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The Masters changes eligibility policy for its Par-3 Contest

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One of the most exclusive events all year just got more exclusive. As reported by PGA.com, Augusta National has issued notices to honorary invitees that only “players in the field and past Masters champions” will be allowed to play in the Masters Par-3 Contest, which takes place on Wednesday of Masters week.

Before this news, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship winners received invitations to the Masters tournament for five years and were considered “honorary invitees” after that period. Past U.S. Amateur champions were also considered honorary invitees. That title allowed the invitees to play in the Masters Par-3 contest, use the practice facility and play in practice rounds.

Those perks are no longer available to the honorary invitees.

The decision affects a number of previous participants including Ian Baker-Finch, David Duval and Curtis Strange. See what those players told PGA.com about the situation below.

Ian Baker-Finch: “As a person and an honorary invitee, I’m disappointed because it was my favorite day of the year. I loved it. I’ll still be there, though, and I’ll watch like everyone else.”

David Duval: “I would never clog up the golf course when guys are trying to prepare. That’s the problem I would have had [with the practice rounds]… I guess [the par-3 contest] could be easily expanded if they started it earlier. But you have to protect it. You have to protect the competitors.”

Curtis Strange: “We had our time, and now it’s their time. I think it’s extremely nice that we’re invited to come back with your spouse. It’s been nice for these guys who want to hit balls and play practice rounds. But times change. I think with time constraints, they want to make it for players in the field. My sense is that the Par 3 was getting a little bit crowded and taking a little bit too long, and they wanted to streamline it. I think that’s fine.”

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. TONEY P

    Mar 31, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I actually agree with the tournament people. What’s next a Pro am.

  2. Miuralovechild

    Mar 15, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    I wish someone would win the par 3 and the tournament so everyone could shut the **** up and talk about something else. The only thing more irritating is hearing about the undefeated ’72 Dolphins every year.

  3. Dave R

    Mar 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Yes let them do what they want,they will anyway!

  4. Mad-Mex

    Mar 14, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Its their tournament, they can do what ever they want, don’t like it? Am sure there is 100 people ready to take your ticket

  5. Jo Jo

    Mar 14, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    No more Nate Crosby

  6. ooffa

    Mar 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Same boring course year after year.

  7. Double Mocha Man

    Mar 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

    I’m still waiting for them to “float” a Cadillac on one of the ponds.

    • C

      Mar 14, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      That’ll happen the same year they let fans walk around with actual beer bottles/cans instead of the Masters labelled plastic cups.

      Hopefully, never.

    • Darrin

      Mar 15, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      You will be waiting a long time.

  8. C

    Mar 14, 2017 at 9:31 am

    So no more letting kids putt?

  9. Matt K

    Mar 14, 2017 at 8:42 am

    You had your time Curtis, not “we.” What about the guy who just won the US Am two summers ago, would’ve had a life of amazing Aprils, or at least when his schedule allowed him to go to Augusta. Sad day for the tournament. Bob’s tournament just got that much closer to the Frys.com classic. What’s next… lets stop inviting the US Mid Am champ, nobody cares about that guy anyway, he’ll just shoot two 76s and be on his way. This probably sounds dramatic, but The Masters is the last bastion of tradition in golf. Hate to see them erode any part of it… cuz usually there’s more to come.

    • C

      Mar 14, 2017 at 9:59 am

      “The Masters is the last bastion of tradition in golf.”

      Don’t tell that to the R&A.

      • Matt

        Mar 14, 2017 at 12:59 pm

        You definitely have a point there… St. Andrews edges Augusta as my favorite place on Earth. Should’ve said “American Golf.”

    • DeShamBeau

      Mar 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      “Traditional golf”. Hahahahahahahahahaha

  10. Forsbrand

    Mar 13, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Let Michelle Wie play 🙂

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5 things we learned Thursday at the U.S. Open

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The U.S. Open at Winged Foot’s West Course was a long time in coming. From the impending postponement in late May, to the announcement in June that a September weekend was in the works, the golf world has waited with held breath to see the A.W. Tillinghast masterpiece that was given a tight restoration by Gil Hanse.

Now that Open week is here, the golf world has four days to frolic in the glory of golden-age golf course design and how it presents a challenge to today’s physical golfers and their technological weaponry.

