Somehow I missed this really excellent Lorne Rubenstein piece from Thursday before the first round unfolded.
Crenshaw played yesterday with Jim Furyk and Mike Weir, who is increasingly interested in course design. At one point, Crenshaw and Weir stood on the rear left of the 10th green. Crenshaw was gesturing toward various areas as though he were a teacher explaining things to a student. He continued to instruct as they walked to the 11th tee.And...
When they were finished a couple of hours later, Crenshaw was delighted to chat about Augusta National. He stood behind the 18th green and offered what amounted to a scholarly analysis of the place: where it was, and where it is.
"This course is so vastly different [from other courses] in so many ways," Crenshaw said.
"When you start narrowing the corridors so much, you feel like the test is like another course. There's never been a more strategic course than this one, in that it makes you really think and plan an angle of attack."
Crenshaw, like any player who really understands architecture, rues the lessened importance of strategic golf. He emphasized that the elements still remain when the course plays fast and firm so that the ball bounces, but even then not nearly as much as he'd like and as was once the case.
Augusta National's course consultant, Tom Fazio, has supervised the changes. He claims that the course needs some rough and added length.
"I disagree with that notion," Crenshaw said of the idea that golfers don't play the angles any more. "To play some of these pins, you want to be on one side or the other. You want to go this way or that way, either off the tee or into the green.
"There's no doubt that Augusta National and courses all over the world have to do something in defence of their course, with the way that these guys can play and the way that the ruling bodies let equipment go," Crenshaw added. "It's a Catch-22. I understand what they've done. But a place like this, it's a thinking test."
The same day, Bill Huffman quoted Ben this way:
“It plays much harder,” Crenshaw noted. “My only question is: Is it as interesting as it used to be or can be?
“In other words, the top players who have a chance, how do they play the course? Do they play it more defensively now, because there’s so much more golf course?”