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Golf

Sudden death to start at 18

By BOB HARIG
Published April 8, 2004

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The Masters is the only major championship that decides ties with a sudden-death playoff, and while that will not change this year, the format will be different.

Instead of starting on the 10th hole, a sudden-death playoff, if necessary, will begin on the 18th. It will then alternate between the 10th and 18th until a winner is decided.

"We just thought it was best," Masters chairman Hootie Johnson said.

The Masters has had 12 playoffs in its history. The first was a 36-hole playoff in 1935 won by Gene Sarazen, who that year made a double eagle on the par-5 15th that tied him with Craig Wood. Byron Nelson (1942), Sam Snead (1954), Arnold Palmer (1962), Jack Nicklaus (1966) and Billy Casper (1970) all won 18-hole playoffs.

The first sudden-death playoff was in 1979, won by Fuzzy Zoeller. Mike Weir won last year in a playoff over Len Mattiace.

The previous playoffs called for them to start on No. 10 and continue through the back-nine holes, though no playoff ever went past the 11th.

"We went through the discussion and settled on 18-10, primarily in consideration of all our patrons who are on the 18th hole," said Will Nicholson, chairman of the Masters competition committee. "It's going to take them a couple of seconds to put them in the cart and take them down to 18 and start a playoff."

MEMBERSHIP: When asked about Augusta's lack of female members, Johnson quickly sought to put the issue aside.

"I really think the American public is ready for us to talk about golf," said Johnson, who rebuffed further queries on the topic.

Last year, Johnson made it clear that Augusta National would not be inviting women to join any time soon. Asked if he felt he won the battle, Johnson said: "I don't feel like we won anything. I think it's over ... but it will never be over. But I don't think we won anything."

Martha Burk said it is not over. The chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations protested the policy last year and has vowed to keep up the fight by pressuring the companies whose employees are members at Augusta National.

"For people who think it's over, they've got their head in the ground," Burk said Wednesday from Washington, D.C. She said her organization has hired a discrimination law firm. Asked if she believes it will be a long fight to get a woman invited to Augusta, Burk said: "My short answer is it depends on how healthy Hootie is. Lawsuits can take up to a year or two, but we're patient people."

WHAT ABOUT WIE?: Michelle Wie, 14, has said she wants to play in the Masters. No problem, Johnson said.

"We'd be pleased to have Michelle play in the Masters Tournament if she qualifies," he said.

Wie's best avenue would be to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links, a men's amateur event.

GAME PLAN: Phil Mickelson has five straight top-seven finishes at the Masters, including three straight thirds. With that in mind, Mickelson came to Augusta early last week before the BellSouth Classic with swing instructor Rick Smith and Dave Pelz, a short-game expert, to explore various avenues of the course and work on his game.

"What I have found is the last three years, if I could have saved a shot a round, I would have had two wins and a tie," Mickelson said. "That's all I'm trying to do is just take the experience I've had in the last 11 years, knowing how the course plays ... and just try to find ways to save a quarter of a shot or a half a shot here or there by putting the ball in the right spot, see if I can get that one extra shot a round."

AROUND AUGUSTA: Tiger Woods, Eduardo Romero and Padraig Harrington tied at 4-under 23 in the annual Par-3 Contest held on the adjacent par-3 layout. Woods, however, had left, so he did not take part in the playoff, won by Harrington with a birdie on the third extra hole. Since the Par-3 Contest began in 1960, no player has gone on to win the Masters in the same year. ... Johnson acknowledged that Augusta National has spent more than $28-million purchasing property around the club so it can one day move the major parking area in order to accommodate a state-of-the-art practice facility that would be used for Masters week only. "Our present facility ... it's simply not adequate for the tournament," he said.

[Last modified April 8, 2004, 01:35:43]


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