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Sand Storm At last year's Masters, Jeff Maggert lost the tournament because of two horrendous bunker shots. Was one of them someone else's fault?

April 06, 2004
April 06, 2004

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April 6, 2004

Sand Storm At last year's Masters, Jeff Maggert lost the tournament because of two horrendous bunker shots. Was one of them someone else's fault?

Memories fail. People can't remember last year's events at the
12th hole on Masters Sunday, let alone those from 46 years ago. But
that hasn't stopped Ken Venturi from trying to sell his version of
what happened in the tricky middle of Amen Corner in the last round
of the 1958 Masters. That's when Arnold Palmer received a bad
ruling--a player's phrase--from an official, played an extra ball
because of the dispute and went on to win his first green jacket.
Palmer remembers the incident one way, Venturi another, and most of
the other principals are dead.

This is an article from the April 6, 2004 issue Original Layout

Words fail too. There are verifiable facts, which are in short
supply when things get hot, and then there's everything else.
Judgments, mostly. It's a fact that when Jeff Maggert came to the
par-3 12th hole last year, paired with eventual winner Mike Weir in
the final twosome, he trailed Weir by a shot and Len Mattiace by
two. It's a fact that Maggert made an 8 on the hole. It's also a
fact that after Maggert signed his card last year, he said a bad
rake job--a player's phrase--did him in on 12. What constitutes a
bad rake job is a judgment.

A case was opened, and the first thing the golfing detectives
wanted to do was assess the reliability of the main witness,
Maggert. Is he a complainer, a player who might blame a misplayed
shot on a spectator adjusting his socks before he would blame
himself? Is he a stoic, a player prepared to accept responsibility
for the whereabouts of his golf ball? Or is he, like the vast
majority of players, somewhere in between?

Maggert is in the great middle, but leaning toward stoic, which
helped keep his case alive for a year. A true complainer has to
have a chorus to play to: an entourage, a large group of player
buddies, the press. Maggert doesn't have any of that. It was
pointed out that Maggert looked like a stoic in the 3rd hole
fairway bunker on Masters Sunday last year. That's when the modest
Texan, who was leading the tournament, played a 53-degree wedge
that bounded off the bunker's lip and struck him in the chest. He
pointed to himself immediately, to indicate to Weir that he was
acknowledging a two-shot penalty, leading to a triple-bogey 7 that
took him from one shot ahead of Weir to two shots behind. On the
other hand, if he were a full-bore stoic, would he have made any
public mention about the condition of the bunker on 12? No.

When asked, Maggert offered this account of what happened, nearly
a year after the event: "I was four under and Mike was five under
on 12 tee. I figured the winner would come out of our group. I
pulled a seven-iron a little bit, and it landed in the bottom of
the back-left bunker, then it skipped up the back slope. Normally
at Augusta, you'd expect the ball to roll up and roll back down
again. But it got caught in--it's hard to describe--the furrow left
by the teeth of a rake."

"Like a wavy bit of sand," said Brian Sullivan, who has caddied
for Maggert for 14 years. "When you rake a trap, the first stroke
is supposed to be away from you, but this was done the wrong way
and the sand got all wavy."

Maggert listened to his caddie's account and added, "The ball got
stuck in a little depression, like the kind left by the head of a
rake if you dropped it in the sand."

The rakes at Augusta are surprisingly ordinary, the same rakes you
find at many public courses, about five feet long, very light, with
a plastic handle and a plastic head with 17 tines. The sand at
Augusta is harder to describe. Some players say it's fluffy and
white, and some say it's heavy, wet and dark, and some say it's
both, with the top inch or two fluffy and white, while underneath
it's heavy and dark. An Augusta spokesman says the club uses only
one kind of sand, a bright-white, fine-grain sand called Feldspar,
and that the bunkers are watered each night, to keep swirling winds
from displacing sand.

Some players, Maggert among them, say the traps at Augusta National
are the best anywhere, beautifully groomed, with perfectly
consistent sand. Others say the Augusta bunkers are a nightmare.
David Toms says the Augusta bunkers "are another way they trick up
the course," and that simply getting out in one shot constitutes
success.

Maggert believes that in past years Augusta has had volunteers
stationed at various holes to help rake the bunkers. Sullivan
thinks there is such a person only on the 1st hole, to work the
enormous fairway trap that seldom comes into play anymore. There
are other players and caddies who think there are visiting
superintendents who walk the course with each group and rake the
bunkers as needed. It turns out, according to an Augusta spokesman,
they're all wrong. At the British Open there are volunteer rakers
who clean up after the caddies as necessary. At Augusta, the
caddies are on their own and always have been.

Maggert says he has never tried to figure out who was responsible
for his bad rake job. The 2003 Masters was a confidence boost for
him, and his Sunday round was the kind of demonstration of guts a
player can carry around for years. He made five birdies that
Sunday. His only hiccups were the bunker shots on 3 and 12, and
despite those two disasters, he finished fifth. Getting caught up
in some sort of bunker-raking inquisition would diminish the
positives of the week for him. He really had only one detail to add
for inquirers: that when he came to the 12th tee, somebody was in
the back-left bunker, still raking.

