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Tiger Woods Plays in Masters; Patrick Reed Leads Masters Tournament; Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player Discuss Playing the Master Tournament. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 7, 2018 - 14:30   ET



VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Greetings from Augusta, Georgia, home of the most anticipated Masters in years. This tournament, an American institution, played on one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world. And today you'll get a peek behind the scenes at Augusta National Golf Club, and of the people who make it all so iconic.


CELLINI: The dramatic road to Augusta national golf club. Tiger Woods back in action for the most highly anticipated Masters ever.

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: Six months ago I didn't know if I would be playing golf, forget playing at the tour level.

[14:30:01] I didn't know if I would ever play again. Now I know I am on the weekend.

PHIL MICKELSON, GOLFER: I know that I've appreciated the challenge of playing and competing against him and I also appreciate the level of greatness that he has achieved.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Excitement of the resurgence of the 40-somethings. Tiger and Phil, once bitter rivals, now finding common ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never thought I would see the day, Tiger and Phil playing a practice round at Augusta.

CELLINI: Taking on golf's hottest young players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They both have done so much for the younger generation, their influence on the game and our wanting to be like them when we grew up.

CELLINI: In this cathedral of golf the world's greatest players are always tested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to be on top of the game for this Sunday charge to put on the jacket.

CELLINI: At a place where time stands still, and legends are still revered.

JACK NICKLAUS, SIX-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: I drove down Magnolia Lane in 1959 and I was absolutely in awe. And Tuesday I went down Magnolia Lane, I was in awe again.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This is "All Access at Augusta," a CNN Bleacher Report special.


CELLINI: Hi, everyone, I'm Vince Cellini here in Augusta on what is known as moving day, and it's a damp moving day as the rains have moved in on day three of this Masters. We have a great show for you, terrific voices, including the World Golf Hall of Fame member Hale Irwin, he of the three U.S. Open victories and a top five finisher at the Masters, Shane O'Donoghue, host of CNN International's "Living Golf," and CNN sports contributor "USA Today's" Christine Brennan who will join us from just outside the press building at Augusta National overlooking the far end of the driving range.

So where do we stand right now at the 82nd playing of the Masters? Let's take a look atop the leaderboard. And there is an Augusta University product who has never posted a score in the 60s in four previous Masters, but Patrick Reed did so Thursday and Friday. He is at nine under in front of a host of major champions and pre-tournament favorites. Marc Leishman is two back, like Reed, seeking his first major.

A gentleman not seen on that board is one Tiger Woods. And Hale, he tantalized us in five previous PGA tour events, but Tiger is four over right now. What are you seeing?

HALE IRWIN, THREE-TIME U.S. OPEN WINNER: Well, I think we're seeing a resurgent Tiger Woods. He is never out of the mix, Vince. I don't think Tiger Woods is ever out of our minds. He's never out of the mix. What he has had to the endure over the last several years with all the surgeries, all the physical problems I think might be taking a little bit of a toll on the man who is now 42 years old.

But bear in mind that he has more experience around here than -- maybe Phil Mickelson might, but the two of them have struggled a bit over these last couple of days playing against this army of young people.

CELLINI: No question about that. Christine, the phenomenon of Tiger is strong, but so, too, is the challenge of Augusta. Tell us about that.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he had a tough time in those first two days. But I'll tell you this. Tiger, Vince, is more human. If anything, he is more likable. The crowds have come back. I was out there both days watching him, and it is like the '90s or the early part of the 21st century in the sense fans are willing him to do things that he probably yet can't do on this course.

But with Tiger back, the game of golf is thriving and the TV ratings go up. And I think we saw that, and I certainly saw that as well. If he is playing well, frankly making the cut and being out there at all, he'll probably have a bigger gallery out there than anyone else over the weekend.

CELLINI: I was out there, those galleries are strong. They're 10, 12, even more deep. Shane, but do you think that in some ways did we overplayed his return?

