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  • Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
    Lines of Charm: Brilliant And Irreverent Quotes, Notes, And Anecdotes from Golf's Golden Age Architects
  • The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    The Future of Golf: How Golf Lost Its Way and How to Get It Back
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    Grounds for Golf: The History and Fundamentals of Golf Course Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Art of Golf Design
    The Art of Golf Design
    by Michael Miller, Geoff Shackelford
  • Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    Alister MacKenzie's Cypress Point Club
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Golden Age of Golf Design
    The Golden Age of Golf Design
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    The Good Doctor Returns: A Novel
    by Geoff Shackelford
  • Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
    Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
  • The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    The Captain: George C. Thomas Jr. and His Golf Architecture
    by Geoff Shackelford
Current Reading
  • The Golf Book: Twenty Years of the Players, Shots, and Moments That Changed the Game
    The Golf Book: Twenty Years of the Players, Shots, and Moments That Changed the Game
    by Chris Millard
  • The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream
    by Dan Washburn
  • The Early Days of Pinehurst
    The Early Days of Pinehurst
    by Chris Buie
  • Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships
    by Bill Fields
  • The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta
    by Gil Capps
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction
    by Geo. C. Thomas
  • The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    The Course Beautiful : A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design
    Treewolf Prod
  • Reminiscences Of The Links
    Reminiscences Of The Links
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast, Richard C. Wolffe, Robert S. Trebus, Stuart F. Wolffe
  • Gleanings from the Wayside
    Gleanings from the Wayside
    by Albert Warren Tillinghast
  • Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America
    by Darius Oliver
  • Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America
    by Darius Oliver
Writing And Videos

The greater the experience I have of designing golf courses, the more certain I am that blindness of all kinds should be avoided. ALISTER MACKENZIE




"Maybe the Masters bets next year should be in Oreos, not cash."

The ultimate sign of a newspaper's pomposity comes in the form of these pious ombudsman columns where some very special and unbiased staff member opines on questionable moral or potential ethical issues related to a newspaper's favorite topic: itself!

Thanks to reader Noonan, we get to read the Washington Post's Deborah Howell analyzing whether Augusta housemates Len Shapiro, Thomas Boswell and John Feinstein should be in a Masters pool while writing about the event.

Yes, definitely a slow week for ethical lapses at the Post. Don't worry Deborah, Bob Woodward's writing another book!

Reader Bill Sullivan of the District raised the question after a blogger, Sean Jensen of AOL Sports, said he participated in a "high price" pool while covering the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., with renowned Post columnist Tom Boswell; Leonard Shapiro, a former Post staffer who covers golf on contract; and John Feinstein, a best-selling author and Post freelancer.

Sullivan called the pool "disturbing" and said it "would appear to be a deeply serious breach of journalism ethics," especially because "Boswell and Shapiro had criticized athletes for gambling because it has a corrupting influence on the sport.

"Do Post editors condone this sort of conduct -- particularly since the bets were placed on an event the reporters were covering for the paper? How much was wagered and how long has it been going on? How do the reporters justify their moral criticisms of others when they themselves engage in the same illegal behavior?"

The pool is a tradition going back about 25 years in a house rented by Boswell, Shapiro and other sportswriters who cover the Masters, Boswell said. Feinstein joined about 15 years ago. Jensen was the new guy in the house.

How'd he get roped into that house rental? Poor bastard...

The stakes were $50 apiece for five people. Boswell said there are "a bunch of silly categories and no one wins much." Shapiro was the big winner, with a total of $103 in three categories. Boswell won $16.67. Feinstein won nothing. "Except for a few horse races or a [personal] golf game, I've never bet on anything else in my life," Boswell said. Shapiro said the same.

Hey don't forget last year's over/under on how long it would take Christine Brennan to ask Hootie a Martha question?

Shapiro's and Boswell's articles have criticized high-stakes gambling as it affected players and managers who presumably could affect the outcome of games.

