Golf Buzz

Ryder Cup
PGA of America

There's still a long way to go when it comes to accumulating points toward Team USA for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

However, if recent history is any indication, the team could take some shape at the conclusion of the Masters. This isn't a huge surprise, as major championships provide the opportunity to earn double points in a Ryder Cup year. Two points are awarded for every $1,000 earned in the majors this year and all U.S. players making the cut will earn points.

In 2012, here is what the top 20 looked like at the conclusion of the Masters:

1. Bubba Watson
2. Phil Mickelson

3. Hunter Mahan
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Tiger Woods

6. Bill Haas
7. Steve Stricker *
8. Brandt Snedeker *

9. Kyle Stanley
10. Johnson Wagner
11. Mark Wilson
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Jason Dufner
14. Dustin Johnson *

15. Ben Crane
16. Kevin Na
17. Bo Van Pelt
18. Robert Garrigus
19. Jim Furyk *
20. Webb Simpson

Of that top 20, 11 players were on the 2012 U.S. team at Medinah -- the names in bold print above (asterisks indicates 2012 captain Davis Love III's captain's selections).

Again, there's a long way to go, but there's a good chance we could see a handful of this year's eventual squad among the top 10 come Sunday night. Points officially close at the conclusion of the 2014 PGA Championship.

Here is the current top 20, which includes nine members from the 2012 team (click here for the entire points list):

1. Jimmy Walker
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Bubba Watson
5. Jason Dufner
6. Phil Mickelson

7. Harris English
8. Zach Johnson
9. Webb Simpson
10. Matt Kuchar

11. Ryan Moore
12. Chris Kirk
13. Matt Every
14. Jordan Spieth
15. Will Mackenzie
16. Kevin Stadler
17. Keegan Bradley
18. Kevin Na
19. Jim Furyk
20. Ryan Palmer

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 

Errie Ball
The PGA of America
Errie Ball is the only living competitor from the 1934 Masters, the first played.

In case you missed it, Golf Channel had a fantastic feature on PGA Professional Errie Ball this week.

Ball, 103 years old, is the oldest living PGA member and the only living participant from the first Masters in 1934.

In the feature -- narrated by Rich Lerner -- Ball reads the letter sent to him by the legendary Bobby Jones, dated Feb. 7, 1934, inviting him to play in the Augusta National Invitational (it didn't become "The Masters Tournament" until 1939).

RELATED: PGA.com's Masters leaderboard | Complete coverage | Masters by the numbers

"I feel lucky that I was invited," said Ball, a PGA of America Hall of Famer. "And I feel lucky, definitely, that I'm still alive. When I stepped on the first tee at the Masters, I said, 'Boy, this is something.'"

Ball, originally from Wales, actually worked as an assistant professional under Jones at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta. Ball has been a PGA Professional since 1932.

Watch the feature here and try not to get chills when Ball mentions all the legends he's played golf with:

 

 

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

Tiger Woods
USA Today Images
Until this year, Tiger Woods had played in every Masters since 1995.

For the first time in his professional career, Tiger Woods is missing the Masters.

Woods, a four-time Masters champion, made the announcement on April 1, explaining that he was healing from a "successful microdiscectomy" for a pinched nerve that had been hurting him for several months.

RELATED: PGA.com's Masters leaderboard | Complete coverage | Masters by the numbers

While Woods is certainly missed by patrons at Augusta National this week, he's also feeling a little empty about being sidelined.

On Thursday morning, Woods took to Twitter to tweet this about Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, the honorary starters:

 

It was Tiger's first tweet since his April 1 message, which read: "Sad to say I’m missing the Masters. Thanks to the fans for so many kind wishes."

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

Arnold Palmer
USA Today Images
Arnold Palmer found the fairway with his ceremonial tee shot at Augusta National to start the 78th Masters on Thursday morning.

At 7:40 this morning, legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player kicked off the 78th Masters by striking the ceremonial opening tee shots.

All three found the first fairway. Nicklaus was the longest, edging Player by a yard.

