Category: Billy Payne

March 28, 2013

Mark O'Meara breaks Augusta rules to text Tiger from Amen Corner

Posted at 3:15 PM by Mike Walker

Omeara_300Even Masters champions get a little nervous about breaking out their cell phones at Augusta National.

Mark O'Meara, the 1998 champion, was playing a tune-up round at Augusta National on Sunday, and when he got to the 12th tee, he risked violating the club's no-cell-phone policy to check to see how his old fishing buddy Tiger Woods was getting on at Bay Hill.

Q. You said you texted Tiger after he won Bay Hill?

MARK O'MEARA: I was on the 12th green at Augusta National on Monday. You got to be very careful, as we all know, at Augusta. I don't want Mr. Payne to be upset at me. I was back on the back of the green and pulled out my phone to see that he had won by 2. I fired him a text. I said, awesome, great No. 8 and No. 1. That's all I said.

And after risking the ire of club chairman Billy Payne, it turned out that O'Meara didn't even get a text back from his old pal.

Q. Any reply?

MARK O'MEARA: Unfortunately I have to have a little discussion with my friend because I didn't get a reply. So I'm not really real pleased with my buddy right now. I felt like sending a text, hey, no love, what's the deal? He's an interesting guy from the standpoint I was getting off the elevator in Mississippi on Saturday after first round, I shot 70 and I was two, three shots off the lead. I played with Langer and Fred the first day. I clipped the two guys. I get a text on my phone saying, hey, nice playing, dude. Wow. This is really nice. Dude, are you turning over a new leaf, my man. We kid back and forth. We stay in touch, but not like it once was.

Photo: Mark O'Meara at the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., in March (Getty Images).

April 09, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Awkward Masters handshake, and Christina Kim vs. Bubba

Posted at 2:05 PM by Mick Rouse

We've all been there: a handshake that goes awry. Except for most of us, the awkward encounter isn't captured on live television. During the Masters. While receiving the coveted green jacket. Enter Masters champ Bubba Watson and chairman of Augusta National Billy Payne.

As Payne instructs 2010 Master's champion Charl Schwartzel to present Bubba with his green jacket, Bubba mistakes Payne's outstretched hand as an offer of congratulations. With a sly move that suggests this isn't the first time this has happened in his life, Bubba swivels to offer his now outstretched hand to Schwartzel. Payne, a little slow on the uptake, then realizes Bubba was trying to shake his hand, but offers his back a fraction of a second too late and receives a whole lot of Bubba's cold, cruel shoulder. Commence awkward face scratch. This encounter would probably be a whole lot more embarrassing if not for the fact that Bubba just won the freakin' Masters. In fact, I think it may raise a more important question: Could the Masters green jacket ceremony be any more boring?

'Bashful Prince' Ishikawa finds his princess

After another lackluster showing at the Masters (he's missed the cut three out of four times), Ryo Ishikawa returned home to Japan where legions of disappointed fans and reporters awaited. According to The Wall Street Journal, though, Ishikawa's Masters performance was quickly forgotten as he announced upon arrival that he is now engaged to his junior high school sweetheart. 

“I turned 20, so I feel like it’s a good time to make this decision,” Ishikawa said, referring to his coming of age in Japan.

While Ryo remained mum on the identity of his wife-to-be, not even revealing her first name, he did reveal that her father wasn't the only person whose blessing he sought.

Back in Japan, Ishikawa’s face is ubiquitous both on and off the green. He was the face for 17 ad campaigns from Panasonic to Lotte in 2011, appearing in more commercials than any other male celebrity for the third year running, according to market researcher Nihon Monitor.

“I informed my sponsors last month,” Ishikawa said. “And I got their blessing.”

Christina Kim goes OFF on Bubba on Twitter

In case you hadn't heard, Christina Kim isn't the biggest fan of Bubba Watson. Therefore, it was no surprise that Bubba's name would be brought up while Kim tweeted through the final round of the Masters. It all began when one of Kim's followers became upset that Christina was tweeting her support for Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen as opposed to a fellow American--specifically Bubba.

Kim was just warming up. Over the next three hours or so, she let loose a barrage on the Masters winner. Luckily for you, we've extracted the highlights of Kim's candid tweets.

Following his playoff victory, Kim held back on the Bubba bashing, offering up a seemingly sincere congratulations.

This is surely the end to it all, right? RIGHT?! Wrong. Apparently Kim's attempt to take the high road further incensed Bubba's fans.

How did it all round out? With Bubba interjecting his two cents? Not quite.

Sometimes I wonder what we did for entertainment before Twitter...

Tweet of the Day

Bubba Watson didn't get in on Christina Kim's Twitter rant, but that's probably because he couldn't get his phone to stop ringing.

Bubba did make his presence known in this mini-Twitter feud featuring Piers Morgan, though.

April 06, 2012

Report: IBM CEO Virginia Rometty to attend Masters

Posted at 10:27 AM by Mike Walker

Virginia M. Rometty, the new CEO of IBM, will attend this week's Masters tournament, but it's not clear if she will be wearing the green jacket of an Augusta National member, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Rometty, 54, who took IBM's helm at the beginning of this year, hasn't commented publicly on the matter. She plays golf, though not frequently, IBM says. She plans to entertain clients at the tournament.

