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Augusta National Masters Tournament Profiled; Interview with Arnold Palmer; Interview with Gary Player

Aired April 12, 2014 - 14:30   ET


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST: Greetings from Augusta National, home of the Masters. This cathedral of golf is one of the world's most exclusive spots. But today you're going to get a peek behind the scenes for an all access look at the course and the people behind all of those putters. Welcome.


NICHOLS: Over the next half hour we'll hear from the legends of the game why this has become one of the most iconic events in sport.

TOM WATSON, MASTERS WINNER: The Masters epitomizes the start of the golf season. That's what it does for me. It's always special. You put that jacket on.

NICHOLS: We'll introduce to you one of golf's most charming rising stars and the woman who holds the keys to his game.

JUSTINE REED, CADDY: Trying to go for the fly?

PATRICK REED, GOLFER: No. Trying to hit something.

NICHOLS: And the landmark that a sitting U.S. president tried, and failed, to have removed, but Mother Nature tossed aside. "All-Access at Augusta" a CNN "Bleacher Report" special.


NICHOLS: I'm Rachel Nichols along with Shane O'Donoghue, the host of "Living Golf" on CNN International. And Shane, heading into the tournament the headline, of course, no Tiger. But now it's about Bubba Watson leading the tournament. How has he managed to do this?

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN GOLF ANALYST: He's done it with incredible zeal, and I think it's great to see Bubba back playing with great confidence, because he's very creative, extraordinarily talented, very long off the tee, and then he's got this amazing magical touch with the short game, the wedge, the putter. So it's great to see him back, and he's hunting down Masters title number two.

NICHOLS: Here's what he had to says as he came off the course and leading into the final stretch of the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUBBA WATSON, GOLFER: I've won golf tournaments. I was lucky enough to win here. Just got to keep my head down, same thing I've been doing the last two days. Not trying to focus on the crowd cheering for me. Trying to stay level, you know? Not too energized or too excited.


NICHOLS: Shane, so fan favorite Phil Mickelson didn't make the cut. This is the first time in 20 years that neither Phil nor Tiger will play in the final weekend at the Masters. What went wrong?

O'DONOGHUE: That's a really disappointing story for Phil especially coming in here, because he spoke so positively when he arrived here at Augusta National. He's won this title three times. He was looking for number four to match Arnold Palmer. And it just did not materialize, a couple really bad holes. So I'm afraid he had to head home yesterday.

NICHOLS: And Tiger, of course, didn't even play in this tournament, withdrew because of a back injury. And this is the latest in a long line of injuries. So what kind of future do you see with him?

O'DONOGHUE: I think a very restricted schedule. He has to tackle this, because there was no way he could play with any degree of comfort. So I think we're going to see Tiger playing less and less. It's all about the future for him, and the fire is in his belly and it remains so. He's still the world's number one, although I don't think for much longer. And for him to get his next major, he needs to be in good shape physically.

NICHOLS: He better get to it quick. He's been stuck at 14 majors for six years now, so he's got a ways to go before he hits that Nicolas 18 number.

Do not go too far, Shane. We are going to get you back later in the show, talk about your visit with Gary Blair. But right now we are going to switching gears. As tradition holds, this Masters began, as it does every year, with the ceremonial first shot by Arnold Palmer. Now we go to Lara Baldesarra who has spent some time with the Masters legend. Welcome, Lara.

LAURA BALDESARRA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Rachel, we really can't talk about the success of the game without giving a lot of credit to Arnold Palmer. This is a man who was a true golfing artist. This is man whose aggressive, go for broke style of play really captivated people on the course, but, more importantly, through the television as well.

Now, in regards to the Masters, Augusta National's most famous stretch of poles, the 11th, 12th and 13th poles, they're named because of Arnold Palmer's heroics en route to his first Masters victory in 1958. It was writer Herbert Warren Wind who then dubbed those holes "Amen Corner."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BALDESARRA: Did you think when you first heard "Amen Corner" that it would stick around forever?