Maggert's snowman on 12 didn't take very long. His bunker shot
came out low and fast, skittered across the green and trickled
through the fringe before settling in the bottom of Rae's Creek.
Weir watched the ball as it slipped into the water, taking off his
cap as Maggert's Titleist began to submerge. RIP, golf ball.
Maggert, flustered, duffed his next shot from the drop area on the
far side of the hazard, a 68-yard pitch shot that plopped in the
middle of the creek. He dropped another ball, pitched on the green
and two-putted for his 8, with two penalty shots.

Forty-seven golfers played in front of the Weir-Maggert caboose.
The CBS telecast showed only two players hitting out of the
back-left bunker on 12, Toms and Vijay Singh, both of whom happened
to be in the same group, one ahead of Maggert and Weir. Toms's ball
had also finished on a downslope, without getting caught in any
sort of depression. A CBS producer said that every tee shot on 12
is recorded in case there's a hole in one, but the camera stops
tracking once it becomes clear the ball is not headed for the hole.
He also said there was no tape that showed who did the raking for
Toms and Singh. Augusta National workers plot the location of every
shot played in the Masters--but only on the holes where the club is
considering design changes. The 12th is the same today as it was in
1934. Eighty greenside bunker shots were played by 43 players in
the final round (individual sand-save performances are recorded),
but good luck figuring out which of those were played on 12.
Memories fail.

Sullivan, in the self-appointed role of lead investigator, quickly
established that Singh's then caddie, Paul Tesori, raked the
bunker. Despite Tesori's credentials--he'd spent three years
carrying for one of the top five players in the world--Sullivan
regards him dubiously. "He's not a real caddie," Sullivan says.
Singh made a bogey on 12, and Sullivan believes Tesori did a rush
job in the bunker "trying to suck up to Vijay. Later he comes up to
me and says, 'Nice playing.' I ignore him, won't have anything to
do with him."

Tesori now works for Jerry Kelly, but in an interview last month
he described his work in the small back-left bunker on 12 on
Sunday, April 13, 2003, at a little after 5 p.m. He
sounded--warning: here comes a judgment--calm, collected and
credible. "Scott Gneiser [Toms's caddie] cleaned Vijay's ball for
me, and I raked the bunker for both of us," Tesori said, confirming
what Sullivan had determined. Toms's ball finished on a downslope,
as Maggert's did minutes later, without getting caught in the
furrow of a rake's head. "I [started to] rake David's part of the
bunker. David has to putt, Vijay has to putt. So I back up, let
them finish, then I finish raking. Scott comes over, to check out
the rake job. He says, 'This looks good, but there's another clump
over here.' It's to the left, where we didn't even hit our shots,
but I say, 'Yeah, good catch.' And I smooth it down." Tesori knows
from watching a tape that the "clump" was about six feet from where
Maggert played his shot.

"Jeff Maggert's a wonderful player, and I'm not saying he didn't
pull a bad lie, but it wasn't from the rake job I did. [Later]
Scott came up to me and said, 'Did Sully ever say anything to you
about the rake job on 12?' I said no. He said, 'I guess they're
saying we did a poor rake job.' And I said, 'I'm sorry they feel
that way, but I did the best job I could.'"

Some of the investigators are willing to leave it at that.
Sullivan is not. He says that Tesori was the last person in the
bunker before his man got in there, and that makes him responsible
for the entire thing, all 476 square feet of it. For Maggert's
caddie, the case closes with that. For Maggert, it does not. "I got
a bad break, but I'm the one who hit the ball back there," he says.
"If you want to survive out here, you've got to move on, or you can
beat yourself up over stuff forever." For a player, he says, the
blame game does nothing for your own game.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ACTION IMAGES/RICHARD HEATHCOATE/ICON SMI BUNKERED DOWN On Sunday, Maggert came to the par-3 12th hole two shots back, but he hit his tee shot into the back-left bunker and was left with an awkward downhill lie.COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ACTION IMAGES/RICHARD HEATHCOATE/ICON SMI SLAM DUNK Maggert's second shot found Rae's Creek and so did his fourth from the drop area, leading to a round-killing 8.THREE COLOR PHOTOS: RUSTY JARRETT BAD BOUNCE On the 3rd hole Maggert's second shot caught the lip of a fairway bunker and rebounded into him for a two-stroke penalty. He made a triple-bogey 7.COLOR PHOTO: ROSS KINNAIRD/GETTY IMAGES BLAME GAME Sullivan, who is Maggert's caddie, has not shied away from assigning blame for the condition of the bunker at 12.
"The ball got stuck in a little depression," says Maggert, "like
the kind left by the head of a rake if you just dropped it in the
sand."