Rometty's elevation to the top position at IBM earlier this year brought increased attention to Augusta National's all-male membership policy. Traditionally, the CEO of IBM -- a key sponsor of the Masters tournament -- has been invited to join the club. However, the Journal notes that the invitation extended to the IBM CEOs had not been automatic, and the company has been concerned in the past about Augusta's men-only membership policy.

The last four CEOs of IBM have been offered membership, which allows a person to don the club's famous green blazer.

Still, the chief executives often have had to wait before securing membership, said a person familiar with the matter.

When Samuel J. Palmisano became CEO of IBM in March 2002, he wasn't immediately made a member, said the person. After he took the top job, there was considerable discussion among Mr. Palmisano and his associates over whether he should join a club that excludes women, said the person. He ultimately decided to apply and he was accepted as a member.

Former IBM CEO Louis V. Gerstner used to take Mr. Palmisano and other top managers down to the event to play the course and meet clients, said a person familiar with the matter.

In a contentious press conference on Wednesday, club chairman Billy Payne repeatedly refused to comment on whether Rometty is or will be invited to be a member.

Q. Is it possible to elaborate further on why Membership for Mrs. Rometty wouldn't be considered, just to give us a little more spiel on that.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: I guess two reasons: One, we don't talk about our private deliberations. No. 2, we especially don't talk about it when a named candidate is a part of the question. 

April 04, 2012

Fans to Augusta: Let a woman in already! (Or don't)

Posted at 8:02 PM by Alan Bastable

AUGUSTA, Ga. — When Lyn DeMar showed up for a Sunday morning tee time at a private club in Des Moines, Iowa, two years ago, she was in for a surprise.

So was the club.

The club had assumed that DeMar was a man, and that was a problem because women were not permitted on the course before noon on Sundays. Club officials eventually acquiesced, allowing DeMar’s group to slip quietly off the back nine, but it was a jarring experience for her because it was the first time, she says, that her gender limited her playing privileges on a golf course.

The near-snub didn’t sit well with DeMar, who recalled the story at Wednesday's practice round at the 76th Masters. So perhaps it’s not all that surprising where she comes down on Augusta National Golf Club's refusal to admit female members.

“I think it’s time for a change,” she said while seated at a picnic table near the merchandise pavilion. “What do you think, honey?”

The question was directed at her husband, Ray, who was seated beside her, listening attentively.

“Rules are rules,” Ray said. “They have longstanding traditions here, and I don’t think they should change [their policy] simply because we’re in a different time, a different era.”

There’s plenty golf fans can agree upon when it comes to Augusta National: it’s beautiful, it’s green, it serves cheap beer during Masters week. Far removed from that list is the club’s all-male membership, which in the run-up to this week's tournament has once again surfaced as a flash point for controversy. (On Wednesday morning club chairman Billy Payne fielded a series of pointed questions from the media over the club’s refusal to discuss its membership policy.) Indeed, in a highly unscientific poll of six men and six women taken during Wednesday’s practice round, fans’ opinions were as varied as the flora behind the 13th green.

“Women are running for president,” said Elva Graham of Scottsdale, Ariz., alluding to former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. “Yes, it’s time they let a woman into Augusta.”

Her friend, Carolyn Murphy, was seated next to her in a green Masters chair by the 18th green. “What’s going to happen when there’s a transgender CEO?” she pondered, only half-joking. “Then what?”

Chairman Payne, care to comment?

Four of the six women polled agreed it was time to fit a lady for a green jacket, but two did not.

“You have to respect the club for not caving,” said Sherry Summers, who runs a hair salon in Augusta. “I commend them for standing their ground and for not being politically correct. Nobody does that today.”

“It’s a private club,” she went on, emphasizing the word private. “They can do whatever they want to do.”

Rebecca Bradley, a former LPGA pro who now runs her own business in Dallas, likened Augusta National to her Bible study group: a tight-knit cluster of like-minded souls who deeply trust one another. She went on to ponder how the vibe might have been different at the Last Supper if one of the disciples had been female.

“I’m just saying,” Bradley said, leaving her scenario open to interpretation.

Up by the first tee, a 68-year-old retired banker from South Carolina waited for a friend under rapidly darkening skies.

“If I was on the governing board, I’d vote to let a woman in,” said the man, who declined to provide his name. He stressed, though, that it’s not a straightforward decision given the club’s history and decades-old traditions.    

“Augusta’s got a big problem PR-wise,” he said. “They can’t win.”

April 07, 2011

Palmer and Nicklaus hit pure drives for ceremonial first shots

Posted at 8:56 AM by David Dusek

Arnold-palmer-swings AUGSUTA, Ga. — From a distance, shutters clicked madly as name placards reading "Arnold Palmer" and "Jack Nicklaus" were slid into a sign on the first tee box.

At a place teaming with VIPs, only green-jacketed members of Augusta National Golf Club like Hootie Johnson, the stoic former chairman, were allowed to stand near the tee. PGA TourCommissioner Tim Finchem and 1979 Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller had to sip their morning coffee alongside the media in a roped-off area near the clubhouse.