Boswell said the house is not a high-stakes party pad but the "milk and Oreos" house, where a six-pack of beer bought at the tournament's start still had three left at the end. "We come back after the day and watch highlights and tease each other about" their pool picks.

And then they argue about the drapes, who gets the shower first, all before a big pillow fight breaks out.

Feinstein, in an e-mail, wrote, "NO, I've never bet on anything during my years at The Post.

Key phrase: during my years at The Post.

In fact, this year I didn't even participate in the pool because I was too tired to stay up. I put up the 50 bucks as a courtesy to the other guys and they picked my team for me. I was the only one in the house to not win a dollar for the week. . . . This is done in houses all around Augusta for fun and laughs -- and is a way of giving everyone something to talk about during the week. As in, 'who had the low round today?' That's about as serious as it gets."

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, assistant managing editor for sports, said, "I'm confident that the small-scale pool in no way affected the coverage of the event and was a 25-year tradition that was started only to bolster camaraderie for those living together while covering the event.

Bolster camaraderie? Translation: it's the only way they can tolerate living with each other.

That said, we've stressed to our folks that prizes for these sorts of pools, including the NCAA tournament, should not involve cash, no matter how small the amount." The Post has no written rule on betting.

George Solomon, a former Post sports editor and ESPN ombudsman who is now a University of Maryland journalism professor, sees no problem with "a recreational pool"; he was in the Masters pool when entering cost $10, and he went for Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. Betting "a lot of money on a team or individual is always wrong," he said.

Glad we cleared this weighty matter up. Oh wait, there's more...

Malcolm Moran, who holds the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Pennsylvania State University, said, "I wouldn't call [the Masters pool] serious. For myself, I don't get involved in pools."

Well maybe you should talk to someone about this Malcolm. Chlorine is very effective. Oh sorry...

Moran, a former sports journalist at the New York Times, Newsday and USA Today, believes there ought to be rules as there are at the Times, which states in its ethics policy: "To avoid an appearance of bias, no member of the sports department may gamble on any sports event, except for occasional recreational wagering on horse racing (or dog racing or jai alai).

Would you include cockfighting in that too?

This exception does not apply to staff members who cover such racing or regularly edit that coverage." The Times' prohibition does not apply to pools, said Craig Whitney, standards editor.

Longtime Post horseracing writer Andrew Beyer, now a freelancer, does gamble and writes about it, as do many racing writers. Moran said, "Just because it's in the culture doesn't mean it's the right thing to do." Beyer once won $200,000 and wrote about it. Now that gives me serious pause. Beyer did not respond to a phone message.

Can't imagine why.

Many newsrooms -- like many offices -- have sports pools; I never stopped them when I was an editor. The Post's internal NCAA pool was changed this year to make the top prize an iPod instead of cash. Just as well; a company lawyer won it.


The Masters pool is not a grave ethical matter, but The Post should have written rules to guide sports journalists on betting. This answer didn't please Sullivan, who wrote, "Reporters go after others with zeal while believing that the rules don't apply to them and that they are above reproach. Accountability for thee but not for me."

Maybe the Masters bets next year should be in Oreos, not cash.

Oh the standards of these journalists! Heart-warming I tell you that we live in a country where such important matters are deliberated. 


Lowe On Slow Play

Douglas Lowe watched the fhe final of the Scottish Boys' Championship at Dunbar played in 2 hours 50 minutes and came away wondering why it now takes professionals 5 hours to play 18 holes.


Ginn Open Photo Caption Uh...Explanation

Any idea what this is that we're calling a trophy (held by Ginn Open winner Brittany Lincicome)?



"When I see those guys working hard to make pars and bogeys, well, that's us"

Last week I asked if "relatable golf" would be the future direction the pro game takes to quench our society's unquenchable for all things narcissistic.