ARNOLD PALMER, FOUR-TIME MASTERS WINNER: At first, I was excited to think that Amen Corner was going to be a place that was going to have a great effect on my life, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed those holes, and at one point in my life I kind of thought they were three holes that if I got by them, I would have a good chance to win the tournament. And for the best part, I played those holes pretty well.

BALDESARRA: What you've done for the game of golf is completely unparalleled. You were the perfect person at the perfect time with television, national television to begin broadcasting tournaments, to be the one that everyone could latch on to and love, and people followed you and adored you. And you had Arnie's army. What was it like when you would turn around and see that sea of people walking behind you down the fairway?

PALMER: Well, of course, it was great fun. And it was exciting to see so many people. and the enthusiastic people that they were. It was very exciting, and I enjoyed that, and, you know, I felt like I knew all of those people. They were people that I had been seeing for a lot of years.

BALDESARRA: Do you think there's any play other than the PGA tour today that reminds you of yourself playing the Masters?

PALMER: Oh, I don't know. People have said that Phil Mickelson is a lot like I am, on the golf course. But he's a great guy, and I consider that a compliment because he has played very well, and he has won the Masters. So, you know, I'd give him another chance. Even though he's getting into the mid-40s, it's going to be tougher from now on. And I know how that is, because I was there.

BALDESARRA: Tonight somebody is going to bed as the leader or co- leader. Your first Masters win in 1958 you were the co-leader heading into the final round along with Sam Snead. How did you sleep Sunday night?

PALMER: Well, one thing I'm fortunate in, I've never really had much trouble sleeping. I can get that sleep in pretty good.

BALDESARRA: Of course, you're a multiple Masters winner. Was putting on that green jacket and winning the Masters every time just as special as the first?

PALMER: It's always special. To put that jacket on, or have Jack Nicklaus put it on me, I liked that most of all. But that was fun. And it's fun, and I think anybody that has the opportunity to win and have that green jacket slipped on them should be thankful and enjoy it.


BALDESARRA: Palmer made 50 Masters appearances, with his final appearance coming in 2004. But his presence, it really just continues to be felt here at Augusta National with memories of his play really just dancing around every hole. Rachel?

NICHOLS: That is great, Lara, excellent stuff.

All right, when we come back, the story of a U.S. president and his Masters nemesis. You are never going to watch this tournament again without thinking of them both when "All Access Augusta" continues.



TOM WATSON: The Masters epitomizes the start of the golf season. That's what it does for me. You know, growing up in Kansas City, it never got warm until around the Masters time. You get those beautiful spring days that may have gotten up into the 70s, and the Masters always was kind of concurrent with that. Coming out of the winter doldrums, not able to play, and all of a sudden government is there and the Masters was the first event, seeing Arnold Palmer make his charges there, the whole history of it, Jack kind of taking over and all the great championships were played there. That's what it means to me. It's the harbinger of the spring and the golf season.


NICHOLS: Welcome back. I'm Rachel Nichols and you are watching our All Access special from the Masters. Here at Augusta National club members go to great lengths to preserve a sense of tradition. From the layout of the club house furniture to the price of a sandwich, not much has changed here in the past 50 years. That included a certain tree, at least until recently.


NICHOLS: Before there were green jackets, before the azaleas, before the Masters golf tournament even existed, a pine tree grew in Augusta, Georgia. They built the golf course around it, letting it reign over the 17th hole. And while would the 65-foot tree was beautiful, it could sure wreak havoc with a round of golf.

STEVEN STRICKER, GOLFER: I've hit it a few times, I know that. And it's definitely a thorn in most players' side.

NICHOLS: In 2011, Tiger Woods tore his Achilles punching a ball from the pine straw at the base of the tree. 1973 Masters champ Tommy Aaron had an even more bizarre encounter during his third to round at the '89 tournament.

TOMMY AARON, MASTERS WINNER: It hit in the top of the tree and pine pollen went everywhere, like a bomb had gone off.

NICHOLS: The ball stayed in the tree. Aaron took the penalty.

AARON: So the next day I'm playing, as I'm walking by the tree with my caddie, this ball comes falling out of the tree and rolls towards us in the middle of the fairway, and I go pick it up, and it's my ball. And some of them probably didn't believe it. It's such a farfetched story.

