Augusta chairman Billy Payne talks Arnold Palmer, Donald Trump and course conditions

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Augusta chairman Billy Payne talks Arnold Palmer, Donald Trump and course conditions

PGA Tour

Augusta chairman Billy Payne talks Arnold Palmer, Donald Trump and course conditions

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Chairman Billy Payne held his annual state of the Masters news conference Wednesday to address various club matters and to answer media questions.

Payne spoke to a wide range of topics, from blooming flowers to Donald Trump. Here are the highlights:

AUGUSTA, GA – APRIL 10: Danny Willett of England hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Golfweek)

On the state of Augusta National’s turf:

“I am pleased to report that a mild winter, coupled with meticulous planning and execution, has resulted in a dense and lush overseed, and the course is looking and playing magnificently. Maybe, just maybe, the best turf conditions ever.”

On the premature spring bloom of flowers at Augusta National:

“So this year, we have decided that our color of choice is green (laughter), Augusta Green, and I hope you will agree that it is both abundant and beautiful.”

On the prospect of more course changes, including the fifth hole:

“We have a great opportunity now in that we now own the old Berckmans Road. It gives us the ability, as it touches certain holes, it gives us some way to expand or redesign, not redesign, but lengthen some of those holes, should we choose to do so, and all of them are under review.”

Honorary starter Arnold Palmer hits a tee shot as Gary Player (L) of South Africa and Jack Nicklaus (C) stand on the tee box at the start of the first round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

On Arnold Palmer:

“I will address it a little bit tomorrow at the Honorary Starter’s ceremony, but I’m not sure I ever met a man who was more giving than Arnold Palmer. He had a profound influence on my life.”

On asking the honorary invitees to no longer participate in the Par 3 Contest or play practice rounds:

“More of the tournament participants and former champions wanting to play, stretching out the required time to complete it to a point that it became exceedingly difficult to do it.”

On the possibility of a Masters reduced distance ball:

“But of course, as you would imagine, we always reserve the right to do whatever we have to do to preserve the integrity of our golf course. But I don’t think that will ever happen.”

On any plan to improve the grounds beyond an upcoming reconstruction of the main merchandise shop:

“That’s the last we have on the drawing board.”

On why the rule prohibiting cell phones at the Masters will not change while he’s chairman:

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate, and the noise is an irritation to not only players, the dialing, the conversation, it’s a distraction and that’s the way we’ve chosen to deal with it.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice watches the Masters Par 3 Contest.

On the prospects of adding more female members:

“Well, of course, we would not give you the profile of our incoming members before they know about it.”

On Donald Trump being closely associated with golf:

“I’m not the one to judge, whatever, how his other remarks may have some influence on the game of golf, which is where my interest level resides exclusively. Thank you.”

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