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN LIVING GOLF HOST: Well, I think Tiger-mania is understandable because he is the most transformative player of the modern generation. What he has achieved is just incredible, and to see him back is so exciting. And you want to see him playing on the grander stages. You don't want him to finish in a wheelchair, because it was looking likely that he was going to have to sail off into the sunset and never play again, because he feared that he would never play again. So this has been a minor miracle to see him back. And so it is understandable that everyone was excited.

CELLINI: Hale, you mentioned Phil Mickelson. It's been disappointing for Phil trying to become the oldest Masters winner ever, 79 on Friday, that tied his Masters high in a single round. But then again, there were expectations for Phil as well, but golf is a funny game as you know.

IRWIN: It will bite you. And I think with Phil, we saw yesterday just too many wayward shots. When you are going off into the pines to retrieve a golf ball and you are missing the greens, I don't care how good of a pitcher he is of the ball, there are just too many difficult, really difficult shots. So I know that Phil is very disappointed, but that is Augusta national. You just have to have a good plan, which I am sure that he had, but he just didn't execute it very well.

CELLINI: All right, let's get to some of the young guns here, and if there is a way, Shane, to make the Masters even bigger, Rory McIlroy is doing that. He is four under, and he is tee four going into the third next round. You've known him for a long time, since he was a kid, so tell me about where you see his game right now.

[14:35:00] O'DONOGHUE: I think it is perfectly poised and I think it is wonderful that he has been under the radar because of the Tiger mania and then Jordan doing some spectacular scoring on the opening day, he took over the mania to cope with the lack of Tiger's sparkle. And so people have not really focused on Rory as much. And to be honest, he is the one who is on the verge of history this particular tournament and this weekend, because the career grand slam is on the line, and he is perfectly poised.

CELLINI: He could become the first European player to capture a grand slam, sixth overall in golf, and Rory is in good form.

And now Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, and Hale, he had a tough start on Friday. He started six, six, were his first two numbers he wrote down. But he hung in there, he was grinding, and now he is part of the mix. What do you see?

IRWIN: I think Jordan, of all of the players, and I like the point you made about Rory, he is kind of there, but I think Jordan a little bit, too. He is very capable, obviously he's very capable, but sometimes when you the round he did on Thursday and you start out poorly like he did on Friday, it is sort of a slap in the face to get back into the game. And he did. He fought back, and now he is very, very much in the race.

CELLINI: Christine, you covered Spieth in Masters and U.S. Open win, so you know he is poised to play well in majors. He knows how the take those gut punches, doesn't he?

BRENNAN: He sure does. He is 24 going on 40, maybe 50. He is so mature, and the fact that he had those five consecutive birdies on the back nine in the first round, who else but Jordan Spieth would show up and all of a sudden explode like that. And really the maturity of such a young man is extraordinary that you see that kind of poise and be able to sink his way around the golf course, at this golf course at that young age. And I wouldn't count him out by any means.

CELLINI: Well, they are all chasing Patrick Reed who is looking for his first major championship. And guys, we have talked a little bit about him as well. He is a pit bull. He played very well, he can get hot. He's a guy that is going to be tough to chase over the weekend.

But there are always unlikelies at major championships, and I don't have to tell you this, Hale, because you were one of the guys who was sort of a wild card maybe in your last U.S. Open, the third and final one. And here it is, the putt, the celebration, Medinah in 1990. And it is a matter of hanging in there, isn't it? You never know.

IRWIN: You never know. And I think what you have to keep in mind is a goal. You have to have something in front of you try and achieve. The brass ring shouldn't be too easy to grasp. It has to be a little out of reach to make you work for it. And that day that was what I was trying to do at the final hole is to keep that brass ring in front of me but not so far out that I couldn't get to it. And that's what these young people have to do today when they are chasing the leaders, is keep it in front of them.

CELLINI: One of those unlikelies might be Tony Finau. He is really the comeback story of this event. You know the story, back on Wednesday, the par-three, he makes a hole in one, celebrates, backpedals. And Shane, he dislocates his left ankle and pops it back in. Yet he is two under through two days here. What toughness.

