LOCKERS OF THE GODS
WELCOME TO the most exclusive locker room in golf, the
champions' room at Augusta National. Renovated two years ago,
the handsome but understated upstairs dressing area, officially
known as the Masters Club Room, is off-limits to everyone but
winners of the tournament and their guests.
There are 28 oak lockers assigned to the 37 champions, and the
living share space with the ghosts. For example Jack Nicklaus, a
six-time winner, doubles up with Horton Smith, winner of the
first and third Masters. Ben Crenshaw, the defending champion,
shares a locker with Jimmy Demaret, a three-time winner. Tom
Watson and Claude Harmon are together on the same nameplate.
Fred Couples is paired with Ralph Guldahl.
In this inner sanctum an inlay rug muffles the sound of cleats,
and the chairs are upholstered in leather. The centerpiece of
the 20-by-30-foot room is a floor-to-ceiling trophy case. A
green jacket is draped around a mannequin, beside which is a
history of the coat written by Clifford Roberts.
Also displayed are the crystal prizes awarded for various
accomplishments at the Masters and a silver model of the
clubhouse, like the one which goes to the winner. In the upper
lefthand side of the trophy case is a reproduction of the front
page of the Augusta Chronicle from the tournament's first year.
HORTON SMITH WINS is the banner headline. To the right of the
green jacket is a photo of Sam Snead shaking hands with Ben
Hogan after Snead won the playoff in 1954. Only one picture
hangs on the wall: a shot from behind the 12th green taken
during the 1947 Masters.
"It's magic walking in there," says Crenshaw. "You can relax a
bit, eat a bite before you go and play, or just sit and talk
with some of the older champions who are there early in the
week. It's a great time to converse with them, get their ideas
on what's happening in the game. It's sort of a continuum."
IN BEN'S DEFENSE
The week before the Masters was an emotional one for Crenshaw,
the defending champion. On Tuesday he marked the first
anniversary of Harvey Penick's death by visiting his mentor's
grave in Austin. On Wednesday, Crenshaw watched the videotape of
last year's triumph for only the second time. On Thursday the
Masters Journal, the tournament's program, arrived with a story
retelling Crenshaw's sentimental win. "We've been crying all
week, and we're not even there yet," said Crenshaw's wife,
Julie. "Hopefully we've got all the tears out of us." On
Saturday, Crenshaw came down with a stomach virus and spent most
of the day in bed, but he did get up to have a photograph taken
of him in the green jacket. On Sunday he flew to Augusta.
All last summer Crenshaw talked about the hangover from his
Masters victory. He had one top-10 finish the rest of the year
and was 0-3 in the Ryder Cup. An 11th-place finish in the
season-opening Mercedes Championships is his best result in
1996, yet it would be a mistake to discount Crenshaw this week
in Augusta. His game was in far worse shape a year ago, when he
was favoring a sore toe. All it took was a tip on ball position
from his caddie, Carl Jackson, and Crenshaw had one of the best
ball-striking weeks of his life. And the Masters is a putting
contest, anyway. There is no better putter than the defending
Don't look for Nick Price to light it up at Augusta. The weapon
he must rely on most this week, the Fat Lady putter, made by
Bobby Grace, has not been singing for over a year now. "The last
time I felt good about my putting was the 1994 Canadian Open,"
says Price. By no small coincidence, that was his last victory
in North America. Price's problem started at the '94 Million
Dollar Challenge in South Africa when he broke the Fat Lady he
had used to win the British Open and the PGA. He has been
putting with an identical model but not with identical results.
"I curse the day the head of that putter fell off," Price says.
"It's kind of like losing one of your best friends."
Tom Weiskopf has always viewed things differently from many of
his peers--he once chose to go on a hunting trip rather than play
in the Ryder Cup--so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he has
begged off the CBS telecast of the Masters. Weiskopf, who first
appeared on the show in '81, will attend to some of his golf
course design commitments instead. "I would love to be at
Augusta, but this is my priority," Weiskopf says. "It was a
tough decision, but they'll live without me."
During Masters week Weiskopf is to meet with a group of
developers from the Philippines in Scottsdale, Ariz., drop in on
a new project in Prescott, Ariz., go to San Francisco to oversee
the construction of six new holes at the Olympic Club, and visit
a new course he is building in Tahoe. Next week Weiskopf will
play in the PGA Seniors.
"Tommy left for greener pastures, if you follow the metaphor,"
says CBS executive producer Frank Chirkinian. "The way he
sounded, it was for a lot of money. What am I going to say
except, 'O.K., pal, we're going to miss you.'"
He will be missed more by viewers. The always candid Weiskopf
was one of two CBS announcers at Augusta who could be counted on
to provide critical, and credible, analysis. Since the Masters
was the only event he worked, Weiskopf called 'em as he saw 'em
and never worried about whom he might offend.
Weiskopf will be replaced at 13 by Ken Venturi, CBS's other
straight shooter. It was Venturi who made the call when Curtis
Strange, in the lead, played the 13th in 1985. When Strange
reached his drive in the fairway of the par-5 hole, he first
pulled out an iron and was about to lay up on his second shot.
Venturi said, "There are two numbers, 4 and 5, that Curtis could
factor in by laying up." Then Strange switched to a four-wood.
"Now he's just factored in a 6," Venturi said. Strange hit the
four-wood into the creek, made bogey 6 and lost the Masters to
"Curtis has been mad at him ever since," says Chirkinian.
THE SHORT GAME
Harvey Penick's widow, Helen, is attending her first Masters
this week. Accompanying her is her son Tinsley, the recently
retired pro at Austin Country Club.... New "observation stands"
(Masterspeak for bleachers) are up behind the 4th and 14th
tees.... D.A. Weibring is making his first start this week at
the Masters since being stricken with Bell's palsy on Feb.
25.... Two 1999 majors in Chicago within three weeks--the U.S.
Women's Open at the Merit Club in Libertyville and the PGA at
Medinah--were one too many, so the Women's Open was moved to Old
Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. The championship will be
held at the Merit Club in 2000.... While Kelly Robbins won the
Sacramento Classic in a playoff with Val Skinner, wonder rookie
Karrie Webb tied for seventh, matching her worst finish in seven
starts this year.
AT FIRST glance John Daly's 12 in the second round of the
BellSouth Classic had "give-up" written all over it. Not so,
says Lanny Wadkins, who was playing with Daly. A recap: Daly
drove into a pond right of the fairway on the 550-yard, par-5
8th (his 17th hole of the day) and took a penalty drop (2). He
blocked his next shot into a creek bed, and his escape attempt
ricocheted off a branch and landed next to a tree (4). Forced to
play lefthanded, Daly whiffed three times (7) before taking
another drop (8). He pitched into a bunker, blasted to within
five feet (10) and missed the putt (12). He failed to make
another short putt on his final hole to miss the cut by one, but
Daly wasn't going through the motions.
"He didn't give up. He did not just throw it away," says
Wadkins, who less than a year ago refused to make Daly one of
his captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team because the
British Open champ has been known to pack it in when things
don't go his way. Wadkins was proud of the way Daly, who will
turn 30 later this month, handled last week's adversity. "He's
grown up," Wadkins says.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Off-limits to other players, only Masters winners lace up their spikes in the champions room. [Masters Club Room at Augusta National]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Daly went from four under to four over in two holes but never stopped trying. [John Daly]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Weiskopf, here winging it during a recent promotion, has given up his perch this week in the tower at 13. [Tom Weiskopf with birds]