NICHOLS: But no one was more bothered by the tree than form e president Dwight Eisenhower, a member at Augusta. In 1956, Eisenhower petitioned for the tree's removal. Not only was his suggestion dismissed without a vote, the landmark became known as the Eisenhower tree.

PALMER: A couple times he told me. He said, Arnie, if I could hit that tree enough to bring it down, I'd do it.

NICHOLS: But this past February, an ice storm did something even a sitting president could not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ice storm hitting the area left no one unharmed, including Augusta National golf club. The historic Eisenhower tree has taken irreparable damage and has been removed from the grounds.

NICHOLS: Arnold Palmer doesn't think the late president, for whom the last president was named would exactly be mourning its demise.

PALMER: I'm sure it did not make him unhappy it was gone, but I think it was sort of a love-hate relationship. I think he got a kick out of complaining about the tree because it gave him a lot of trouble.


NICHOLS: Augusta National's chairman Billy Payne says the club has not yet decided whether they'll replace the tree with another one going forward. Like everything else here, change does not come easily.

All right, coming up next on "All Access at Augusta," we're going to introduce you to first-timer Patrick Reid.


JUSTINE REED: Trying to hit a cut?




MARK O'MEARA, MASTERS WINNER: One of the greatest memories is when I played in 1980 as the U.S. amateur champion. I didn't play well, way out of my league and my dad was obviously concerned for his son because I didn't play well. He was like, are you OK? I said, dad. I'm fine. I know you didn't play very. I said, dad, no matter I ever make as a professional golfer or not, at least I got to play in the Masters one time. I was here. I know I didn't do very well, but I was here.

And then you know what, 18 years later, 41 years of age, after playing in the Masters I think 13 times, it was my 14th Masters, I stood on the 18th green with a putt to win, and luckily it went in and I won. That's what I remember the most about the Masters.


NICHOLS: Welcome back to Augusta National, home of the Masters. I'm Rachel Nichols and this is "All Access at Augusta." Patrick Reed was a Masters rookie this year. Before this, his only playing time at the course was as a student at nearby Augusta State. Laura Rutledge reports he's now rising through the world rankings thanks to the person who knows him best.


JUSTINE REED: I just think when we work well together, and things are clicking between us, we always -- I just always felt deep down that no one could beat us.

LAURA RUTLEDGE: A golfer and his caddie, it's a relationship built on trust, and when Patrick reed chose his caddie, he selected the person who knew him best, his wife Justine. But now her caddying career is on hold while she's pregnant with the couple's first child.

PATRICK REED: Well, if she's anything like mommy and daddy, she's going to be a handful, especially if she's like daddy.

RUTLEDGE: Give us a little insight into what it's like when you're caddying and you guys may not agree on something.

JUSTINE REED: Trying to hit a cut?


JUSTINE REED: That wasn't a good one. I'm not hitting that ball. Don't make a laughingstock out of me.

RUTLEDGE: How do you work through that?

PATRICK REED: "Yes, honey."


JUSTINE REED: I'm not the pushy type. I'm not going to sit there and say, no, you need to this or you'll be in the water. But I'm thinking that.

RUTLEDGE: Reed is taking the golf world by storm, recording three victories since August. Following his latest win, he boldly declared himself a top five golfer in the world despite his current standing.

PATRICK REED: Our goal is to get to that top five, and if I keep playing the way I'm playing and continue that for a year, a year, maybe even more than that, then, you know, there should be no reason why I can't get up to my goal.

JUSTINE REED: I think he's brave to say his goals like that out in front of everybody. I've never seen an athlete who doesn't believe in themselves and doesn't believe that they're a top five athlete in the world.

RUTLEDGE: Justine, you've described this time where you've been pregnant and not able to caddy as being torture. Why?

JUSTINE REED: I told my doctor, I know you said that it's too much stress on the baby to carry the bag out there, but I feel like I'm more stressed out on the sidelines.

PATRICK REED: It doesn't feel good being benched. Does it, honey?

