It is Rocket Science

By Rex HoggardMarch 26, 2011, 12:39 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – In 1986 we saw the eagle-birdie-birdie run that began on Augusta National’s 15th hole, but not the birdie at the second or the first of three consecutive birdies at the ninth that started Jack Nicklaus’ historic run at Greg Norman and immortality.

In fact, it would be another 16 years after the Golden Bear’s golden Masters moment before any fan not lucky enough to score a ticket would get a good look at the storied club’s front nine, the “Area 51” of major championship golf for decades.

This was an inescapable thought as a small army of EA Sports technicians and programmers – gaming rocket scientist, really – explained the painstaking detail that went into integrating Augusta National’s subtle humps and bumps into “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters,” the newest member of the franchise which launches on March 29 (photo gallery).

“Around the greens we scanned to within 1 millimeter,” one technician said, and one immediately wonders if they could try the same putt, electronically of course, that Nicklaus made on the 17th hole 25 years ago. You can, and much more.

In fact, a new feature called Masters Moments recreates famous shots from the tournament’s past, including Phil Mickelson’s bold second shot off the pine straw at the 13th hole last year. And, yes, even in the virtual world Lefty’s towering 6-iron seems ill-advised yet addictively doable.

EA Sports’ portable scanner has delivered as advertised down to every blade of grass and pine needle. But it wasn’t easy.

It took an EA Sports crew 10 days last August to digitally record Bobby Jones’ masterpiece. Or, to put the process in perspective the techies figured it took about an hour-and-a-half per par to properly scan a hole – and that’s not including the two full days it took to create the proper HD snapshot of Amen Corner.

The result is a virtual Augusta National that is as close to the original as one can get without actually making it onto the property. Everything short of the sprawling depth of the place and dramatic elevations changes, the consensus difference for any first-timer, has been replicated with surprising accuracy.

Not that it should surprise anyone that Augusta National would perfect even the virtual edition. EA Sport’s magicians met regularly with members of the club’s staff, including the superintendent.

Shots were tried and retried, like Woods’ famous chip-in at the par-3 16th hole on his way to victory in 2005, until the game reacted the same way reality would (Read Jay Coffin's take).

In fact, the simulation is spot on almost to a fault. Putts from above the hole at the seventh have no chance of stopping, while tee shots into the 12th that come up short are destined for Rae’s Creek (there is no Fred Couples mode).

Even the club’s Par 3 Course was scanned to perfection, along with the clubhouse, the cabins and the proper vocabulary. It’s not fans, it’s patrons; it’s not rough, it’s second cut; it’s not pins, it’s hole location; and it’s not easy, it’s hard.

Truth is, the game’s greatest accomplishment is immediately evident after playing just a few holes. EA Sports has created a putting contest, just like the real thing.

For decades those watching from home were left to their imaginations to fill in the details. In many ways the masterpiece that was Augusta National was a color-by-numbers if one couldn't land a ticket.

The tee shot at the first hole, the second into the par-5 second hole, all the things that just nine years ago remained a mystery are there in pixelized clarity.

Thanks to EA Sports’ rocket scientist and Augusta National the guess work has been removed. In fact, the only thing “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters” is missing is the chill-inducing drive down Magnolia Lane. But then maybe that’s best, life is always better with a little mystery.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”

Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath.