Featured Golf News
Payne Discusses Masters; Gives Comeuppance to Tiger
Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne gave his annual address to the media Wednesday. In addition to his usual discussion of the Masters, the state of the tournament, changes to the golf course, and how it continues to help grow the game of golf, Payne discussed the subject that's on everyone's minds this year: four-time champion Tiger Woods and his first competition since last year.
Payne gave his thoughts on Woods very clearly at the end of his opening remarks: "(Tiger) forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.
"Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile. I hope he can come to understand that life's greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people. We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us, who believe in second chances."
The following is the full transcript of Chairman Payne's comments and responses to questions from the media. Accompanying him was the chairman of the Masters Competition Committee, Fred Ridley, former head of the USGA.
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome once again to the 2010 Masters Tournament. My name is Billy Payne, and I am pleased to have with me today, two of our very capable committee chairmen. To my right the chairman of our Competition Committee, Mr. Fred Ridley, and to my left, the chairman of our Media Committee, Mr. Craig Heatley. Before I begin, I would like to thank you, the members of the press, for being such an important part of the Masters Tournament. It was truly an honor for all of us earlier today to present the Masters Major Achievement Award to seven of your peers who collectively accounted for more than 300 years of Masters coverage.
To a person, I think they serve as a reminder of the inseparable bond of the Masters and those who tell its story; those very same people who, for decades, have combined their love of the game, with their extraordinary talent for bringing it to life. On behalf of golf and sports fans around the world, we will be forever in your debt. We are nothing at Augusta if not tradition. All 73 Masters Tournaments which have preceded this year have produced compelling drama and magnificently nostalgic moments, and this year is no exception. We say good-bye to Raymond Floyd, who retires from Masters competition after 45 consecutive appearances; a major winner in three different decades, our 1976 Champion and three-time runner-up will never be forgotten at Augusta.
Tomorrow morning, we will also be reminded of the extraordinary feats of Masters great, Jack Nicklaus. What a special treat it will be for all of us to welcome Jack as an Honorary Starter as he joins Arnold Palmer on the first tee in this new role. It is only fitting that the custom of Honorary Starters, which began in 1963, the year of Jack's first win here at Augusta, now includes Jack, our most decorated champion. On behalf of millions of fans around the world, Jack, thank you. Since welcoming the world to Augusta last April, we have been very busy. We are all driven by the example of our founders, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, and passionately subscribe to their uncompromising belief in the concept of perpetual improvement.
A decade's worth of planning and execution has resulted in the opening of our new practice area. The design attempts to provide players the ability to experience the very shots that make our course so special and challenging; the varying tee shots, exacting approaches with short, mid and long irons; demanding bunkers at varying depth; and as we all know, imaginative play on and around the greens. Our new practice area measures 400 yards long, more than 140 yards longer than our previous practice tee. The main tee is now 30 percent larger and can, along with additional auxiliary tees provide for a full-field warm-up in the event of a delay caused by a weather-related suspension. A special salute is in order to our Chairman Emeritus, Hootie Johnson, who championed this new facility for many, many years; and to Tom Fazio, who brought our ideas to life by his very capable design.
And thanks to the great work of Marsh Benson and his team, we are especially proud of our golf course this year. Believe me, it's been a struggle as we have struggled ourselves with record rains and low temperatures since November, and it's kept us away more than I honestly care to admit. But thanks to hard work, I believe our golf course will provide an exceptional, beautiful and fair challenge to our players this week. So how will our golf course play this year; you recall that this time last year, I predicted a return to the famous and revered roars during our Tournament, the unmatched excitement inevitably created by close and thrilling competition. For once, I was right. (Laughter). Or to be more truthful, I guessed right.
So I'm going to make the same prediction this year; unless, of course, the windy and rainy conditions expected Thursday prove me wrong.
As has always been the case, since our Tournament's inception, there were a few minor modifications to the course over the summer. We lengthened the front of the tees on the 5th and the 13th holes to allow them to be more consistent with others on the course. These teeing grounds which were previously quite small will now be better suited to withstand the heavy use during Tournament and practice round play. We finally completed the three-year project of widening the Patron walkway between the putting green and the first tee, necessitating the reduction in the size of the putting green and the addition of a few yards to the front of the first tee.
As part of our normal maintenance program, we rebuilt and re-grassed the greens on No. 2 and 15. The front of the second green was opened up slightly by decreasing the size of the green-side bunkers. We hope this will encourage players to go for this green on their second shot, to this most popular hole. The right front portion of the 15th green, which previously was unusable under Tournament conditions, will now allow for a new pin position providing yet another exciting birdie or reachable or eagle opportunity on this reachable par 5.
As you all know, over the last several years, I have repeatedly stated that we want to deliver our Tournament to a worldwide audience in the manner in which they choose to receive it in this 21st century, ever-changing technological world. We always try to be a leader in all forms of content, creation and delivery. So beginning today with the Par 3 Contest, we will be broadcasting live in 3D, a first in golf. We could not achieve this initiative without the technical and creative support of our partner, Sony. You recall that Sony was the same company who helped the Masters bring High Definition Television to golf in the early 1990s. And after today, our 3D coverage will continue Thursday through Sunday during Tournament competition, making the Masters the first sporting event ever to be broadcast live in 3D.
We are also grateful to Comcast and IBM for their extraordinary efforts in bringing this initiative to reality. Viewing opportunities will be established throughout our property, including two specific locations here in the press building. Over the last several months, I have personally participated in our 3D test, and I was honestly overwhelmed by the manner in which it captures our beauty and our topography. I cannot imagine a better venue exists anywhere in the world for the introduction of three-dimensional broadcasting, and I hope by the end of the week, all of you will agree. It is our hope that through this technology, we will further enhance the brilliance of our historical television production so capably presented by our broadcast partners, CBS and ESPN, and importantly supported around the world by our global sponsors, AT&T, IBM and Exxon Mobil.
From the perspective of our Internet presence, we made a decision to uncomplicate the user experience. Our new Masters.com site now attempts to duplicate the on-site experience of our Patrons. Less is more; simplicity and beauty now replace clutter and confusion. At the same time, we do not sacrifice functionality or optionality for the user who wants to go deep into the rich content of our site.
Our new principal Internet offerings include what our Patrons want most: Up-to-the-second leader boards and full-screen, high-definition video. We will also introduce for the first time a featured group, an additional video channel that will follow a pairing throughout their play on the second nine. Finally, I believe, the innovative new design of our Internet site will allow us to better tell the story of the Masters through striking imagery and insightful editorial and historical content. Much, much more to come as we hope the transformation of our Internet site will be completed by next year's Tournament.
And we are proud of our long history of committing energy and resources to this great game and its growth; our continuing and successful Junior Pass Program of the last two years is a recent example. We are all thrilled about golf's inclusion in the Olympics, and pleased to have played a modest supporting role. And we are certain it will create great opportunity and visibility for our game well beyond 2016.
As was announced last year, we partnered with the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation and the R&A to create the Asian Amateur Championship, which was contested this past fall in China. It was our belief that the automatic invitation to the Masters for the winner would, over time, create heroes from that region of the world, and inspire others to take up this great game.
And no matter how hard I try, I am incapable of articulating what we witnessed and what we felt during the inaugural event this fall. With our partners the R&A and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, we showed these kids that they cared about them; that we were willing to invest in their future in golf. But honestly, it was more than that. While the common bond of golf clearly brought us together, the realization that our good fortune could positively impact their lives makes us even more determined and committed to continue this effort. This coming fall, we conduct the second Asian Amateur Championship in Japan and take another significant step to growing this great game worldwide.
Finally, we are not unaware of the significance of this week to a very special player, Tiger Woods. A man who in a brief 13 years clearly and emphatically proclaimed and proved his game to be worthy of the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. As he ascended in our rankings of the world's great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort.
But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.
Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile. I hope he can come to understand that life's greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people. We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us, who believe in second chances.
We are so delighted to have you all back with us again this year, and Craig, I'm now ready for a few questions.
Q. I wonder if you would share some of your personal thoughts or feelings, when you first learned that Tiger would return to golf at Augusta.
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I think I've already said all that I want to say about Tiger and our hopes for his future and I don't want to go into any details about my personal feelings. I don't think that's relevant.
Q. Mr. Payne, on the subject of Tiger, given the huge focus on and the unusual nature behind his return to golf this week, how has Augusta National felt the need to beef up security measures over and above, say, last year to protect his safety and other players?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: We have a significant history and track record to responding to all types of situations by the dedication of both planning and resources, and of course we were very aware of and responsive to the possible issues of this week. So without going into detail, I think we did what we would always do and that is to make adequate provision for every contingency.
Q. Tell me if I'm wrong, it seems to me with the construction of this new practice facility, much-needed, it appears to me now that many of the Tournament functions are separated from the Member/guest experience. Am I seeing too much into this; is that a coincidence?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, the existing range is certainly adequate for almost every one of our Members, except perhaps for Fred Ridley, and we would allow Fred to go over there if he wants to. (Laughter). No, I don't think that's an overall accurate statement. The Tournament has certainly grown and we have to accommodate the changes in the game, the need for the practice that they require, and as we are doing that, we are driven by the concept of doing it better than anybody else, and so that's what you see out there.
Q. For those of us who are not in town much, can you go back and talk about the winter and what it did to the golf course and what spot fires you had to put out? Because to us walking around we don't see any issues, which is the whole intent.
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I can say that certainly, and I will begin from the Member perspective, we had an extraordinary number of frost delays, which was very disruptive to Member play, I must add. And so we suffered through that, and it was unusual and it was raining and it was snowing and it was just an extraordinary winter, I know not only in Augusta, but just about everywhere in the south. And our job is to worry about it. And so I think it's very fair to say that even a month ago, we were worried about whether or not we could recapture the quality and the brilliance of what we wanted to look like at the Masters and our very capable staff kept assuring us, quit worrying and quit bothering us. And they are just geniuses at what they do, and there's a lot of love that goes in the preparation of that course and we are quite proud of it.
Q. Was there damage, or are there spots where the grass wasn't coming in? Can you elaborate on that?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: That's a constant condition. There are always some difficulties in how the grass plies every year, I would say a slower process this year and more visually noticeable.
Q. Steve beat me to the punch but I wonder, the one snow day, how many inches were measured on the course?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I think eight. Is that right? I exaggerate sometimes. Four to six, okay. Close enough for the Chairman.
Q. Regarding the course, a few players have said they think the fairway turfgrass is a little bit longer this year; is that going to change for competition, and is that true?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: No, it's not true, and no, it won't change, because it's the same as it's always been.
Q. With regard to the new grooves rule, do you think it will make the rough here come into play more than it ever had before and how much so do you think it will?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: You know, I think it's hard to answer that question before we've seen an actual tournament conducted here. I really don't know. I don't know enough about the subject to -- Fred, do you want to add to that?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, the purpose of the grooves, like many rules changes in recent years has been to assure to the greatest extent possible that skill is what determines the outcome of the shot. But as the Chairman has said, we are just going to see how it plays out this week.
Q. Do you have any anticipation at all about what the early thoughts about -- and even in your discussions, while they were discussing the rule change, what you thought you might see here, what you think you might see?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I don't know enough about it.
Q. I've read in several places some former champions and players who are involved in golf course design mention how the course seems to be moving back a little bit to restore some of the old shot values that had been around maybe with some fairway widths or some tree changes or some tee movement. What have you all done, and what are you all planning to do maybe in the coming years?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Good question. Certainly, there was an effort, successful effort, I think during the tenure of my predecessor to restore a lot of the shot values that had become obsolete with the equipment and the ball in the early 2000s and late 1990s. I think those have been accomplished quite adequately. I think although every Chairman thinks he has to make a few changes to kind of make it his own, the truth is we think the golf course is good right now, and I don't think there is a plan, a further plan, with some stabilization now of distances for us to adopt the golf course any differently than it is today.
Q. Can you talk about Raymond Floyd stepping aside this year? And Tom Watson might be the oldest players in the field at 60 who obviously can still play some golf; does the tournament lose any of the tradition of some of the older guys playing that we saw in the past, and is that totally a decision that they make or is there any gentle encouragement from the club?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Oh, no. None whatever. Ray is a dear friend, and Ray has been hurt most of the last couple of years. I think we want them to continue as long as they feel they can be competitive, and I think Ray certainly was, even as he became older. We are going to miss him. We had a great opportunity last night to spend some time with him at the Champions Dinner. You know, it's hard not to play after he's done it for 45 consecutive years, but he's such a great champion and such a great man. And just remember that the younger guys now are going to be older guys at some point. So we are always going to have our share of those.
Q. No one player is bigger than the game; was there any part of you that did not want Tiger to make his return to the game, because his return would over shadow the Masters?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: You know, we don't look at things that way. We are very secure in who we are, and the Masters has almost now a 74-year history. We just kind of do things our way. We are not threatened by other big news stories or things like that.
Q. Could you explain philosophically how you go about doing the pairings for the Masters?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I'm not going to comment on the process, but I think as in past years, I hope you'll agree that we have some very exciting pairings, and we evaluate that every year. But other than that, I'm not going to comment on the process.
Q. The Asian Amateur, regarding your desire for perpetual improvement, are there any tweaks contemplated for next year's event?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: The Asian Amateur? I'm not sure specifically because we got all of our after-action reports, but we have not -- we have been spending our time preparing for the Masters, so it would be post-Masters. Yes, there will certainly be some, but you know, it's actually going to be a hard act to follow. It was pretty special.