O'DONOGHUE: The storylines that are thrown up at the Masters are incredible, and he is certainly one of them because this is a minor miracle that he is in the position he is in, but really that he is actually contending in this Masters. And I think it's down to his desire to play in the Masters. It is obviously a long-hailed dream, he is making his debut. And as long as he got the all-clear after the MRI on Thursday morning, he was ready to go. And I think he played with adrenaline. And it's obviously getting him through this point, because he has to be in pain, Vince.

CELLINI: Christine, this is an amazing performance, wouldn't you say? Have you seen anything like it? BRENNAN: Well, I am laughing and smiling because aren't we all? We

have all done something dumb. Most of us are lucky that it is not captured on social media and goes around the world and becomes viral, but Tony Finau, people would not have known his name, would not know how to pronounce his name, wouldn't know who he was. Grandmothers probably had no idea and all of a sudden they are cheering for this guy because they watched him pop his ankle back in and jump up around. And I think it is a great story. I agree with Shane on this one and Hale, these moments. That is why we cover sports, that's why we are here, that's why we watch it. And Finau is really that guy, and social media phenom turned obviously, by the way, a great golfer.

CELLINI: Right. He said it was more the pain of embarrassment maybe than even the ankle coming out of place.


CELLINI: Sergio Garcia, your defending champion among those who had missed the cut joining Danny Willett as back-to-back defending champs missing the cut. And Sergio doomed by that opening 81 including a 13 on the par five 15th hole. And he also posted the higher score in Masters history for a defending champion.

Augusta is a timeless place where winners are celebrated for a lifetime, and you will see it exemplified as I sit down with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.


GARY PLAYER, THREE-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: I always said if there is a golf course in heaven, I want to be the head pro there of this golf course.



CELLINI: A most exclusive room indeed. You know, there is a forever quality to the Masters. You are a champion and invitee for life. And two legends exemplify this, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player who have combined to win nine Masters tournaments and 27 major championships total. They again served as the honorary starters back on Thursday and continue to inspire players and patrons alike.


GARY PLAYER, THREE-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: When Jack, Arnold, and I played, there were probably 15 people that could win. I think there are probably 25 that could win this week. I don't know what the number is, but I think we are in for one of the most exciting Masters, a, to see Tiger Woods coming back and playing so well, b, to see Rory having to win this to win the grand slam, and a host of other young guys who are knocking at the door to get their first major, very, very exciting.

[14:45:12] But the thing is that they are all playing well at the moment. So I don't know how we can get away without a tie this year.

CELLINI: Gary mentioned Tiger, and it is interesting. Here is a player in his 40s, and you have gone through professional health and life changes. That is a lot to group together and then to get yourself back to a place of success, is it not? Have you seen anything quite like that?

JACK NICKLAUS, SIX-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: I think that probably Hogan was probably the closest thing you would see to it. Tiger has been through a lot. I know three knee operations, three back operations, whatever the numbers are. And it is difficult to do that. And he has taken his swing and adjusted his golf swing to fit the operation. I mean, Tiger is a good enough athlete to do that. He has done a marvelous job. I think certainly he is going to be there somewhere this week.

CELLINI: Masters is forever, which I imagine all major championships are, but not quite like here. What will you tell the new winner in welcoming in to that club of Masters tournament winners, Gary?

PLAYER: Coming back here, the best organized tournament, not a weed on the golf course. You cannot find -- we played on Sunday and I said to 10 guys, see if you can find one weed. I said if you do, don't say anything, because the greenkeeper will be fired. But this is a very special place. And having had President Eisenhower here, Bobby Jones who Jack always put great emphasis on and I must say I was naive and wasn't quite aware of it, but now I am. So you felt that the guy comes, and you don't have to say a word to him. The ambiance speaks for itself.

CELLINI: Jack, it is a sacred place, is it not?

NICKLAUS: Well, from the time I drove down Magnolia Lane in 1955, my first time here, I was absolutely in awe. And Tuesday, I went down Magnolia Lane, I was in awe again. Same thing. It's a fantastic place. It's unbelievable. Everything that Gary has said about it is absolutely true. And it is a place that we just all love to coming back to every year and feels very blessed to have been a part of it.


CELLINI: Jack, Gary, and Tiger Woods are the three living career grand slam winners in golf, all on this property. Hale, it says a lot about the sport, the return of heroes, and this event.