RELATED: PGA.com's Masters leaderboard | Complete coverage | Masters by the numbers

While having honorary starters serve as a great Masters tradition, the tournament hasn't had starters every year. In all, nine golfers have been honorary starters at the Masters. Collectively, they have won 57 majors, including 19 Masters Tournaments. Here they are, along with the years they served the honorary starter role:

- Jock Hutchison, 1963-73
- Fred McLeod, 1963-76
- Gene Sarazen, 1981-99
- Byron Nelson, 1981-82 and 1984-2001
- Ken Venturi, 1983
- Sam Snead, 1984-2002
- Arnold Palmer, 2007-
- Jack Nicklaus, 2010-
- Gary Player, 2012-

The first two honorary starters -- Hutchison and McLeod -- earned the role as winners at Augusta National... but not in the Masters. You see, Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones helped organize the Senior PGA Championship and the first two were played at Augusta National in 1937 and 1938.

Venturi never won at Augusta National, but did record the best-ever finish by an amateur in 1956, when he finished alone in second place, one shot behind winner Jack Burke Jr. Venturi had a four-shot lead through 54 holes that year and was eight better than Burke going into the final round before Burke stormed back and Venturi faded on the final day.

Other than Hutchison, McLeod and Venturi, all other honorary starters have been Masters champions.

There is a noticeable gap from 2003-2006 when there were no starters, and for good reason. After the deaths of Snead (2002) and Sarazen (1999), Nelson decided he'd rather not partake.

A recent story by Augusta Chronicle Sports Editor John Boyette suggests that the honorary starter may have been around before 1963:

The Masters media guide says the honorary starter tradition began in 1963. Newspaper clippings, however, indicate the tradition started in the 1950s.

“As has been the tradition for years, two grand old champions will start the parade Thursday as the opening twosome,” The Augusta Chronicle reported in 1963.

The earliest records of Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod teeing off together in the first pairing of the tournament came in 1954. Through 1962, the two men would traditionally play nine or 18 holes and then withdraw from the tournament.

It wasn’t until 1964 that the words “honorary starter” were listed next to their names in the list of tee times.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

April 9, 2014 - 6:59pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki at the Masters
USA Today Sports Images
Caroline Wozniacki's bright pink ponytail was easy to spot amid the green, yellow and white that dominate Augusta National.
All the caddies at the Masters – even the kids and family members who do the honors during the Par 3 Contest – are decked out in Augusta National's traditional white coveralls. Even so, Rory McIlroy's fiancée Caroline Wozniacki stood out today.
 
Why? Because she's dyed her hair bright pink. 
 
 
The last time we saw the Danish tennis star was just the other day, when she earned her 400th career win at the Monterrey Open in Mexico, and her hair was still its natural blonde color there. At Augusta, she drew plenty of double-takes as the players, patrons and photographers got their first look at her brightly colored ponytail – and her matching pink shoes.
 
Wozniacki capped off her day by sinking a putt on the ninth green while McIlroy cheered her on. She followed up not by talking about her hair but by teasing fellow tennis player Andy Roddick on Twitter. Here's what she said:
 
 
 
April 9, 2014 - 4:56pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Arnold Palmer at the Masters
Justin Timberlake via Twitter
Arnold Palmer's ceremonial tee shot drew a cheer from Justin Timberlake on Day 1 of the Masters.

The Masters is one of those special events that attracts the attention of golf fans everywhere, no matter how serious they are about the game. As the first round rolled on Thursday afternoon, fans as diverse as Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander and comedian Larry the Cable Guy chimed in on the proceedings via Twitter. 

Here is some of their commentary:

 

Watching the masters and this pin placement on hole 17 is ridiculous.

— Mo Williams (@mowilliams) April 10, 2014

My buddy Boo is sittin40th right now at the masters. Watch him make a big move up Friday. I'm that confident!

— Larry The Cable Guy (@GitRDoneLarry) April 10, 2014

@CallawayGolf: The King going #BerthaLong off the first tee at Augusta National. Classic. pic.twitter.com/J8I3apyEP8” LEGEND.

— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) April 10, 2014