Well, Garry Smits found some fans who would agree that it's all about them while exploring the question of whether the year's other three majors (oh and The Players THE PLAYERS The PLAYERS) will be plodding bogeyfests.

When it comes to majors and The Players, fans seem to want to watch the best grind.

"We really enjoyed watching the Masters this year," said Kevin Leonard, a Cincinnati resident visiting the First Coast with his family to play golf at the TPC Sawgrass. "I don't like watching 27 under win a tournament."

His son, James, a college student, showed that feeling crosses generations.

"I know the Masters has been won on birdies and eagles on the back nine in the past," he said. "But I didn't miss that. It was fun knowing that they had to make pars to win."

Dennis James, a Green Cove Springs resident, said watching PGA Tour players fight enables the average golfer to relate.

"When I see those guys working hard to make pars and bogeys, well, that's us," he said. "Besides, majors are supposed to be hard."

It's all about ME!

Consider also that television ratings for the Masters were slightly higher than last year, when Mickelson won at 7 under.

Garry, let's not encourage the Ridley's and Driver's of the world. They're dangerous enough as it is!

Former PGA of America president M.G. Orender, a Jacksonville Beach resident, said competition committees can only go so far. Weather was the main reason for the high scores at Augusta, he said, not back-room suits bent on punishing players.

"I thought Augusta did the same thing the PGA does for our championship. It's a major. It should be tough, but you want the course to be fair, given the things you can control," Orender said. "Par is just a number. At the end of the day, if the course is fair, it doesn't matter what score wins."

Hmmm...and here I thought it was about identifying the best player!


Interview With The Golf Chick

gse_multipart58081.jpgBlogger Kristen Williams not only has plenty to say and the best golf blog logo around, she has the courage to post a two-part interview with yours truly.

Bag Abuse=Character?

David Feherty, interviewing Boo Weekley after chipping in on the last two holes to win the Heritage, noted that Weekley is not the typical Tour drone because of his "bag abuse" and that it was "great to see some character out here."

Is that really a sign of great character? 


IM'ing With The Commissioners, Vol. V

My NSA sources took time out from their search for those lost RNC emails to share a Sunday night conversation between the LPGA's Commissioner Carolyn Bivens and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. This followed Sunday's bizarre day in which the LPGA event on CBS was delayed, the PGA Tour's Heritage play on CBS cancelled by high winds, and with the delayed LPGA's event on CBS airing on The Golf Channel.

DaBrandLady: tim, you there?

twfPGATour©: Hi Carolyn.

DaBrandLady: Rough day for the product.

twfPGATour©: I know, our consumers had to listen to Bobby Clampett on two channels at once.

DaBrandLady: oh. I meant the winds.

DaBrandLady: i thought he was great on the ginn. we feel lucky to have his insights.

twfPGATour©: Yes you are. He's a big talent.

DaBrandLady: say tim, I know the ginn on cbs was an ad buy for us and all, but since it was running long and the heritage was in that hurricane delay, don't you think we could have seen more of our event shown live on cbs instead of tape from last year's heritage?

twfPGATour©: Well you know I wish could have helped, but as you well know the platform layering dynamics are intensely complicated.

DaBrandLady: ha! i actually wrote a dissertation on that when I was at the usa today and they wanted to change the life's section color from purple to navy blue.

DaBrandLady: anyway, i do know all about the parameters involved. it just seemed odd to have our event going on with so many dynamic young women-American golfers competing with a future hall of famer, and then to turn and see you all teasing the viewer with updates before heading back to tape of last year.

twfPGATour©: I feel your pain Carolyn. It's out of my hands.

DaBrandLady: and for cbs, what an opportunity to declare their devotion to young women-american athletes in light of the dan imos de-branding thing.

twfPGATour©: It's actually Don Imus I believe.

DaBrandLady: of course, silly me!

DaBrandLady: say, that new creative with zach johnson was quite exquisite.

twfPGATour©: Yes, fortuitous timing for strengthening our family of brands and for Zach's ability to leverage the equity in his newfound brand stature.