JUSTINE REED: No. I never liked that term, "being benched."


JUSTINE REED: And I really -- I haven't been benched much in my life.



NICHOLS: Now, like we heard from Mark Omera, it's not easy at your first Masters, and Reed did not make the cut here last night. But overall he's just the fifth player to win three tournaments before turning 24 years old. The other four, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Sergio Garcia, not bad company.

OK, straight ahead, CNN's Shane O'Donoghue visits with three-time Masters champ Gary Player.


GARY PLAYER, THREE-TIME MASTERS WINNER: You keep hearing, what a long driver this young boy is. He's going to be a star. Long drive means nothing. I wouldn't say nothing, but not as much emphasis as people are putting on it. Bunker shots, chipping, and putting, that's why Tiger Woods is the best. He's not a good driver of the ball.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stepping out on that place, there's nothing like it. And all people who enjoy golf and watch the tournament on television, and they see beautiful pictures. And it is just hugely picturesque. But when you get there in person, and you see how immense and vast the place is, and giant trees, you know, sloping hills, and the greens are just amazing in themselves.

And that's -- the fascination of playing that course is that it tempts you like no other course. And when you see them, they have that coat ready for you, it's pretty magical.


NICHOLS: Welcome back to "All Access at Augusta." I'm joined once again by Shane O'Donoghue. Talk about "All Access." I think you did this player piece from the kitchen, right?

O'DONOGHUE: We were in his kitchen, we were on the golf course with him. We were talking about everything to do with his fascinating life. He is 79 years of age. And when you look at this physical condition, the man, I think, is bionic. He is fascinating.


PLAYER: Good morning, Shane. Good to see, you my friend. I have breakfast for you this morning.

O'DONOGHUE: Fantastic.

PLAYER: You hit the ball a lot further after you eat this breakfast.

O'DONOGHUE: Are we having?

Your second Masters title, 1974. Does it feel like yesterday or -- have you felt the passage of time?


PLAYER: No. It does seem like yesterday, and it's certainly a great message that you should live for today and not think about tomorrow or the past. Also, just coming back here, this is my 57th time that I've attended the Masters. I should have bought a house here when we first started.


O'DONOGHUE: The unique atmosphere of Augusta National and the Masters, how they run the tournaments. Has it changed remarkably, or what do you attribute the essence of the Masters to be?

PLAYER: I think the two greatest evenings in golf that exist are the Open, I love the pomp and ceremony, and then the Masters dinner of all the champions every year with Ernie, the chairman is the only outside person who is allowed to attend, remarkable. So life changes in different phases, and what you've got to do, you've got to make yourself enjoy those particular phases.

O'DONOGHUE: Having won the grand slam, the third professional to do it after Sarazen and then Hogan, how different were you then and did it change your drive after you achieved that particular milestone?

PLAYER: When you have a tough youth, I think that's a big help for you in your life. And so after winning the grand slam, yes, it was a great achievement, but I was even more hungry. And even today at my age now I'm still hungry and my great desire now is health, to get health food to young people of the world, because the obesity factor is destroying the young people of the world to a great degree.

There is a great move now for people to realize, you are what you eat. And if you want to perform, whether it's in studies or sports, you're going to have to eat properly. As I say without being repetitive, the biggest technology right now in sports is going to be how you eat. O'DONOGHUE: Here's to another green jacket.


Sarazen To another green jacket! That's right, at Augusta, you have to drink green. Cheers!


NICHOLS: I love that, smoothies for everyone.

O'DONOGHUE: They were delicious. Like the Masters, if it's green, it's good for you.

NICHOLS: This is a good rule. All right, we cannot let you go before we ask you the most important question. Who is going to win this weekend?

O'DONOGHUE: I'm torn between two players but I'm going for Adam Scott to beat Bubba Watson in a shoot-out.

NICHOLS: A little repeat action. We're going to hold you to that. We'll see what happens. The next 36 holes, of course, will decide. And you can check out for real-time updates and analysis all weekend long as well as our coverage here at CNN. Saying goodbye from Augusta National, I'm Rachel Nichols. Newsroom is next.