the PGA Tour, which prevents courses with discriminatory membership policies from hosting its tournaments.

Augusta National conducts business on its own terms, long responding to questions about its policies by saying that it is a private club and that membership issues are a private matter. It remained consistent Monday, releasing a terse statement, which offered no further explanation, at a somewhat surprising time. 

Michael Bamberger, Sports Illustrated

Billy Payne improved August National today.

By accepting Condi Rice and Darla Moore, he made a move in keeping with the club's traditions. He admitted two people who love golf and who are prominent in their fields and who are well known and well liked by the membership. There's nothing exceptional about that. The club admits new members every fall.

But Billy parted with tradition here in two ways. First, for a club that always says membership practices are a private matter, he announced the two new members by way of press release. And the only reason he did that was because the two new members are women.

Kurt Badenhausen,

Together Rice and Moore will make up less than 1% of the Augusta National’s membership. This small percentage mirrors the number of women who currently serve as high-ranking executives and CEOs in the United States. For real gender equality to occur, women need greater opportunities within the business landscape. Or better yet, invitations to the clubhouse will do.

Sally Jenkins, Washington Post

How little those newest members of Augusta National Golf Club, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, need the clout that joining an all-male stronghold supposedly confers. On the contrary, if anyone gained status from the club's decision to include women for the first time in its 80-year history, it was the other members. Rice and Moore will class the joint up . . . When Rice and Moore slip on their green members jackets it will be an arresting moment – but not for the reasons posed by those who demanded Augusta accept a woman as a blackmailed concession to social engineering, or some lame gesture of affirmation. It will be arresting for their sheer subversion of that tired old dynamic.

What we have here isn't a case of powerful men granting acceptance to a couple of women and uplifting them to a new level of social stature. What we have here is a couple of powerfully successful women uplifting a bunch of men to new stature – and granting them social amnesty.

Darren Rovell,

It got uncomfortable again this year, as newly installed IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is a woman and CEOs of Masters sponsors usually get an invitation to be a member. Augusta National weathered the storm and, when it made its announcement Monday, did not include Rometty as one of the first two female members. Why? Because Augusta National doesn't want to be pressured by the money, and it's important to prove that it wasn't.

Newsmaker of the Year schedule

No. 10: Stacy Lewis

No. 9: PGA Tour

No. 8: Jim Furyk

No. 7: British Open

No. 6: Bubba Watson

No. 5: Anchored putters

No. 4: Augusta admits women

No. 3: Dec. 26

No. 2: Dec. 28

No. 1: Dec. 31

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.