IRWIN: Well, it does. Fortunately, Vince, when I came on tour, those gentlemen were starting or in the prime of the careers, and I have had the tremendous honor of calling them friends and seeing them perform, not only as players but as individuals through all these years. And I am very proud to say they are my friends, and anything that they do I applaud because they have everybody else in mind first before themselves.

CELLINI: Time spent with them is precious indeed.

Still ahead at "All Access at Augusta," does this guy look familiar to you? We will take you inside of the dressing room to get outfitted like a pro. No matter the state of the golf game, you will be entertained and you will be well-dressed.


[14:52:04] CELLINI: No road like that in golf. I am with three-time U.S. open Hale Irwin, former standout football player at the University of Colorado, but I think he made the right choice in sports. But don't all roads lead to golf no matter what is your sport? Take CNN's Hines Ward, two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a University of Georgia product. Here he is checking out the latest and the greatest of the golf and apparel and equipment. He's giving it a go.


HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR, TWO-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: We're here at the PGA Tour superstore, and I'm going to check some of the latest equipment and apparel from my favorites like Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. I want to see how those guys get it done. Come on, let's go.

Listen, man, the Masters are around the corner. I have to get my hands on some equipment. I mean, my favorite player is Tiger Woods. I like Rickie Fowler, he has a lot of swag. So can you help me out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can definitely help you out.

WARD: You see, this is nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the new Cobra F-8. Rickie is out there bombing it right now.

WARD: There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the Calloway Apex.

WARD: There it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That sounds good.

WARD: Pretty Rickie is what they call me.

Tiger Woods is my cousin, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is new M-3. This is Tiger's new club of choice.

WARD: He is bombing this one?


WARD: That is my bad miss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your miss? Square it up just a little bit, stop that miss. WARD: Down the middle, 300.


WARD: It's 291. I like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did it feel?

WARD: It felt great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is the closest that I have got to Tiger.

WARD: OK. This is expensive, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and roll a few with that and see how it feels.

WARD: That's it. I'm done. I'm done. I'm Tiger Woods.



CELLINI: It is all about the look, Hines. Nice putt.

So who do you have putting on the green jacket tomorrow? We are going to go around the horn, and we'll how history will be made and why this year's Masters will again be a very compelling watch.


CELLINI: Well, perhaps another seat at the table for a new champion. Some final thoughts here, and Hale, I will start with you. You have been to the Masters many, many times. And it's funny, at this point in the show we haven't mentioned the world number one, Dustin Johnson, who is looming at three under.

IRWIN: He is. And what I like was Shane's comment on the Tiger-mania and the Phil-mania. We've spent a lot time talking about Tiger and Phil. All of these other players, all of these high quality number one player in the world have flown under that radar of discussion, but they are right there.

CELLINI: And Shane, we have the two young gun, guys who are looking at the career grand slams this year.

O'DONOGHUE: It is fascinating. But Marc Leishman and our leader, Patrick Reed, they are like Butch and Sundance. Every time they look back the marshals are just on their tail. And in that chasing pack are some elitists. And obviously you've got the storylines of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Can he win the career grand slam? Well, I am biased, and Bob Jones was born on St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps it will happen this weekend.

(LAUGHTER) CELLINI: Fun to watch. Christine, I will give you the final word. Tiger Woods, can he summon up some magic this weekend at a place where he has been spectacular?

BRENNAN: Vince, I think he can. But I think what we will remember from this Masters is, one, the man who wins it, but number two, and maybe it is 1a and 1b, is Tiger's comeback. Six months ago we didn't think he could even play golf. And the fact that he is back is one of the sports stories of the year already.

CELLINI: The fact that he is back and plague golf, you're right, Christine, that is quite amazing.

Hale Irwin, Shane O'Donoghue, Christine Brennan, thank you so much all of you, great discussion. Thanks for being here.

And thank you for joining us. It is going to be a wild Saturday, wet here at round three of the Masters. Thank you for being with us. I'm Vince Cellini. Enjoy the 82nd playing at Augusta.