AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – The Houston Open has created an identity as the last chance for a player to qualify for the Masters.
But not next year.
The Masters traditionally ends on the second Sunday of April, and the way the calendar falls in 2013, that pushes it back one week later than usual. The Masters next year will be April 11-14.
That leaves an extra week between Bay Hill – the end of the Florida swing – and the first major of the year. The PGA Tour has decided that Houston will stay the week after Bay Hill, and the Texas Open in San Antonio will take the spot the week before the Masters.
Along with giving players (Ernie Els comes to mind) one final chance to qualify for the Masters, Houston has become an attractive spot for players wanting competition before the first major. It sets up Redstone Golf Club to help prepare players for Augusta.
“We're going to work with it,'' Houston Open tournament director Steve Timms said. “It's not going to change the strategy at all in terms of how we set up the golf course. We have momentum. We've been received well by the players. We're hopeful they'll continue to want to play in Houston to prepare for the Masters.''
But it's less than ideal for Houston.
For starters, the Houston Open will end on Easter Sunday next year. And if that's not enough, the PGA Tour has agreed to move the Tavistock Cup – a Monday-Tuesday exhibition – from the week of Bay Hill to the week of Houston. That made-for-TV gig attracts 24 players, most of them in the Orlando, Fla., area.
That roster typically includes Tiger Woods, who represents Team Albany from The Bahamas. And that might hurt the one upside of Houston moving away from the week before the Masters – a chance to get Woods for the first time. Timms spoke to Woods' agent last week at the Masters about the schedule change.
“He said that was interesting, but he doesn't know how that will affect his schedule,'' Timms said. “Historically, he has played two weeks before the Masters.''
The last time this scheduling quirk happened was in 2008. New Orleans was inserted after the Florida swing, and Houston kept its spot before the Masters. Woods did not play in New Orleans that year.
It's the second time in three years the Texas Open has been given a spot that belonged to another tournament. Hilton Head is traditionally the week after the Masters, but in 2011 when the tournament was trying to replace its sponsor, it was moved to two weeks after Augusta. The Texas Open followed the Masters.
Why can't Texas go a week before the Houston Open next year?
According to two officials, the Texas Open contract says that it cannot end on Easter Sunday, which is why it was given the week after the Masters last year. The tournament is one of the top contributors to charity on the PGA Tour, with much of that money coming from a golf outing it holds the day after its event. The fear is that ending on Easter would limit participation in the outing.
Timms sees some positives out of the date change for 2013. There's still a chance he can get Woods. And because it will fall two weeks before the Masters, that will be the cutoff for players trying to get into the top 50 in the world to qualify for the Masters.
“We'll only know next year at this time if that's able to outweigh some of the challenges with Easter,'' Timms said.
WHAT'S IN A NAME: The name of the most famous shot in Masters history makes no sense.
Augusta National came across two newspaper clippings from 1935 when Gene Sarazen holed a 4-wood for his second shot on the par-5 15th. Both referred to the shot as a “double eagle.''
But if an eagle is two shots under par, a double eagle then would be four shots under par.
It's known as an “albatross'' everywhere but in the United States, no doubt because of Sarazen, yet Sarazen once referred to his shot as a “dodo,'' and so the mystery continues.
“I didn't know what a double eagle was until I came to the U.S.,'' Geoff Ogilvy once said. “Maybe they couldn't think of a word for something better than an eagle, so they called it double eagle. But it's not really a double eagle, it's an eagle-and-a-half.''
Scoring terminology went to the birds long ago.
According to the “Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms,'' the word “birdie'' came from the American slang of something special. The story goes that three men were playing the par-4 second hole at The Country Club in Atlantic City, N.J., when Ab Smith's second shot stopped inches from the hole and he called it a “bird of a shot.'' That led to a shot one under par being called a birdie. That was in 1903.
Thus began the use of birds in scoring, such as an eagle, and so “albatross'' makes sense.
“It's a good bird, isn't it?'' Ogilvy said. “They fly across oceans. It's grand, which is what describes the shot.''
Grand, indeed, considering there have been only four such scores in Masters history, the most recent Louis Oosthuizen on the par-5 second hole Sunday.
PING GOES PINK: That pink driver used by Bubba Watson is going to the market.
Two days after Watson won the Masters, Ping said it would sell 5,000 limited-edition G20 drivers with the pink shaft and head. The drivers sell for $430, and Ping said it would donate 5 percent to a fundraising campaign called, “Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by Ping.''
As part of the campaign, the Phoenix-based company donated $10,000, along with $300 for every drive Watson has hit this year. To date, the campaign has generated $61,600 for charity.
Watson, meanwhile, launched “Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million'' in January with hopes of raising $1 million for charities this year.
“Even prior to his win at The Masters, golfers were requesting pink G20s,'' said John Solheim, chairman and CEO of Ping. “Through word of mouth, social media and phone calls, the interest was extremely high. We want to satisfy that demand while bringing even more visibility to Bubba's goal of raising $1 million.''
DIVOTS: Greg Norman will be designing a course in Brazil, although it has nothing to do with the Olympics. He was chosen to build a course in the coastal city of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, about 1,500 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. … One of the first things Bubba Watson did on his first day as Masters champion was to change his cell phone number. “It's crazy how people get ur number,'' he tweeted. … The last 14 majors have been won by 14 players, the longest stretch of parity since 15 major winners starting with Nick Price at the 1994 through Lee Janzen at the 1998 U.S. Open. … Americans have won consecutive majors for the first time since Lucas Glover (U.S. Open) and Stewart Cink (British Open) in 2009.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the four players who made an albatross at the Masters, Jeff Maggert is the only one not to finish among the top 10. He made 2 on the par-5 13th in the final round of 1994 and shot 75 to tie for last place.
FINAL WORD: “It's like Disneyland for the adults.'' – Lee Westwood, on bringing friends to the Masters.