Wednesday, April 4, 2012
A severe storm blew through Augusta around midnight, leaving a wave of destruction in its path.
The gates to Augusta National, which normally open at 8 a.m., were not opened until 8:40 a.m. as crews worked to clean up damage from the storm.
One of the workers I talked with said there were a few downed trees inside the course.
But all is good so far -- the sun is shining and the heat is already bearing down. We could see some storms today, but hopefully everything will stay clear for the Par 3 Contest, which is set to start this afternoon.
The news conference with Billy Payne, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, is scheduled for 11 a.m. It's during this conference that we'll find out about any changes to the tournament.
There were both intense and laughter-filled moments during the news conference with Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne.
One of the hot topics was about the potential for female membership in the club, which is an issue that was thrust into the spotlight when Virginia Rometty became CEO of IBM. The chief executives of major sponsoring companies are typically given memberships to Augusta National. After being asked multiple questions about this, Payne was firm in his response that these "private deliberations" were not up for discussion.
Another big topic was storm damage. Payne said several trees fell, although none of them will impact the competition. The cleanup is ongoing after 1.4 inches of rain fell on the course. One of the restrooms was hit by a falling tree and several bunkers were washed out. He called his team's response "amazing." The course won't have its usual firmness but should be OK for the competition.
During his opening statement, Payne put a lot of emphasis on growing "the great game of golf." He said much outreach is being done to ensure more young people are brought into the game.
Payne was very happy to discuss the revamp of Masters.com, saying the website underwent dramatic changes. He said their main goal is to create a website that is beautiful and a source of information. All of the ticketing for the tournament is now online, which Payne was excited to note.
The chairman had lots of great things to say about Rory McIlroy, calling him "a true gentleman." Although he didn't hint to who he thinks will win this year, he did say McIlroy has a green jacket in his future.
He made sure to to note the deaths of former Masters champion Seve Ballesteros, veteran sportscaster Jim Huber and renowned golf writer Furman Bisher.
Payne was close with Bisher and said the loss was hard for him.
"He told me that he was proud of me," he said. "I told him he was my hero."
A few renovations have been made to the course since last year, including a heating and cooling system being added to the eighth and 16th holes, building Berckmans Place and an observation stand on the 14th.
Made my way over the Par 3 Contest. All of the golfers seemed to be in good moods. The way the course is set up makes it a more intimate, social event. Some of the golfers even brought their children along as caddies.
An interesting fact: I received word from the newsroom that the Richmond County Dive Team is stationed around the ponds at the Par 3 Course in case someone falls or jumps in.
I saw a lot of players pass by in the time I was there, but the most notable were Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Trevor Immelman.
Trevor Immelman with his caddie:
Yes, the grass is really this green.
A scenic picture from the course.
Dying to know the most recent scores from the Par 3 Contest? Keep up with the latest scores on Masters.com.
Just made it back inside safely after the horns sounded, telling the crowd play had been suspended due to severe weather.
Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had just finished the third hole when play was suspended.
At this moment, Padraig Harrington and Jonathan Byrd are tied for first after shooting 22. Adam Scott is one stroke behind.
Just saw this on the Masters website:
"The Par 3 Contest is completed because of inclement weather. Padraig Harrington and Jonathan Byrd tied for first at 5-under."
A weather update from News 12's Meteorologist Vicki Graf: "Right now there are a few more showers/storms that are passing through the Augusta area. Behind that we are watching for a possible break in the activity, the showers seem to be tapering off but they could always develop ahead of a boundary back across northwest Georgia."
With that forecast, it doesn't seem like any more practicing will go on today.
Here are some pictures News 12's Engineer Gary Williamson took of the storm damage from early this morning.
Finally got the chance to upload some pictures from earlier.
One of the biggest highlights of the day was seeing Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the Par 3 Contest. Palmer, Nicklaus and Player are going to be the honorary starters tomorrow morning, teeing off at 7:40 a.m.
Arnold Palmer putting:
Jack Nicklaus putting:
Gary Player and Arnold Palmer putting:
Jack Nicklaus putting while Gary Player stretches:
Gary Player having some fun interacting with the patrons:
All three honorary starters together:
Some of the golfers had their children as caddies in the Par 3 Contest. One of the cutest caddies was the son of Rory Sabbatini (South Africa).
Y. E. Yang and his young caddie.
Jerry Pate had some fun talking to the crowd at the third hole.
Saw Rory McIlroy outside of the clubhouse just before it started thundering.