My round at Augusta National: A dream realized, and a window that almost closed – Golf Digest

My round at Augusta National: A dream realized, and a window that almost closed - Golf Digest
The quest for 19: Tiger chasing Jack is a real conversation again
Fred Ridley could drop the mic and leave Augusta National alone for another year. After all, Tiger Woods won the Masters for a fifth time. The 2019 Masters will join 1960, 1986 and 1997 in the iconic year department.

History reminds us though that the Lords of Augusta do not always like the way someone wins, even a Tiger classic. Clifford Roberts never shied away from making changes to the course no matter whom from golfs Mount Rushmore had recently visited Butler Cabin. The late former chairman Hootie Johnson famously reacted to a few key shots during his tenure, leaving Augusta National with todays over-forested 11th hole and issues developing at the 17th hole, where good drives in the fairway leave players shaping second shots around Johnson-era pines. 

Would it be Phil Mickelson, the once-snakebit lefty who is actually older than Woods but who got over the hump in 2004 to become his most formidable early-career challenger? How about Rory McIlroy, the phenom from Northern Ireland, whose brutal collapse in the final round of the 2011 Masters was immediately followed by his first major championship? Or maybe Jordan Spieth, whose Masters win in 2015 tied Woods for the 72-hole record?

Shackelford: Slower greens at Augusta beat storms, but Ridley faces tough decision

But Fred Ridley is no Hootie Johnson. Just as Woods cautiously approached the course, so will Ridley in assessing the 2019 week given so many variables.

Video: Breaking down Tiger Woods stunning career comeback to win Masters at 43

For starters, the course was unusually soft and slow, something telegraphed in Ridleys early-week remarks.

As an endorser who at one point was collecting some $50 million a year in sponsorship deals, Woods had what marketing experts call a golden halo effect, Derdenger said. Initially, people wanted to buy products associated with Woods because they aspired to identify with him. Those deals largely went away after Woodss sordid 2009, but if the halo effect returns, so will the sponsorships.

During our overseed period we saw four times the amount of normal rainfall, he said. To say that growing conditions were a challenge would definitely be an understatement.  And given the recent rainfall, the course will not play as firm and as fast as we would like it.

Revenue in Nikes golf division peaked in 2013 — the year Woods had two top-10 finishes at majors and looked to have gotten his career back on track, until he either missed the cut or did not enter 15 of the next 18 majors. In 2016, the company announced it was exiting the golf equipment market. Around the same time, Adidas sold off its money-losing TaylorMade golf division.

Fairway speed is rarely an ingredient here because the club has presented longer fairways with the mowers pushing grain toward the tees. The ball rolled minuscule amounts, and all but 12 players still averaged over 290 yards. But having players openly note the lack of green speed and hearing Tiger Woods say words like fuzzy to describe them might be enough to make some chairmen panic.

It took me back 22 years—nearly a generation—when we all first saw a 21-year old Tiger roar through Augusta National in 1997 and leave the 18th hole a Masters champion for the first time.

Yet when Ridley, the former competition committee head, sits down and reviews the numbers, he will notice that slower greens helped the tournament finish Sunday.

There was Tiger Woods, who after enduring nearly a decade of both physical and emotional debilitation, not to mention the shroud of shame and scandal, was Sundays leader again.

Saturdays third round was the lowest ever by scoring average (70.69) even as the Masters saw its largest field to make the cut (65). Three 64s on Saturday was a first, too. 

All the world seemed fixated on his hug with his late father, Earl Woods.  This time, it was Tiger and his kids.

Yet with Sundays tee times moved up and the field paired as threesomes to beat thunderstorms, this years slower greens meant only a five-hour round Sunday. Thats much faster than recent years when Round 1 groups of three have pushed 5:30 in faster conditions.

The numbers from the two back-nine par 5s most likely will not sit as well in Augusta. While both holes created moments of drama, the former icons of risk and reward now rely on the golf architectural equivalents of smoke and mirrors to retain traces of danger. At the 13th, the field recorded 17 eagles and averaged an all-time low of 4.474 in scoring since the hole was lengthened in 2002 or any year before that. Players had created a muddy, worn area on the tee by Sunday, all teeing up in the same right-side post due to a conspicuous overhanging limb. Tied at the time, Woods and Francesco Molinari had 161 and 180 yards left, respectively, for their approaches. The momentous decision Ridley longs to restore was not part of the equation.

GRAY: Bay Hill next year. Since Ive already ruled out the last three majors of 2019, I could see a solid campaign not leading to another win beyond that freshly-ironed green jacket in his closet. So hell have the offseason to plot the chase for Snead, and hell get the job done in March at one of his familiar haunts after missing this year – and in the process break a tie with Snead on a different record with his ninth API title. Although after this past week nothing would really surprise me, including Woods tying (or even surpassing) Snead this summer.

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The par-5 15th, which appeared wider this year due to lost limbs on a once meddlesome left-hand pine, was lengthened in 2006 and yet has never played easier than it did in 2019, with its 4.532 average and 15 eagles.