It’s Thursday evening, so it’s time to share the 5 things we learned on day one at the 2020 U.S. Open.

1. The one that got away still gnaws at JT

Justin Thomas had a very real chance to win the the 2017 Open at Erin Hills. He tied for 9th after holding the 54-hole lead, and learned lessons that would compel him to win a major two months later, at the PGA Championship. Thomas craves the carving of another major title on his record, and he opened with 65 to lead a trio of golfers by one shot. Thomas had one bogey on the day, a tugged 4-iron that led to a 4 at the par-three third hole. The Kentucky native responded with five subsequent birdies, to complement the one he made at the opening hole, and stands atop the leader board with 54 holes to play. Thomas benefited from a morning tee time, and we will see how he does on Friday, when he putts greens that will have seen myriad morning footsteps.

2. An ace gets Reed in the mix again

Patrick Reed is an enigmatic figure to end all enigmatic figures. Search the his name with the word controversy and you will spend more than one evening sifting through the reports. It’s a shame, as the Texas-born golfer really does have game. He showed grit in international competition, and claimed a major title of his own at the 2018 Masters. On Thursday at Winged Foot west, Reed electrified the viewers with this sequence: 6-3-1. After making double bogey at the 5th, the Augusta State alum rebounded with birdie at the 6th, then knocked a short iron down at the 7th for a one-hop hole in one. If Reed wishes to shed the villain tag, and he may not, he will need to acknowledge that he has made some bad decisions along the way. Come to think of it, maybe the villain tag is what motivates him.

3. The world represents

Tied with Reed and Matthew Wolff at four-under par is Belgium’s Thomas Pieters. Just behind them, at minus-three, are Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, and Louis Oosthuizen. Let’s see, that’s Northern Ireland, England, and South Africa. Another stroke back is Rafael Cabrera Bello, a Spaniard, albeit not the one we expected to be low Iberian after round one. In any case, it’s the diverse games of the world’s greats that make the U.S. Open so interesting. South Africans from Gary Player to Retief Goosen have fared spectacularly well at the Open, as has the contingent from the United Kingdom, over the years.

4. The Phairy Tale will not be written

At least not the one that annoys you with the “ph” allophone. Mighty Casey, also known as Phil Mickelson, will not win the 2020 U.S. Open, 14 years after he gave the 2006 playing to Geoff Ogilvy in gift wrapping. Phabulous Phil opened with two birdies, the proceeded to bogey hole 3 through 5, then 8, then 5 more on the back nine … oh, and he tossed in a double bogey on the 14th for added pain. Mickelson will not be around for the weekend, and he will not win a U.S. Open in his storied career. He will be resigned to the list of greats who almost, but not quite, won the career grand slam. He joins Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson in this pantheon, and it is sad, but not unexpected.

5. The amateurs and the unknowns

Speaking of electricity, Davis Thompson (who doesn’t play for cash) reached 4-deep at the eleventh green, thanks to intelligent play. He wobbled home with three bogeys, but finds himself in a tie for 14th with, among others, fellow amateur (and local hero) John Pak. Taiwan’s Chun An Yu made two birdies and an eagle in a four hole stretch on the front nine (his inward half) and sits a shot in arrears, at even par. Vegas suggests they will fade away, although one or two will last long enough to see the weekend. Still, the amateurs remind us of days of yore, when they used to challenge for the title.

We mentioned Matthew Wolff, but we failed to cite Jason Kokrak, Brendon Todd, Harris English, and a few others. Those unknown golfers, those Andy Norths and Michael Campbells, who find their game for a week, and win precious little else, are an equal part of U.S. Open lore with the amateurs and the greats. Will a Shaun Norris or an Erik Van Rooyen hoist the trophy on Sunday? Again, probably not, but it will be fun to watch.

TR’s pick after day one: Xander Schauffele. He’s at minus-two, and made four birdies today. He loves this pressure, and is primed to add a major title to his growing resume.

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GolfWRX staff will be live in the forums this weekend for round 3 and 4 of the U.S. Open

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Jump into the forums this weekend to get the U.S open chatter flowing.

GolfWRX Staff Members will be in the forums, on IG and Twitter talking equipment, opinions, predictions, and everything else.

And the final three holes, Saturday and Sunday, our own Johnny Wunder will be going live on Instagram with some special guests.

Tune in when the leaders tee off both afternoons to get into the mix.

