The Loop

The Loop

How the Houston Open found success taking a cue from Augusta National

March 30, 2016

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The Shell Houston Open’s move from a post-Masters date to the week before Augusta has proved a boon to the tournament, enticing elite players as part of their Masters’ prep, the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson writes. Then there's this: “[Tournament director Steve] Timms got together with agronomists and the PGA Tour staff to try to create something unique, with Augusta National in mind…The banks and mounds around the greens [at the Golf Club of Houston] were closely mown. The rough was shaved down. The fairways were mown from the green to the tee so that the grain is into the player, just like at Augusta. The greens are firm (weather permitting) and fast, estimated at 12 on the Stimpmeter. ‘Now it's become our identity,’ Timms said. ‘And we've had the good fortune of having a number of players that have played here and won the next week.’”

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Even a game seemingly built for Augusta National is no guarantee of Masters success, Bob Harig of ESPN writes, citing the examples of Greg Norman, Davis Love III and Ernie Els. “It seemed like one of the tournaments that I would win easily,” Love said. “My college coach always made me mad when he said par was 68 for me on a lot of golf courses. I know that’s the way Jack Nicklaus thought about Augusta National. You always think that way when you’re 25 years old. And I did. I came close, had a lot of good Masters. When [Ben] Crenshaw won his second time [in 1995], I shot a score that would have won all but a couple of Masters. I know I can do it, but I just didn’t do it at the right time. Expectations were high and it was disappointing not to have won.”

“Lee Westwood has such history at Augusta it is difficult to imagine a Masters without him. But we may as well enjoy watching the Englishman between those Georgia pines next week, because the 42-year-old plans only to carry on as a player for “two to three years” before concentrating on being the Europe captain at the 2020 Ryder Cup,” James Corrigan of the Telegraph writes in this story on Westwood’s shifting goals in his 40s.

“There is something almost gravity defying about Brittany Lincicome’s game,” Randall Mell of Golf Channel writes of the defending champion in the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the season. “It isn’t in the way her golf ball challenges Newton’s Law, soaring higher and farther than most of her peers. It’s in the way she breaks so unapologetically from the sport’s slavish conventions…She’s an American original in the women’s game…She doesn’t aspire to be No. 1, to break records or make it to the Hall of Fame. Lincicome isn’t daring to be great. She’s daring to be happy in a profession that makes so many of her colleagues miserable.”