A serene scene on Sunday before the Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 7, 2013, 5:33 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – To be clear, Sunday is a “member’s day” at Augusta National. Preparations are underway, players – even the press, albeit with limited access – are allowed on property, but for one final day the Masters can wait.

It is a distinction which explained the serene scene surrounding the first tee just before the lunch hour on Sunday.

On an eerily peaceful spring day, Trevor Immelman set out for a round with George Lopez. Yep, that George Lopez with the 2008 champion, followed by 14-year-old Chinese phenom Tianlang Guan, who shyly slipped onto the first tee and waited for an approving nod to tee off.

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One half expected to see a colloquial “golf ball tube” adjacent to the first tee to keep order and track the comings and goings of groups, but the teen played away (observation: judging by Guan’s drive, he is not as short off the tee as advertised) and the parade continued.

Charles Coody slipped in behind Guan, hitting his drive about halfway up the hill at the first hole and prompting Fuzzy Zoeller to playfully bark from the adjacent ninth green, “Charlie, you need to move up (a tee).”

It is all part of the meandering pace that will soon be shattered by the monsoon of the year’s first major. There is no tee sheet, just members mixed amid major championship hopefuls – the acme of surreal in perfect symphony with the status quo.

Nothing has changed at Augusta National. The grass is still green – the Sunday before the Masters is as green as it gets, in fact – the azaleas are in bloom and Magnolia Lane beckons. But on the Sunday before there is a rare sense of the unknown.

This much is certain: seven days from now there will be roars – always are. But on this Sunday one group was more surprising than the next.

There was defending champion Bubba Watson setting out with his wife, Angie. Asked if she was scared, Mrs. Defending Champion offered a serious “very.”

Next up was '07 champion Zach Johnson playing with his caddie Damon Green, an accomplished player who nonetheless looked strangely out of place in something other than his signature white overalls.

Or maybe it was the sight of three-time champion Phil Mickelson heading out with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice, one of two female members admitted to the club since last year’s Masters, was steady off the first tee and found the fairway. Not bad considering the circumstances.

What wasn’t surprising was the endless parade of players and past champions who show up each year on the Sunday before the Masters. With apologies to, well . . . every other event in golf, that doesn’t happen anywhere else.

The golf course hasn’t changed, at least not fundamentally. This isn’t about practice, this is about the game’s ultimate playground and a rare chance to have one’s fill.

Charlie Epps, 2009 champion Angel Cabrera’s swing coach, has been coming to the Masters since 1979. As he wandered down the first fairway on Sunday your scribe asked him if Augusta National ever changes?

“Oh yeah,” he smiled brightly. “It’s just getting better, like Disneyland for adults.”

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Romo turns in even in PGA Tour debut

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

After stumbling out of the gates, Tony Romo has found his footing in his PGA Tour debut.

Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies from Nos. 4-8 while playing alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:

Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Romo, who plays to a plus-0.3 handicap, said earlier in the week that he expected some jitters once it came time to put a tee in the ground.

"You'll be nervous on Thursday on the first tee. Just going to be," Romo said. "I've got to get through the first three or four holes. If I can handle the nerves on the first three or four holes, I think that I'll settle in and hopefully just play the way I've been playing."

Click here to watch live first-round action on Golf Channel.

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Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.

Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.

The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:

Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”