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Bend it like Brown

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Rob Hodgetts | 16:41 UK time, Thursday, 8 April 2010

He may not have won the Masters in his career, but BBC commentator Ken Brown may just have set a new course record at Augusta.

The former Ryder Cup star could very well stake a claim to be the first man to play football on the hallowed turf of the Augusta National.

Forget bending it like Beckham. Curling it like Ken played to a smattering of bemused patrons as the shadows lengthened on the 13th fairway on the eve of the Masters.

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With the par 3 contest over, and players long since packed up on the course, I joined the BBC TV crew to film one of the famous 'Ken on the Course' pieces.

Clutching a small purple and yellow basketball, a six-iron and some golf balls, Ken strode purposefully into the middle of the fairway on the 13th. A small green disc showed 197 yards to the front of the green.

Ken was keen to show the banking on the fairway, but paused to let some background noise die down.

"Oh look, they're mowing the bridge," he said, looking back towards two cutters driving over the green-topped Hogan Bridge to the 12th green in the distance.

A plane flies overhead, then quiet. "Ok, smiley, smiley, Kenny," says producer Paul Davies.

Ken dives in. "The 13th is a brilliant par five, just about reachable in two. I've got a basketball here to give you an idea of the slope of the fairway, it's hard to see on camera. Just you watch."

He rolls his ball along the lush green grass and it quickly takes a sharp turn to the left and races downhill, stopping inches before the creek guarding the left side of the fairway.

"Because of that slope, the second shot is awkward. The ball's always above your feet and you need to go down the shaft," he says. "Let's try one."

Ken addresses a golf ball and strokes it up the fairway before signing off to the camera. "Get it right and you might get an eagle, get it wrong and you might find water."

He holds the pose for a bit and then grins to us: "Not a bad lay-up that. Perfect position."

Next Ken wants to illustrate the importance of hitting draws at Augusta and we move up the fairway to a flatter spot.

"Hair, Kenny," says Paul.

Ken begins. "Of the 14 tee shots that require a driver or wood here, 11 need you to hit a draw to get into the best spot for your second shot. But how do you do that? Well, if you've ever seen David Beckham curl a free-kick over a wall, it's the same principle."

And with that, Ken boots the basketball up the 13th fairway.

At Augusta National. At the Masters.

You can feel the sharp intakes of breath all around. And then, to perfect his lines, he does it again. And again. "Go on. Kenny, really give it some welly this time," whispers Paul.

Taking a golf club, Ken shows how to close your stance so that the club comes from the inside and a slightly closed clubface imparts a draw spin to the ball.

"You have to master this shot to get the better of the par fives at Augusta. That's the way to beat the golf course," he says.

Soccer school over, we move to the 13th green to demonstrate the four likely pin positions this week.

Ken places a yellow cup in each spot, but pauses as a man with a strimmer cuts the grass on the banks of the creek that guards the green. A last-minute manicure before the big day - like a little nasal hair trim, you might say.

Then Ken explains the nuances of each pin position. "The back left pin is the toughest," he says. "It's like putting on an upturned wok."

Turning to Sunday's likely flag spot - back right, a few yards from the water's edge - Ken adds: "This is an absolute brute. Anything short near the bank is back into the creek.

Here's one of the most famous putts on the course. It looks like it breaks from right to left and you'll see this time and again on Sunday - players aiming a touch right and it just stays out there." And when he putts, it does.

kick595.jpgKen raises a few eyebrows by booting the ball up the 13th fairway

"So four different pin positions - get your approach right and there's a chance of birdies, even eagles. Get them wrong, and you could be staring at six."

One more item to film on the 13th involves Ken demonstrating the pace of the green by trying to putt three balls at different distances from the pin and showing the first still rolling by the time he gets to the last.

It takes some work to get it right, but once he has judged the required speed he gets into a crouch ready to deliver his lines.

"Flick those eyes at the camera, Kenny," says Paul.

"Are the greens fast? Is Norfolk flat? This one's like putting on a marble staircase," Ken begins, hitting the first ball from 20 feet. A fast shuffle takes him to the second and then the third.

Some more scratching of heads and a few takes later, the sequence is in the can. "This guy's hilarious," says Jamie, the nice man from Augusta. "Yes. Hilarious," says Paul.

On the 14th green Ken does a couple of pieces, one to show how shots fired into the left gather into one of the pin positions, but anything right races away down the green.

"Get it right, it's magic, get it wrong and you're in three-putt country," he says with a flourish.

"Was that first time?" asks Jamie.

"Oh yes, 'First Take' Brown. He warms up about this time," says Paul.

Then Ken wants to show us what happens if a ball strays through the back of the green.

"Trousers, Kenny," says Paul. Ken hitches up his strides and launches into it: "The green turf looks perfect but they mow away from the green so the grass lies against the ball," he says.

"The dilemma is, do you putt or chip? I'm feeling brave so I'll chip this one..." And he does, to six inches. Still got it.

A sprinkler heads for KenA sprinkler heads for Ken - will he finish in time?

Moving back, he goes on: "The real difference is when you're about eight yards off the green. A coward putts, but a cavalier like me, I'm going to chip it again." But this time the ball catches the grass and stops short of the green.

"Do that and you've dropped a shot, maybe even a couple," says Ken. "This little fringe is a lot trickier than it looks."

Five minutes left of our allotted filming slot and room for one more piece. Paul finds Ken a sunny patch of pine needles to demonstrate hitting out of the trees.

Ken's going on about getting your feet planted like in a bunker, so you don't slip, and something about Carnoustie rough, but none of us are listening any more.

The massive sprinkler just behind Ken has suddenly come on and the jet is slowly rotating towards him. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are silently willing it to hit him.

Ever the pro, Ken finishes his lines and steps away just as the deluge rains down where he was stood.

"Oh, if I'd known I'd have stayed there," he grins. But our time is up. Ken's been on the course. And Bend it like Brown will run on a BBC TV near you during Masters week.

Ken Brown's guide to playing a shot with draw
Ken Brown's guide to the 14th hole
Ken Brown's guide to the greens at Augusta
Ken Brown's guide to playing out of the pine needles
Ken Brown's guide to pin positions at Augusta
Ken Brown's guide to the 13th hole
Ken Brown's guide to bunkers at Augusta


  • Comment number 1.

    I LOVE a bit of "Ken on the course"!!! Keep up the good work Ken! In general, the coverage so far has been excellent!

    On another note regarding another BBC Sport pundit, last week my friends and I travelled up to Fife to play the Torrance Course (designed by the BBC's own Sam Torrance) at St Andrews Bay. However the weather last week was particularly poor and unfortunately our game was cancelled! The course was playable, however one of the tee's was placed by the shore and was deemed too dangerous to play from as high winds were causing large waves to crash up onto the tee! I wanted to risk a soaking but Sam's people said no! We managed to get another game sorted at the nearby Scotscraig GC which was worth the trip alone, but I would like to question Sam's judgement at placing that tee in such an awkward position!!! (Joke!)

    Ian from Glasgow

  • Comment number 2.

    Will they be available to see as stand alone videos on the website? Along with the hole overview videos these are great to watch so would be nice to ensure I've seen them all.

  • Comment number 3.

    Irishshark - some will be embedded in this blog soon and the rest should be offered on-demand on the website, too.

  • Comment number 4.

    to be fair it was a good idea to use the football to demonstrate how to draw a golf ball they are similar actions

  • Comment number 5.

    Watched it last night, his draw with the football was better than the golf draw - bend it like Brown!

  • Comment number 6.

    Keep the 'Ken on the course' coming, please - they are excellent.


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