Apr
8
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

I was on the phone with my good friend, Andres Gonzales, last night. We both grew up in WA, shared a swing coach, and played junior golf together. After playing on the UNLV Men’s Golf Team, Andres turned pro and currently plays on the Nationwide, Canadian and Gateway Tours. I even caddied for him at the the Canadian Tour Championship last September. No one could believe I was looping for him; probably because the golf bag weighed more than I did, but I made it around the links. It was a cool experience – being around competitive golfers again. I’d almost forgotten what characters these guys were.

But, I digress. Andres had just finished playing a practice round at this week’s Gateway Tour Event in Scottsdale, AZ. We started chatting and he mentioned that Ryan Moore, (who also grew up playing junior golf with us in WA), had called him earlier that day.  Andres and Ryan were also roommates and teammates at UNLV. When Ryan won the 2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, he received an exemption to play at the 2003 Masters and Andres caddied for him. With that said, I asked Andres to give me the inside scoop on Augusta and his experience (again).

“It’s story time, Dres. I remember you telling me how cool it was, but that was a long time ago,” I said. “I want to hear more of the details. It must have been awesome.”

He responded, “Well yeah, obviously. When was it again? Okay, yeah it was 2003. I learned how to really play golf at that tournament. Ryan [Moore] was a stud amateur and he got to play practice rounds with Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Charles Howell, Len Mattiace…”

I asked, “Wait, Len who?”

“Len Mattiace, the guy who lost in a play-off that year to Mike Weir,” he replied. “When we were on the green of #12, the par 3, we were walking off and Len, who hadn’t been [to Augusta] since the Walker Cup, just looked like a little kid at a candy shop because it was so amazing; everything about it. I can’t describe it.”

“Wow, I can only imagine. That’s cool Ryan had such good pairings. Okay, so what else? Oh! Tell me about Gary Player. What was he like?,” I inquired.

Andres laughed, “Um, I don’t know…well, at one point, [Player] turned to Ryan and said, ‘If my Dad doesn’t get in shape, he’s going to die.’ Out of nowhere!”

I paused for a moment. Then I said, “Wait, what?! You’ve got to be kidding. Was this verbatim?”

He replied, “Yep! Verbatim! [Ryan and I] were speechless. [Player] is a major health-nut, you know. Look, he’s 72 and playing in the Masters. It’s pretty incredible. I have all the respect for him, but…”

I interrupted, “It’s like, Player, I know you’re really into fitness, but your Dad has to be well into his 90s. Cut him some slack! The only exercise he’s probably getting is when he raises his cane to yell out the answers on Jeopardy!”

Apr
8
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General
  • It’s Gary Player’s last appearance at the Masters. We’ll miss his health tips, his competitive attitude, and most of all, his tact. [Waggle Room]
  • Anyone up for an impromptu Masters pool? How does a bracket style format a la teams sound? Pretty good. And they call golf an individual sport. [Tyler Riewer’s Tumblr]
  • The high-rollers of Augusta National are digging in their own pockets to subsidize the loss of corporate sponsorships. How generous! [Huff Post]
  • John “trainwreck” Daly claims he’s changed and ready to play professional golf again. Cripes! [Golf Fanhouse]
  • Sergio Garcia may not be a favorite to win this week, but he sure is hot! [Golf Girl’s Diary]

Apr
7
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

An Invitation to Remember: This is a video that was shown during the 2006 Masters (yes, it’s a little “outdated,” but I don’t think it actually ever will be). It opens with Erie Bell, the sole surviving participant of the first Augusta National Invitational Tournament, reading the invitation he received from Bobby Jones in 1934.

And then…well, you’ll have to watch it. I’m not going to lie; I teared a little, but just a little.

Apr
7
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

Fire Thorn, No. 15 at Augusta National: This par-5 hole is not the toughest hole, but it’s somewhat of a challenge to reach in two shots, especially with the pond that guards the green in front. With a solid drive, most players will go for it. Since they’ll be using either a long iron or a wood, they need to hit a high trajectory shot to keep the ball on the green. Although this hole is an eagle opportunity, an errant approach shot can easily result in a large number.

Here’s an example of where guys like Geoff Ogilvy will have a huge advantage – he’s both accurate and hits the ball up, up and awaaaay!

Apr
7
2009

Winning the Masters is everyone professional golfer’s dream. I can only imagine the elation and emotion at the Green Jacket Ceremony – when the former champion dons the new winner with the iconic jacket. It’s an honor unlike any other.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I’m beyond excited about this week, but at the same time, I’m feeling overwhelmed. Everytime I check my Google Reader, there are a gagillion new posts and articles about the Masters. And guess what? With a few exceptions, they all say the SAME thing; mostly about who’s going to win and how they’re so many interesting story lines. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree. I love the narratives and choosing players to watch.

