Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2009 Masters Final day

2009 Masters- Day 4

The drive from Augusta, Georgia to Franklin, Indiana took about 11 hours on Monday. Due to a cell phone malfunction, I enjoyed a pretty quiet ride by myself and had a chance to reflect on one of the most memorable weeks of my professional golf career.

For me, seven days at Augusta National Golf Club came to a captivating close on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in early April. The day started with our daily rules meeting and a brief weather report. Instructions were given concerning playoff procedures (ironic) and closing ceremonies.

My spot for the final round was secluded and serene- at least I thought. The location was the point on Hole 8 and Hole 9. Specifically, my position was approximately 75 yards in front of the green on Hole 8, which also allowed me to follow tee shots on Hole 9. The normal procedure as a Rules Official is to introduce yourself to the Gallery Guards on the respective hole you work. It’s a time to get a review of what has happened on that hole in prior days of competition. The word from Andy Avera, gallery supervisor, was that this was a pretty tranquil spot.

And that is the way things started. Sergio Garcia and Stuart Appleby were the tenth group out on Sunday. As they made their way to the 8th green, I heard this thud to my right and a ball came flying by my head, landing fifteen feet in front of me. I turned around and asked the gallery where that came from. All of the sudden people were streaking up the hill behind me. The ball came from #1 tee!

I walked over and looked at the Nike ball, which had TIGER imprinted on it and at 12:35 p.m. EST, my day was going to get crazy! This tee shot of Woods’ had hooked over the trees on Holes 1 and 9 winding up in the right edge of the fairway on Hole 8! Tiger would later call this the “worst tee shot in his competitive golf career”.

Steve Williams, who is Tiger’s caddy, emerged from the crowd and as he walked to his boss’ tee shot he spotted a grinning Garcia who said, “What’s this!”

Williams gave the safe sign like an umpire and replied, “May we join you?”

Tiger’s shot was at least 100 yards off line, but he was far enough away from the trees that he was able to loft a seven iron back in play saving par. Soon after, Dr. John Reynolds III, the Augusta National rules chairman who is a spry fellow in his mid-70’s, appeared and asked if it was true that there was a tee shot in my area from Hole 1. “I have never seen a tee shot on #1 that far off line,” said Reynolds.

Not long after, Padraig Harrington hit his drive on Hole 9 high and down the left side.  The Gallery Guards and the spectators were peering up into the trees looking for the ball. Soon after, I was summoned on the radio for a ruling. It turns out Harrington’s ball lodged in the top of one the tall pines. The reigning British Open and PGA Champion had to take stroke and distance for a lost ball and re-tee it at 2:10 p.m.

At 3 p.m. I get the call to go to the left side of Hole 8 in the driving area. Nick Watney had hooked his tee shot into a large grove of azaleas. The sight was almost comical. There must have been two dozen people in the bushes looking for Watney’s ball. As I approached Watney, he looked at me and said, “So, if they find my ball what are we going to do?”

His caddy reached in his golf bag and plucked a new Titleist and said, “We might as well go back to the tee and hit it again. There’s no other options.” A dejected Watney went back, but wound up saving a great bogey.

Next up on Hole 8 at 3:15 p.m. were Woods and Phil Mickelson. Both players were making moves, but Phil was on fire. He was 5-under par on the front nine heading to this hole. Mickelson would make another birdie only to be topped by Woods who made an eagle-3. A thunderous roar followed the patented Woods’ fist pump.

Mickelson hit a big hook on Hole 9 that went deep into the woods. Now we are involved in crowd control. Major crowd control with Tiger’s and Phil’s galleries. The drama continues! We get everybody situated. Mickelson makes a great par to finish with a 30 on the front nine.

Things quiet down for me until Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera come through Hole 8 at 4:15 p.m. Both players missed chance at birdie. The two veterans each made par on Hole 9.

Kenny definitely had the support of the Augusta crowd. Perry is also a part-time drag racer and Whiteland’s Bill Glidden sets up the Franklin, Kentucky native’s race car. Perry fired 62 at The Legends of Indiana in 2008. Kenny is one of the truly nice guys in all of sport. His mother is dying from cancer. His dad is in poor health at age 85. Perry donates 10% of his winnings to his wife Sandi’s Christian bible college. A win at The Masters and Perry at age 48 would become golf’s oldest player to win a major championship.  

So, the Golf Gods were with Kenny Perry down the home stretch, right? Those of us that play the game know better. This sport can produce heartbreaking and cruel moments. That most certainly happened on Sunday when Kenny bogeyed three of his final four holes, losing in a playoff to Angel Cabrera.

I guess most would look at my week and say that it was perfect. Seven great days at the world’s most famous golf venue, topped off by a front row seat on the putting green for the green jacket presentation. When Trevor Immelman helped Cabrera don the green jacket, I could only wish it was my friend, Kenny.

Then, it would have been a perfect week!    