Schedule

Final Group Tee Off  to Finish Saturday: Editor Ben Alberstadt, Director of Content Johnny Wunder, Assistant Editor Gianni Magliocco

Final Group Tee Off  to Finish Sunday: On Spec’s Ryan Barath and TG2 host Brian “BK” Knudson, Assistant Editor Gianni Magliocco

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Morning 9: Is a September U.S. Open a better U.S. Open? | Inside the restoration of Winged Foot | Watch along with GolfWRX this weekend

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1. U.S. Open in September = a better U.S. Open?
Interesting take from Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com…
“Although fall doesn’t technically start until September 22, there will be more leaves and layers than usual at the 120th U.S. Open, what with the pandemic having bumped the USGA’s crown jewel back on the schedule. The weather is crisp enough so that Patrick Cantlay wore a ski cap as he teed off Tuesday, and at sunrise on Wednesday the thermometer showed 52 degrees.”
  • “Well, we have better weather right now here than we had in June in Pebble,” said Jon Rahm, referencing last year’s U.S. Open at California’s Pebble Beach. “Pretty similar, just having sweaters on and that’s it. Or the PGA in San Francisco (last month), it was colder than it is right now. I know on the weekend it’s supposed to cool here (into the low 40s at daybreak) a little bit.”
  • “Winged Foot Superintendent Steve Rabideau is on record saying a June U.S. Open is easier to prepare for; he told golf.com “the rough is super healthy, the grass really isn’t under stress yet.” But to behold his prized canvas this week you wouldn’t know he doesn’t actually prefer September.”
  • “The undulating greens are firm, and the narrow fairways have just the right amount of bounce to make holding them a huge challenge. The rough is a foot deep in places, allowing the USGA to cut it to whatever length they want for the competition rounds, assuming they do cut it.”
2. The 2020 U.S. Open was nearly held in Los Angeles in December
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Association CEO Mike Davis explained on Wednesday at Winged Foot, which was originally scheduled to host the championship in June, that because of the initial scramble to reorganize the professional golf calendar in the wake of the pandemic, it appeared as if the U.S. Open would be played in December.”
  • “To be very transparent with you, we thought we were going to be playing the U.S. Open in December in Los Angeles. We were that close,” Davis said.”
  • “The U.S. Open is scheduled to be played on Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course in 2023 and considering the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the New York metropolitan area there were concerns whether the championship could be played at Winged Foot in 2020, which prompted the potential move.”
  • “That changed when the R&A announced this year’s Open Championship would be canceled and gave the USGA some flexibility to reschedule earlier in the fall.”
3. U.S. Open rota? 
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“News last week that the USGA would be moving some of its offices to Pinehurst, N.C., and committing to play the U.S. Open on the famed No. 2 course five times through 2047, led some to speculate that the association was transitioning to a formal rotation for the national championship.”
  • “The Open Championship has its rota and USGA CEO Mike Davis referred to Pinehurst as an “anchor site” for the U.S. Open.”
  • “We just believe after talking to a lot of the players who play in U.S. Opens, a lot of our past champions, they communicated a consistent message, saying: ‘We want to go to the best sites, and we want to go there more often,'” Davis said. “That really led the championship committee to make that decision.”
  • “The U.S. Open is scheduled to be played at Pinehurst in 2024, ’29, ’35, ’41 and ’47, a long-term move that could lead the USGA to lock in other iconic venues like Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Bethpage and Shinnecock Hills.”
4. What went into the Winged Foot renovation
Thomas Dunne…”The renovation team used laser scanning and digital mapping to convert the club’s native soil greens to modern USGA structures. On the West, each green also received its own SubAir vault that helps the crew manage water and temperature.”
  • “We had a laser scanner come out and scan all the greens in the summertime, when they were good, true putting surfaces,” Rabideau said. “Then we used what’s called a robotic total station, a powerful surveying instrument, to set our vertical offsets so we could shell down 16 inches from the top of the putting surface based on the contours.”
  • “The crew rebuilt the floors of the greens and painstakingly built back up, matching the original scan twice more along the way. By the time the group reached the top of the putting surfaces, the margin for error was a minuscule six-one-thousandths of a surveyor’s foot at intervals of 12 to 18 inches. In other words, that 8-foot putt that members have known for years breaks a cup to the right was not suddenly going to be on the right edge.”
5. Generational divide? Sign of the [jam-packed tour schedule without a stop in Westchester] times?
