No Payne, No Gain

"Asia has a growing golf population and we hope to inspire the next generation of golfers," Payne said.
Fred Vuich/SI

At this year's Masters, for the first time, you're televising the Par 3 Contest (Wed., April 9, 3-5 pm, ESPN). Why now?
Innovation has always been the cornerstone of this tournament. The Masters was the first event that had four rounds, instead of 36 holes, the final day; the first golf (broadcast) in HDTV. The Par 3 Contest is unique in sport. We hope that when young people see holes-in-one, kids as caddies and golfers having fun, they will be inspired to try the game.

You've given exemptions this year to one player from China, one from Thailand and one from India. Is this part of a broader effort to make golf bigger worldwide?
First, these players deserve to be in the Masters. They are all talented and accomplished. (But) geography does play a role in an invitation. Asia has a growing golf population, and we believe that there will be a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm in the respective countries due to the participation of these players. We do hope to inspire the next generation of golfers.

Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first ball for the first time last year. At the press conference afterward, you deftly stepped in when he began to blink back tears. Since every golfer wants a game, do you plan to give Mr. Palmer some company on the first tee this year?
Last year's honorary-starter ceremony was such a special day for this tournament, our members, our patrons and me personally. I guess we'll just have to see what the future holds!