APRIL 3, 2017

Golf has a problem when it comes to growing the game, a tedious phrase that has been tossed around for the past decade.

The problem is, whose job is it to grow the game? The game’s governing bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A? The PGA of America? The PGA Tour? Tiger Woods?

All right, it’s definitely not up to Woods. And it has been amusing to talk about growing the game when until recently, the sport’s participation numbers have been in sharp decline. “Stop the bleeding” would have been a more accurate rallying cry.


Dustin Johnson is the favorite among Las Vegas oddsmakers to win his first Masters this week, but is that a good sign or a warning? 

Johnson, a 5-1 choice, has earned the bettors’ confidence after three consecutive PGA Tour victories this season and his spot as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But recent history at Augusta National has not been kind to the favorite. Since 2008, no Vegas betting favorite at the beginning of the week sported the green jacket on Sunday.


For many golf insiders, Masters week starts today. For the past five years, my Masters week has begun a day earlier at a public golf course four miles from Augusta National.  

Forest Hills Golf Club, a 1926 Donald Ross design, tests some of the best college teams in the country each spring.

This year, Central Florida won the 3M Augusta Invitational by four shots over Wake Forest, coming from two shots back Sunday against first-day co-leaders Illinois and New Mexico.


Lexi Thompson provided plenty of inspiration of her own Sunday in the ANA Inspiration, nearly completing one of golf’s greatest comebacks.

Leading by two strokes after 12 holes of the final round Sunday, Thompson was informed by LPGA rules officials that she had been assessed four penalty strokes because of an incident in Saturday’s third round at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She went from two strokes ahead of Suzann Pettersen to two down in an instant.

Keeping score


Number of spots in the Official World Ranking that Adam Scott dropped, from seventh to ninth, after a missed cut at the Shell Houston Open. Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler moved up one spot each: Thomas to seventh and Fowler to eighth. The rest of the top 10 remained unchanged entering this week’s Masters: No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 3 Jason Day, No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 5 Henrik Stenson and No. 6 Jordan Spieth, with Alex Noren at No. 10.


Number of birdies recorded by Russell Henley, a career high, in a final-round 7-under 65 for a come-from-behind victory Sunday in the Shell Houston Open. Henley, who had trailed third-round leader Sung Kang by four strokes, won by three with a 20-under 268 at Golf Club of Houston. Henley, 27, a native of Macon, Ga., who played college golf at Georgia, earned the 95th and final invitation into this week’s Masters.


Length, in feet, of the birdie putt that Miguel Angel Jimenez made on the first playoff hole to repeat as champion in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. Holding a two-stroke lead on the final hole Sunday at Fallen Oak in Biloxi, Jimenez made a double bogey on the par-4 18th to shoot 2-under 70 and fall into a tie with Gene Sauers at 13-under 203. Jimenez, 53, a Spaniard who posted 21 victories on the European Tour, returned to the 18th hole and prevailed in the playoff. He has won one tournament in each of the past four years on the PGA Tour Champions.


Length, in yards, of the drive that Clay Merchent of Noblesville, Ind., hit Sunday in the 14-15 age division of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National (Ga.) Golf Club. But that old adage applies to the kids just as much as to the big guys who will be teeing it up this week at Augusta: Driving isn’t everything. Merchent tied for fifth in his division, which was won by Mason Quagliata of Scottsdale, Ariz., in a playoff against Andrew Scholz of Fairway, Kan.

From the Morning Read inbox

The curse of slow play

There is a "curse," all right, but not a Canadian one (“Hadwin could deliver antidote for ‘Canadian curse’ at Augusta,” March 29,

Stan Leonard, who made 12 trips to the Masters, fell victim to it in 1959 when he was in good position to win but was paired with Dr. Cary Middlecoff, a notoriously slow player. George Knudson was a notoriously poor putter. You can't win at Augusta with poor putting. Golf's rules are not followed in any PGA Tour event, or amateur events, either. Rule 6-7 may as well be removed from the rule book.

Players will do what officials allow them to do: stretch it as far as possible. Golfing bodies, please follow your own rules. Make common sense rule. Hand out a bevy of two-stroke penalties, not meaningless fines or warnings.

Harry White
Vancouver, British Columbia

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April 6-9
PGA Tour: Masters Tournament
Augusta (Ga.) National GC
April 7-9
Symetra Tour: Northern California Classic
Windsor (Calif.) GC
April 12-15
LPGA: Lotte Championship
Ko Olina GC, Kapolei, Hawaii
April 13-16
European Tour: Trophee Hassan II
Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, Rabat, Morocco
PGA Tour: RBC Heritage
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
April 14-16
Champions Tour: Mitsubishi Electric Classic
TPC Sugarloaf, Duluth, Ga.
April 19-22
Junior: Sage Valley Junior Invitational
Sage Valley Golf Club, Graniteville, S.C.
April 20-23
European Tour: Shenzhen International
Genzon GC, Shenzhen, China Tour: United Leasing and Finance Championship
Victoria National GC, Newburgh, Ind.
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open
TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course)
April 21-23
Champions Tour: Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge
Top of the Rock, Ridgedale, Mo.
Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic
Sara Bay CC, Sarasota, Fla.
April 25-26
National Golf Day

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