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gusts put official to work near No. 1 green

EDITOR’S NOTE — Golf columnist Ted Bishop is working as an official during the Masters in Augusta, Ga., this week. His column from the tournament also will be published Monday in the Daily Journal.
The nice thing about driving into Augusta National at 6:45 a.m. is the lack of traffic on
Washington Road
We enter Gate 3 onto
Magnolia Lane
, and the day begins. It kind of reminds me of turning off of
Hurricane Road
into The Legends of Indiana Golf Course each morning. The thrill has been somewhat similar.
Friday’s rules meeting at 7:30 a.m. was brief. We were informed that a cold front was moving in and there could be a threat of afternoon showers. The evacuation procedure was reviewed. I picked up my silver Masters-issued rain suit and headed to hole No. 1, where my second-round assignment awaited.
My rules partner was Jay Rains, a high-ranking USGA rules official. No. 1 is a 445-yard uphill par-4. There is a large fairway bunker on the right side of the landing area. A man my size (6-foot-1) cannot see out of the bunker; it’s that deep. Trees guard the left and right sides. There is a large greenside bunker to the left of the hole.
As I approached the green to meet my gallery guards (Augusta’s term for marshals) it was pointed out that there might be a problem with the turf plug from the previous day’s hole position. I was informed by the gallery guards that Thursday’s cup change was not up to Augusta National’s standards. The maintenance crew was summoned. They raised the plug, and the problem was fixed before play began.
The volunteers that assist on all holes at Augusta National are veterans. They have worked the same hole for many years in most cases. They are experts in moving the crowds when balls stray outside the ropes. They make our jobs as
rules officials easy. The continuity that arises from playing this major championship on the same venue each year is unprecedented in golf.
The first player to tee off was Larry Mize, former Masters champion, who at age 52 shot a brilliant 67 on Thursday. Mize hails from Georgia and obviously is a popular choice with the Augusta galleries.
He hooked his tee shot left into the trees. As a matter of fact, his ball was about an inch from the base of a large pine tree. Complicating things, from my perspective, was a sprinkler head located about two club lengths from the ball on his line of drop.
Mize could have taken a penalty shot and dropped on the sprinkler head and then received another club length with no penalty, under another rule. This would have given him a clear shot to the green.
He elected to turn a club backward and take a whack at it left-handed. The shot went about 15 feet into some more trees. Long story made short, Mize started with a double bogey 6, and I escaped a potentially interesting ruling.
It’s a beautiful site from my perch back to the first tee. I noticed the sunshine on the hill in front of the No. 1 tee several hundred yards away. After six or seven groups had left the tee, the footprints in the dew looked like dotted lines in the grass.
A maintenance worker was assigned the fairway bunker on No. 1. His name was Curtis, and he was from Hawaii. It was his 10th Masters.
Between groups, he removed the rake so that no ball’s path would be altered by making contact with the rake. After a caddy would rake the trap, Curtis put the finishing touches on the bunker and wiped away any sand that remained in the grass on the bunker face. These are Augusta National details that get lost.
The population on my hole multiplied exponentially at 10:45 a.m. when Tiger Woods teed off. He hit the longest tee shot of the day, which was 342 yards. He hit a weak wedge which trickled back off the green and wound up making a 10-footer for par. It was the beginning of a frustrating 72 for Woods.
Later in the day, Angel Cabrera hit the longest second-round tee shot, 348 yards. I know this because there was a survey crew located outside the ropes on my side of the hole. These guys had been hired by the Masters to laser all tee shots to give the tournament committee information on where players were landing tee shots.
As the day wore on, the wind picked up. It was blowing left to right on No. 1, which made my side a hot spot.
Phil Mickelson hooked his tee shot as far right in the trees as you could and still be in the golf course grounds. To make matters worse, his ball was lodged against a huge live oak tree. It originally appeared that he would have to take a penalty since he is left-handed.
While Mickelson walked up, we cleared the crowd and removed the ropes. The two-time Masters winner studied the shot and decided to turn his club around and hit a right-handed shot which had to travel under low hanging limbs for about 40 yards until it got to the fairway.
Mickelson, who shot 73 on Thursday, could see his tournament end with a disastrous Mize-like result with this shot. But he screamed the shot low and through the fairway. He hit a wedge from 75 yards out of the rough and canned a 4-footer for par, one of the greatest pars I have ever seen.
Indiana’s Fuzzy Zoeller is making his final appearance at this year’s Masters. Zoeller won the 1979 Masters in a playoff with Tom Watson and Ed Sneed. The course length has prevented the popular Zoeller from being competitive. It has been a special week watching Gretchen Zoeller carry her dad’s orange Power-Bilt bag in this, his final Masters.
“When I showed up here last year, Arnold Palmer said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ And I said, ‘You know, I don’t know.’ That’s when I knew my time here was over,” Zoeller wryly remarked.
Well, Fuzzy may be gone for the rest of the weekend, but it should be quite a finish to the 2009 Masters.
My pick? I would love to see Kenny Perry, at age 48, pull this one out just for us old guys.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and secretary for PGA of America.

