The spring flowerof the new baseball season is the arrival of box scores in the back pages ofthe daily sports section, at least for those of us still wedded to newsprintand the national pastime. The spring flower of the PGA Tour also comes from anewspaper: the arrival of David Westin of The Augusta Chronicle, accompanied bya sidekick, for back-to-back Florida tournaments, gathering string for scoresof Masters-week stories. Nick Price once greeted Westin with this: "Here heis--the face of spring." Which is funny, because Westin's newsroom nicknameis The Ghost.
Last weekWestin--along with Scott Michaux, a Chronicle sports columnist--tilled the soilat the PODS Championship. This week they'll be cornering players at the ArnoldPalmer Invitational at Bay Hill. They leave no stone unturned. Each man isassigned to write 15 stories for a blowout preview issue the Chronicle runs onthe Sunday before the Masters. Michaux gets one Augusta homeboy, CharlesHowell. Westin gets the other one, Vaughn Taylor. For the other players, theyhave a draft, although it's rigged: Westin always gets Vijay Singh becauseSingh will talk to him. While reporting their stories for the preview issue,Westin and Michaux also fill their notebooks with background for the fourstories they'll file every day during Masters week.
Plus, they coverthe two Florida tournaments they attend. To keep costs down, they share a$99-a-night hotel room, travel together in one car and often eat dinner at anearby Cracker Barrel. Their ultimate boss, Billy Morris, owner and publisherof the Chronicle, is an Augusta National member who frequently drives playersfrom the 18th green to the press room during Masters week. The two reportersknow their stuff is being read closely on high.
"When I getback, somebody always says, 'Two weeks in Florida on the company dime--must benice,'" Westin says. Actually, it is. The job the two reporters do is notpulling teeth. Players like talking about the Masters.
Michaux workedfor a Greensboro, N.C., paper before he moved to the Chronicle. During hisCarolina days he'd go to the Players Championship and try to get players totalk about the upcoming Greensboro Tour event. "They'd be like, 'I'm tryingto play in this thing,'" Michaux says. But he once got Tiger Woods all tohimself for 35 minutes simply by walking up to him and asking him ... Augustaquestions.
The Ghost hasbeen making a spring training trip to the Sunshine State every year since 1986,a long enough run that he remembers a traveling partner from the early days whoinsisted on transcribing notes on a typewriter, early in the morning, in thatsmall, shared hotel room. He's happy that has changed, but it's one of the fewthings that has. He's not trying to solve the mystery of life with hisquestions. Last week he was reporting a story about what it's like to play inthe first group off on Sunday morning. Guys were happy to talk, even if theywere remembering a last-place finish. It was David Westin, in Florida, talkingabout Augusta. Spring had arrived.
by RICK LIPSEY
Golf Channel made a giant mistake by not staying inMexico for the LPGA's thrilling Monday finish.
John Daly has struggled since losing the 2005 AmexChampionship playoff
30 STARTS +
11 CUTS MADE +
0 TOP 10S x
BARBECUED RIB =
7 WDS FOR BIG JOHN
DAVID WALBERG (WESTIN AND MICHAUX)
THE RITE STUFF Westin (right) and Michaux haunted last week's PODS Championship in search of Masters copy.
REUTERS/CORBIS (KELLY CLARKSON)
ERICK W. RASCO (WALLET, CAMERA)
J. GARCIA/PHOTOCUISINE/CORBIS (BEEF)
AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM (DALY)