WILLIAM GRAY: I dont think so. Im on the record in saying that hell never win another U.S. Open (gulp), although I think Pebble will present a much sterner test for him this summer than it did in 2000. And Royal Portrush is a great unknown, where the course knowledge advantage he enjoyed at Augusta National will be negated. If hes going to snag another this year it seems next month at Bethpage is by far his best chance. But I expect a little bit of a hangover effect after such an emotional victory, even from a guy who has done it so often before.

By contrast, the revamped par-4 fifth hole played as the courses most difficult with a 4.336 scoring average and just 13 birdies.

While this hole now measures 40 yards longer, we believe this change maintains the original design philosophy of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, and not only continues our commitment to keep the course in step with the changing state of the game, but we believe it will have a positive impact on pace of play, Ridley said.

He was correct about the pace, as players moved seamlessly to the new tee and never waited for shots to land on the fourth green. The club received praise for making the hole look like it had been there forever and returning a driver tee shot for most. As for channeling Jones and MacKenzies strategy, the fifths safe tee shot increased the length of the second shot and worsened the view of the softened green. But attempts to recapture the temptation to carry the repositioned fairway bunkers for a grand reward were not as successful, with a sloping fairway not reassuring players that a 320-yard carry would find legitimate reward. 

The comeback competition in sports is fierce, which is another reason to love it. Mario Lemieux and Lance Armstrong beat cancer to come back. Niki Lauda was back in his race car six weeks after crashing and lapsing into a coma. Bethany Hamilton surfed on after losing an arm in a shark attack. Three Tommy John surgeries later, the Braves’ Jonny Venters still pitches (here, let’s mention Tommy John, who won 164 games after Himself surgery).  

Woods might have lapped the field by more than one stroke had he managed just a single par at the fifth, having registered four bogeys this year and upping his career total there to 15 over, which ranks only behind his play at the first and fourth holes (17 over on each).

Eighteen is still a tall order for a 43-year-old fellow who is playing on what soccer people refer to as extra time. Just how much longer can Woods go without the back or the knees or some other spot on his “Operation” game of a body become a real problem again? How difficult will it be to assert dominance the way he used to against the generation of fearless bombers that he spawned?

Augusta Nationals next major move will be dictated by the results of distance-survey work by the USGA and the R&A, which are expected later this year. Even after the club bought property behind the tee, Ridley made clear he will not order a costly and risky extension of the 13th until he hears the distance verdict.

One suggestion that always amuses is that Nicklaus couldn’t have had the depth of competition as did/does Woods. Why, all he did was go up against Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and Lee Trevino and Tom Watson, all with at least a half-dozen major titles. I don’t think the Bear has anything to explain or to apologize for. 

Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action, he said. In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers. But please know this: The USGA and the R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart. They recognize the importance of their future actions.

But what Woods accomplished Sunday – aside from a victory that blew all the head covers off the game – was make all things possible again. The ceiling that we all had constructed over his head while he was dealing with, first, the fallout from his serial infidelity and then, the crumbling of his spine just collapsed.

Tiger Woods full importance wasnt obvious until he was gone

If there is a vote from Augusta National, the chairmans repeated disdain at the loss of a momentous decision at the worlds most strategic hole makes clear where he stands on distance.

While we believe Monsters move into the performance energy segment will support an improved topline trend, it wont be enough to sustain the top and bottom line growth of recent years, wrote UBS analyst Sean King, who has a sell rating on the stock. Results and sentiment will continue to be pressured.

After winning his fifth Masters title as well as his 15th major tournament, Tiger Woods was officially dubbed the Comeback Kid. Woods career has been saddled with controversy, but the pro-golfer beat all odds with his win on April 14. Aside from receiving praise from fellow celebrities, the 43-year-old can expect to receive a gift more tangible than compliments, from none other than President Donald Trump.

Trump took to his Twitter account on Monday (April 15) to announce that he will award Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award thats only handed out to a dozen or less individuals per year.

Shares of the energy-drink maker also got a nice push after the win, but the 2% pop barely registered in the bigger picture. After all, the stock has soared almost 60,000% since 2000, according to Bloomberg, making it the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 SPX, -0.11%  this century.

“Because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM.”

Still, the Tiger push, however short-lived, was timely for Monster shares, which have slid almost 20% in recent weeks. Wall Street has been struggling over whether Monster is in the process of getting disrupted by the competition from Bang and others or just dealing with temporary pains.

Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterdays @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!

Although this move would not make Woods the first pro-golfer to receive the award (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus), it would be a rare one given the fact that the medal isnt generally given to active athletes. Trump providing Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom is another extension of their years-long friendship. Although Woods has been hesitant to discuss their relationship, it has been documented over the years. The father-of-two is presently working on designing the golf course at the Trump World Golf Club Dubai set to open in 2019.

Great morning at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida with @JackNicklaus and @TigerWoods! pic.twitter.com/mdPN4yvS8e


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