Photo Caption: EDITOR’S NOTE — Golf columnist Ted Bishop is working as an official during the Masters in Augusta, Ga., this week. His column from the tournament also will be published Monday in the Daily Journal.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Augusta became great after humble beginning

Each spring, the Masters represents a rite of passage in golf. The official beginning of a new season dawns with the passing of the Masters.
There is some spellbinding quality that Augusta National Golf Club has on the psyche of golfers. No televised sporting event can match the beauty, color and serenity of the Masters.
Gary Player once said, “The Masters is the only tournament I ever knew where you choke when you drive through the front gate.” The trip down
Magnolia Lane
may be the most dreamed about entrance in sports.
Sam Snead once said, “If you asked golfers what tournament they would rather win over all others, I think every one of them to a man would say the Masters.”
Late at night after Tiger Woods’ record-breaking victory in 1997, Earl Woods looked in on his son and found him curled up in bed, asleep with a smile on his face, his arms wrapped around his green jacket.
The Masters today gives the impression of having existed forever, probably because it is played on the same course each year.
In fact, it is the youngest of the four majors. The British Open is 70 years older, the U.S. Open is 39 years older, and the PGA Champ-ionship is 18 years older. Exactly, when the Masters became a major championship, as opposed to when it was first contested, is a matter of debate.
Horton Smith won the inaugural event in 1934. The club could not afford to pay the winner or any of the other top finishers until 17 members chipped in for the purse. The winner in 1946, Herman Keiser, had to be told his plaque would be along shortly, just as soon as the club could come up with the silver.
The club survived those early adversities because of the perseverance of its two founders, Clifford Roberts and Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones Jr. They were, respectively, Augusta National’s first chairman and its only president.
It usually is said that Jones conceived the club and Roberts financed it, but one could argue that the roles were reversed, that without Jones’ immense popularity the enterprise never would have attracted enough financial support to survive.
Without the vision and stubborn determination of Roberts, the club would have folded, and the Augusta National Invitation Tournament never would have grown into the modern Masters.
Founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, the club faced financial ruin repeatedly during its first 15 years. As the club was being formed in 1931, the first business plan called for 1,800 members, with each paying dues of $60 a year. The initiation fee was $350.
Roberts was from New York and had anticipated attracting a national membership. Three years later, as the first Masters got under way, the club was 1,724 members short of that goal.
Alister MacKenzie, the designer of Augusta National Golf Club, was an English physician of Scottish ancestry. He also designed Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula in northern California.
Unfortunately for MacKenzie, the financial troubles of Augusta National prevented him from being paid his full design fee before his passing in 1934. In later years, Roberts paid MacKenzie’s widow the balance owed by Augusta National.
One of the club’s best hopes for raising money in the early years was to sell building lots on which members might construct winter homes. About a third of the property was reserved for that purpose. For the most part, the lots occupied the areas west of the second fairway and east of the 10th and 11th.
Some 20 years later, in 1952, only one lot had been sold. Local real estate agents would not return Roberts’ phone calls. The Masters had established itself, the club was on firmer financial footing, and Roberts decided that development was a mistake.
W. Montgomery Harrison had built the only house, which was located behind the green at No. 1. He built a mansion which was highly visible. In 1977, an anonymous Augusta National member bought the property, tore the house down and deeded the land back to the club.
Some would say that the legend of the Masters was launched in 1935, when Gene Sarazen holed a 4-wood for a double-eagle on the 15th hole during the final round, which was proclaimed “the shot heard ’round the world.”
CBS televised its first Masters in 1956. Many would credit Arnold Palmer and his heroics in the late 1950s and 1960s as being a modern-day architect for Masters fame.
The youngest major also is the oldest modern one. Many key features of professional golf tournaments were introduced in Augusta.
The Masters was the first golf tournament at which there was room for 10,000 autos to be parked on the club grounds. It was the first tournament that spared spectators from having to lug a bulky program around; daily pin sheets with a diagram of the course on the reverse side were supplied for free.
The Masters was the first 72-hole tournament to be scheduled for four days. It was the first tournament to be covered live on worldwide radio. It was the first to use bleachers, which Roberts preferred to call “observation stands.”
It was the first to rope galleries and to allow only players, caddies and officials inside the ropes. It developed the first on-course scoreboard network, in which scores were gathered over dedicated telephone lines as they occurred. It introduced the now universal over-and-under par scoring system with red and black numbers.
And finally, in the early years, the Masters participants played in the afternoon so Augusta National Golf Club would be open for member play on mornings during the tournament. Today, members can play until the Sunday before the Masters.
Roberts and Jones were men before their time, and this week we enjoy their legacy.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and is secretary of PGA of America.
Photo Caption: Each spring, the Masters represents a rite of passage in golf. The official beginning of a new season dawns with the passing of the Masters.
There is some spellbinding quality that Augusta National Golf Club has on the psyche of golfers. No televised sporting event can match the beauty, color and serenity of the Masters.