At precisely 7:30, cameramen, reporters and the thousands of fans who had been waiting at the gate for 30 minutes were allowed onto the course. Everyone made a beeline for the first tee in hopes of securing a good viewing spot to see Palmer and Nicklaus hit the ceremonial first tee shot to begin the 75th Masters.

"No running! No running please," shouted the security guards.

With the first yellow rays of sunlight washing over the green Georgia pines, applause rang out five minutes later when the two champions walked to the tee, trailed by Chairman Billy Payne.

From the clubhouse's veranda, Mark O'Meara, who won here in 1998, took in the scene. Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters champ who was scheduled to play 81 minutes later, chose to continue his practice putting.

Jacknicklauswaves "I see they moved the tees forward this morning, huh," Nicklaus joked as he stretched his 71-year-old body. "I hope they'll move 'em back after we get out of here."

Looking down the fairway, Nicklaus said, "We aren't even going to be able to hit it out of our own shadow! Look at this hole."

But after being introduced by to the crowd by Payne, Palmer, 81, proceeded to hit his drive straight down the fairway and partially up the first fairway's hill. The shot brought a big smile to The King's face.

Moments later, Nicklaus teed up his ball. "Now let me get back up," he cracked.

But the Golden Bear put a great swing on the ball and hit a draw that went 30 yards past Palmer's shot. It rolled halfway up the hill and, like Palmer's, finished in the middle of the fairway. Nicklaus waved for the ball to keep rolling, and even Payne seemed pleasantly surprised by the quality of Jack's shot.

As tournament officials hustled to gather the golf balls from the fairway, Payne called out, "The 2011 Masters has officially begun."

And then the tees were, respectfully, moved back.

More Masters coverage: Live blog | Leaderboard | Photos | Video | Download Front9 app

(Photos: Al Tielemans/SI)

April 09, 2009

Palmer gets a hand with honorary tee shot

Posted at 8:39 AM by David Dusek

Arnold-palmer-first-tee-sho AUGUSTA, Ga. – Moments before patrons were allowed to power walk onto the grounds of Augusta National and claim prime viewing spots, there was a subdued laughter on the first tee.

With Arnold Palmer moments away from making his entrance and hitting the ceremonial first tee shot to start the 2009 Masters, a tournament official moved the tee markers 10 feet forward.

Palmer and Masters chairman Billy Payne walked from the clubhouse to the tee at precisely 7:45 a.m. EST. Payne welcomed the crowd and made an introduction that was completely unnecessary.

"No one has meant more to the great game of golf than our honorary starter," Payne said in the morning sunshine. "He is a fierce competitor and loved around the world. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming four-time Masters champion, Mr. Arnold Palmer."

Palmer, 79, teed up a ball moments later and smacked it into the blue sky and down the right side of the fairway.

Palmer then slid a Masters green jacket over his yellow golf shirt, posed for photos with Payne and other members of the club, and made his way back to the clubhouse.

For years, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson answered the call and hit shots to start the Masters. Now, with Gary Player announcing this week that he will no longer compete here and Jack Nicklaus on hand as a guest, it seems to be only a matter of time before a second triumvirate of honorary starters is created.

With 13 Masters wins between them, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player should be allowed to tee it up wherever they please.

(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)

April 08, 2009

Masters Chairman Billy Payne delivers state of the Masters

Posted at 7:17 PM by Gary Van Sickle

Billy-payne-2009-masters AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's a tradition that the Masters chairman meets with golf writers Wednesday morning of tournament week to deliver a state of the Masters address and field questions. It's a mix of public relations, information, news and the occasional laugh. This morning was no exception as Billy Payne spoke with his usual aplomb.

Tournament parking for spectators is an issue the club is proud of. Nearly 4,500 parking spots have been added west of the course across Berckmans Road, Payne said. The Masters has a novel goal. When Payne toured the pressroom Tuesday afternoon to shake hands and chat with writers, he told me he hoped the Masters would become the only major sporting event in the world to offer free parking to all of its fans. I told him owners of pro baseball and football teams would hear that and say, “Free? What are they thinking?” He laughed. But plentiful parking is a smart idea.

In a related matter, a new practice range will be built on the area that was used for parking in past years. It will run adjacent to Washington Road, as opposed to the current setup, in which players hit toward towering nets that protect Washington Road. A second set of tees will be installed at the far end of the property near the water tower at the corner of Washington and Berckmans, Payne said, to accommodate more players in the event of a restarted round, when a full field of players would be looking to warm up at the same time. Chipping and pitching greens for shots up to 120 yards will be included in the new range.

A couple of minor rules changes for patrons are also in effect this year. Spectator seats with arms are no longer allowed. Also, Payne said, smoking will no longer be permitted in any spectator grandstand or designated seating area on the course. It will be allowed on the rest of the course. (Augusta is still the South, after all, and not far from prime tobacco-growing country.)

Payne was asked the obligatory pre-tournament questions about the course, and whether it played too hard the last two years, robbing the tournament of its excitement.

Continue reading "Masters Chairman Billy Payne delivers state of the Masters" »

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