Mike Dougherty of The Journal News…“I’m excited to play this one,” Rahm added. “If there’s other good ones worth playing, hopefully at some point in time I can come and play them.”
  • “In the days before Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, the PGA Tour had a four-decade run at Westchester Country Club. Players made it a habit to visit other nearby clubs.”
  • “There was a fellow named Chip Weil that I met at my hotel in 1975 after I missed the cut at Westchester,” said Roger Maltbie who won the event a decade later. “We just started chatting and he says, ‘Well, I’m a member at Winged Foot. You want to play tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘Sure. I want to go see Winged Foot. I’ve never played there.’ Chip and I have now been friends for 45 years. Every year I would go there, if I played in the morning we would go over to Winged Foot in the afternoon and play. We would go a lot, either play nine, or if we could, get in 18. I have a real love affair with the place and have for a very long time. So I went over there a lot. I loved every minute of every time I got to go play.”
6. The need to get it right
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“The USGA needs to get this U.S. Open right. Yes, that has been said before. In 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, to avoid missteps of the immediate and distant past, and again last summer at Pebble Beach, after those missteps were astonishingly repeated at Shinnecock. But lest you think this is a media-driven story or a narrative that will shadow the championship in perpetuity, know it’s one both sides-players and management-acknowledge.”
  • “Last summer’s championship at Pebble Beach put a needed band-aid on the USGA’s multiple cuts, but scars take time to heal. In talking with USGA officials this week, it is clear the governing body went out of its way to stay out of its way at Pebble. It erred on the side of caution in the test presented. Partially to keep itself out of headlines, partially to ease the transition of John Bodenhamer taking the set-up reins from USGA CEO Mike Davis. “We wanted to make sure we showed the best Pebble Beach had to offer,” Bodenhamer said, “and it led to some exciting golf.”
7. An exclusive talk with Jay Monahan
Our Michael Williams had an extensive talk with the PGA Tour commissioner that you’ll want to check out.
Michael Williams: Let’s talk about the 2020 season. Even though we still have two major championships to go, oddly enough, we’re talking about the close of the 2020 season. Given everything that was going on with COVID-19, are you more surprised that you were able to start this season or that you were able to finish it?
Commissioner Jay Monahan: I would say that I was probably more surprised that we were able to start and start when we did, just because of all the uncertainty that we inherited when we stepped away during the week of The Players Championship. So there was a period there of 30 to 45 days where, you know, you’re trying to reimagine, restructure your schedule. Given that we were stepping away after 24 weeks, we were also trying to do that in the context of “What does this mean for the members of the PGA Tour in terms of their eligibility, and is this going to be an official season?” And then you had all the safety-health, and safety protocols-so solving those three important issues or challenges, was a significant undertaking. I think, well, I think we just had a number of moments along the way that gave us an indication that we would be able to return in June…and once we were back, we all recognize that we were going to experience some challenges and some setbacks, it’s just the nature of the virus.
But we felt like we had a great plan and that there was strong accountability with those that were going to be in our bubble-a bubble that was moving from market to market. And I always felt like we’d get here, but, you know, getting back and starting that week of June 8th, I think that was the most challenging part of the exercise.
8. Cannizzaro: USO in metro NY a shell of itself sans fans
Who better than the NY Post sports writer to make this point…“Since the PGA Tour’s restart in June after a pandemic pause of some three months, we’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to having no fans at golf tournaments and other sporting events. It’s become an unsatisfying, but necessary, element of the world we live in.”
  • “But it will hit home more than ever in golf at this week’s U.S. Open – more than it has the previous 14 weeks the PGA Tour has played without fans. Because this is New York and we’re more vocal and vibrant in New York than other places where sports are played.”
  • “New York expresses itself in a different, more animated and opinionated way than Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania or even California.”
9. Watch the third and fourth rounds of the U.S. Open with us
Just a quick PSA here: Johnny Wunder, Ryan Barath, Brain Knudson, Gianni Magliocco, and yours truly will be hanging out in the GolfWRX forums Saturday and Sunday to discuss all things U.S. Open, what the pros are playing, and more. I’ll drop a link to the forum thread in tomorrow’s newsletter, but I’m truly looking forward to the virtual viewing party!

 

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