5 Things: Your chance to play Augusta National

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Tiger Woods 12: The Masters

87,600.

That’s the approximate number of man-hours it took to create the virtual version of Augusta National for Tiger Woods 12: The Masters, an EA Sports spokesman told Golf360. It’s equivalent to 10 people working 24/7 for an entire year.

The only number that’s more impressive? Zero.

That’s the number of leaks that occurred in the three years since EA Sports and Augusta National Golf Club first discussed bringing the famous layout to the video-game realm.

Not even WikiLeaks got hold of the information.

The announcement also provides a much-needed boost to the Tiger video game franchise, which suffered a steep drop-off in sales in light of Woods’ personal struggles.

EA has continued to lessen Woods’ presence on the cover of the game. In 2011, Rory McIlroy became the first player to share the cover with Woods. One of Augusta National’s trademark yellow flags is prominently featured on the cover of this year’s game. The rest of the space is dominated by images of Augusta’s famed 12th and 13th holes. Woods, shown hitting a shot into the 12th, is barely noticeable with his back to the camera.

••••••••••••••

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David Fay

Give a guy a bow tie and a national television audience, and he becomes a media star.

David B. Fay, the bow-tied man in the blue blazer, became the best-known, best-liked executive director in the 116-year history of the U.S. Golf Association.

The 60-year-old Fay stepped down Dec. 31 after 21 years as executive director of the U.S. Golf Association. All along, it has been clear he loves golf.

Almost as much as he loves baseball.

He’s probably lucky he wasn’t commissioner of Major League Baseball. It’s one of the few sports jobs as tough and as complicated as being executive director of the USGA.

The USGA executive director is caught perpetually between a rock and a hard place.

The rock is the USGA Executive Committee, composed of 15 wealthy volunteer members who rule golf in the United States and Mexico and make all final decisions in USGA matters. The hard place is the game itself, with tens of millions of opinionated golfers playing many of the same courses and abiding by the same rules as the touring pros.

Thus the peculiarities of golf and the USGA.

The USGA has two arms, the volunteer arm (including the Executive Committee and the officers) and the full-time employee arm (based at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.). The two arms are often at odds, and recent USGA presidents such as Walter W. Driver Jr. of Atlanta have implemented revenue-producing changes that rocked the foundation of the employee base in Far Hills (many employees felt Driver and other officers were insensitive and unfair in areas of job security, compensation and benefits).

In the middle of this conflict-waiting-to-happen – for more than two decades – was Fay, the executive director.

••••••••••••••

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Elliot Saltman

Scotland’s Elliot Saltman earned his card at the European Tour Qualifying School in December. However, he starts his career on the main European Tour with a cloud hanging over his head.

He is due to face the tour’s tournament committee on cheating allegations. Playing companions Marcus Higley and Stuart Davis reported Saltman for incorrectly marking his ball on a number of greens during the Russian Challenge Cup on the European Challenge Tour last September.

Saltman was disqualified from the tournament. He was supposed to have met the tournament committee before Q School but is likely to now meet with the 15-man committee in Abu Dhabi later this month.

••••••••••••••

The LPGA is scheduled to release its 2011 schedule Thursday, and sources told Golf360 there’s a domestic event on tap with an interesting twist: Players will play for free.

The inaugural Founders Cup, designed in the spirit of pioneering LPGA founders, will be a charity-driven event in which players receive financial help for travel expenses, but don’t take home a paycheck. Sources say the three-day tournament will be in Phoenix at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge on March 18-20, kicking off the tour’s domestic schedule. The move fills a key market for the LPGA, which attracted record crowds at nearby Superstition Mountain when Safeway was sponsor of the former event.

Players still would receive official “money” and points toward rankings, the Hall of Fame and season-ending awards. They’d just give whatever money they earned back to charity.

Question is, will the top players show up?

After two limited-field events in Asia in February to start the year, more than half of the tour will begin its season playing for free.

••••••••••••••

If you were wondering why English golfers are performing so well on the world stage right now, then an upcoming trip by the English Golf Union might provide the answer.

The EGU is funding six of its elite amateurs to play in six amateur events in Australia. Laurie Canter, Stiggy Hodgson, Tom Lewis, Jack Senior, Andrew Sullivan and Darren Wright , all members of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup squad, will begin their Down Under adventure in the Masters of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne, Jan. 11-14.

In the never-ending quest to develop future stars, such experience is proving priceless.

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