Now, I’m going to contradict what I just said and put in my two cents. Like other golf fans, bloggers and writers, I have done my fair share of contemplating who has the best shot at that green jacket.

  • Geoff Ogilvy – His game is made for Augusta. Not only is he an excellent ball-striker, but he hits it high (and straight as an arrow), which will help hold the ball on Augusta’s firm greens. Thus far in 2009, he’s ranked #1 in putting on Tour and #4 in the World. He has played like a major champ all year. Need I say more? Oh, one more thing: he has momentum after placing T-6 at last week’s Shell Houston Open.
  • Tiger Woods – I know, I know. This is such an obvious pick that I’m even annoyed with myself, but you can’t bet against him. He’s won 4 times at Augusta. Not to mention, after his clutch win at Bay Hill two weeks ago, he is oozing with confidence (even more than usual).
  • Fred Couples – Yes, he’s 49 and yes, he bogeyed the last three holes last week to lose his lead (breaking my heart, mind you). His age and mental endurance make him a questionable choice. However, he’s a past Masters champion who knows Augusta inside-out; nothing bothers him out there.  His experience will be advantageous with over 20 appearances at the Masters.  While he was shaky coming down the stretch last Sunday, he still tied for third, which isn’t too shabby the last time I checked. Expect Freddie to have his game face on!
  • Stewart Cink – Okay, I know what you’re all thinking. If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve probably noticed that I’m a bit obssessed with Cink, particularly his Twitter updates. Well, you can’t blame me – he seems to be genuinely a cool guy. He’s at the Masters and he’s responding to his fans on Twitter! How can you not love him?! He even took a picture of his SHOE and tweeted it! Back to the point, Cink is a “dark horse” candidate, but he has finished in the top 20 over the past 5 years at Augusta, including a third place finish last year. Moreover, he’s played a few extra practice rounds in the past week and taken careful notes about the minor changes made to several of the greens. Cink isn’t ranked in the top 5 or even the top 20 in the world, but those numbers don’t mean everything – I would say that the past two Masters champs, Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, were less experienced and established than Cink. On that note, there is a real possibility he’ll be sporting green on Sunday.
  • Kenny Perry – He hasn’t played in the Masters since 2005, but he has 5 top-10 finishes this season on the PGA Tour. He’s ranked 4th in FedEx Standing Points. Most importantly, his game sets up well for Augusta because he hits a draw. He doesn’t even try to hit a fade, which for once works to Perry’s advantage since just about every hole at Augusta is designed for that lovely right-to-left ball flight.

Apr
7
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

I’m exercising profusely, but it’s very difficult at 73 to build strength […] I stood on the tee last year when I was waiting to play and there was a bit of a hold-up, and I thought, damn it all, most of my friends at 72 are dead and I’m playing at the Masters? Most guys at my age, 73, have not seen their knees, never mind their private parts, for seven years.

Gary Player, on his final appearance at the Masters

Apr
7
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

Speaking of the Masters, here are my favorite write-ups/blog posts from Monday:

Apr
6
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

Stewart Cink shows-off his Masters’ swag-bag kicks via Twitter. OMG! I WANT! How do I get a pair???

Apr
6
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

Yep, it’s that time of the year and I’m beyond giddy. For golf fans, the Masters is like the Holy Grail of the sport. Raise your hand if it’s your favorite PGA Tour event or major championship? I imagine that the response would be an overwhelming “yes.” Why? That’s easy. The Masters is the absolute essence of golf. There’s the history, the traditions, the Green Jacket, the narratives, the aura, and the theatrics of navigating the challenging layout of the course.

For those lucky enough to step through the gates into Augusta National, there’s just something in the air – it’s a dreamlike experience; it’s an amazing ambience; it’s a magical feeling – simply, it’s a tradition like no other.

The Masters has been scrutinized for its “old-school” ways, but what makes it so extraordinary is that the history and traditions have been maintained (as much as possible). Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, the founders of the tournament, left a legacy for future generations to carry on. Of course, some traditions have been modified as time has passed, but the dramatic ampitheater that they meant to create for the game is still very much alive.

Mr. Jones once said, “[Golf] is nevertheless a game of considerable passion, either of the explosive type, or that which burns inwardly and sears the soul.” Whether or not he was speaking about the Masters, he couldn’t have captured the underlying spirit and beauty of the tournament any better.