Q. I wondered, too, if you could speak to the quality of the field; I think it says a lot that the runner-up went on and qualified for the British Open?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: It does, indeed. Just ballpark, I think we had 35 countries represented, 130 or so kids, and as you would imagine, some of those kids came from countries that had one golf course, a couple of countries that had one or two, but none of them or grass, so there was certainly a variance in the quality of play. However, I would also say that the top two-thirds -- Fred, two-thirds -- were good, really good competitive golfers. But the experience of those that were not as good, was just as important to us because of the way they now view the opportunity and the way they now know that in us and the R&A, they have an ally. So this is going to be a long-range, long-reaching effort on our part to help grow the game in these rich regions on, rich in a sense of number of kids that could be drawn to the game.
Q. I'm just wondering if the thoughts you shared with us about Tiger, did you share those with him; did you have a conversation with him, and was he at the Champions Dinner last night?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: He was at the Champions Dinner, and yes, I had a conversation with him, but I don't want to go into detail about what it was.
Q. Obviously some very strong comments about Tiger and the question was asked earlier about security. Beyond that, though, what concerns or how much concern do you have that things could happen that could leave perhaps a stain on the Tournament, and on the flipside of that, how good for business is Tiger's return?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, we have no economic connection whatsoever to how many people watch TV, don't watch TV, how many people come, don't come. We sell fewer tickets than we sell more tickets the last time we changed the number of tickets. So there's no financial connection whatsoever. And the first part was?
Q. The concern with everything you've put into this thing.
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, of course, we are concerned about that every year without regard to who the specific players are, and we prepare as best we can fully realizing and knowing that when they come through the security, you can screen for everything but bad intentions. You know, we are always on guard.
Q. Have you determined who is going to be in the featured group, the featured group tomorrow on TV?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Tomorrow, Thursday? I think yes, we have. Have we released that yet, Steve
STEVE ETHUN: No, sir.
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: No, sir; we are still working on it. (Laughter).
Q. Can you tell us whether or not Tiger made a statement at the dinner, whether he might have apologized?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I wouldn't go into any details about that; just that he was there.
Q. Can you tell us how he was received? Was the mood okay?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: The mood is always great at that dinner, always, always.
Q. I have a question about the fact that you have three amateurs here who are like 16 and 18 years old; I checked and I was told last year you had three who were young teenagers. What do you think this means, what we are looking at here when people that young and being able to play on a stage this big?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I think it's an unbelievably positive development that kids can embrace this game at an early age and can become very proficient and very competitive at it. I think it portends for great success and growth of the game. Heroes on the way to heroes being created; that's what grows this game.
Q. Clearly responsibility and role models and doing the right thing is a big part of your life, there's no doubt about that, even with the Atlanta Olympics that you ran, especially regarding women; the women's Olympics with many of the sports that started and grew and had a terrific run in Atlanta. With that in mind, what, if any, responsibility does Augusta National have to reach out and open its arms to women in any way, shape or form in the game of golf?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, we don't -- the tens of millions of dollars we have contributed to the growth of the game through the years, I think has certainly helped with both men's and women's golf. I think the rest of that may be a membership kind of issue, Christine. As you know, those are subject to the private deliberations of the Members.
Q. Just wondering about the timing of Woods' press conference Monday at two. Did you set that time or did he ask for that time or was it a mutual consent?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: I think mutual. Craig?
MODERATOR: Yes. We'll take three more questions.
Q. You mentioned the perpetual improvements, I think many of us wonder what could possibly be done next; you've done so much. Do you have a lot of plans moving forward that you might be able to share?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: No. No, I don't. I will say, however, that one of the special things about the Augusta National Membership is that both as it relates to Membership and the Tournament, we are planning ten years down the road, and we are always doing that. And so it's a nice place to be and like I said, every year, it's got to be a little better than the year before.
Q. If you can give us a little history on what was involved in persuading Jack to become an Honorary Starter and how much of your gifted persuasion did you have to spend?
CHAIRMAN BILLY PAYNE: Well, I have made it clear to Jack since I became Chairman that we would love to have him whenever he was ready. And I think he thought it appropriate, and I thought it quite gentlemanly, that he let Arnold do it a few years, let it be his deal, and then we would all talk and it would be the right time for him. And I'm glad that this year is that, and I'm really, really looking forward to that.
Q. From a competition committee standpoint, when new pin placements are created, how tempting, how quickly do you take them for a test drive?
FRED RIDLEY: We do look at that, and we obviously want to be very careful in how we make those decisions. And so in the last three or four years, we have had several pin placements created on different greens, but we usually like to look at those in Member play, Member tournaments. We have a number of good players in the club and we like to see how those react in those situations, and that gives us some idea whether or not it's appropriate for the Tournament. But that's the process we go through.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.