DaBrandLady: whoever thought of using him in those new spots should get a big raise!

twfPGATour©: Glad you reminded me of that Carolyn. I'm making a note right now to bump Tom Wade's salary another $100,000 a year. He's undervalued at $550,000 per year.

DaBrandLady: say, speaking of salary Tim, did you see this sports business journal article about how much I'm making?

twfPGATour©: They had you at around $500,000 I believe.

DaBrandLady: yes they got it off this battlestar web site that monitors non-profits.

twfPGATour©: Guidestar.

DaBrandLady: well, anyway, i was looking around their site and i noticed you guys have managed to keep your most recent tour returns off. how do i do the same thing? because my brand coaches feel i took a hit in light of the fact that i'm only making a half-mil while you are making $7 million and Len Zelig is making $14.5 million.

twfPGATour©: it's Bud Selig and can you believe that? I need to go back to the policy board for a raise.

DaBrandLady: right, so how do I stop this brand-damaging from going online?

twfPGATour©: well it's a legal issue for us, but if you call Ed M he'll explain how to do it. It's a layered process that involves many dynamics and metrical platform delineational restructuring with the IRS.

DaBrandLady: oh, and here i was hoping it was just something powell-tate handled up in d.c.

twfPGATour©: Well, there's that too.

DaBrandLady: great! thanks tim!

twfPGATour©: My pleasure Carolyn. Give my best to, uh...

DaBrandLady: he says hi back!


"Augusta National, with an assist from nature, finally reined in technology."

Someone highjacked Dan Jenkins' laptop, broke out the pom-poms and declared love on Dan's behalf for a no-name winning a U.S. Open at his beloved Augusta National.

More than anything, some of us loved the fact that Zach Johnson never went for a single par 5 at Augusta in two. No eagle putts for this Iowa boy. But he birdied 11 out of the 16 during the four rounds. That's some kind of wedge play, son, and a winner's putting stroke.
Wow, never thought I'd read Dan-the-man lauding conservative play at Augusta. 
It was almost as if certain writers were blaming new chairman Billy Payne and The Weather Channel for the fact that there was no Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player on the leader board shooting 17 under par.

Oh, like we don't love Dan for being the biggest of the big-name lovers. Come on Dan!

I, for one, loved it. The Augusta National, with an assist from nature, finally reined in technology. That alone was worth a roar, wasn't it?

This at least gives us some insight into that bizarre thought process that goes something like this: the course, patrons and players must suffer because a bunch of guys running the USGA (and not coincidentally also belonging to Augusta National) are afraid to admit they made a mistake about regulating distance. They are afraid to do what's best for the game because they would have to admit they blew it.

Sounds familiar. I can't think of it at the moment. It'll come to me though. It's a metaphor for something bigger in our society. It's just right there at the tip of my fingers...

Anyway, back to this column attributed to the great Jenkins...

They took the winning 72-hole score back to 289, the highest it had been since 1954 and 1956, when the basic culprits were strong, gusty winds and the hard old Bermuda/rye greens that wouldn't hold a pitchfork if Tiger Woods was swinging it.

If there was anything I liked better than seeing the tour pros have to face a tough course for a change, it was learning that Zach Johnson, the new Masters champion, is an unapologetic God-fearing lad who has a Yorkshire terrier like I do.

God-fearing? I heard a whole lot of thanking Jesus, not many nods to God. Or are they now one-and-the-same?


The Bud Off The NASCAR Rose

15nascar.1.600.jpgThe New York Times' Juliet Macar examines the decline in NASCAR ratings and attendance. It's hard to read this and not think of the PGA Tour...

No recent move by the Frances has been more significant than the introduction of the standardized Car of Tomorrow, which is supposed to enliven races by making it easier to pass. It made its debut last month at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, receiving criticism from drivers. Wheeler, of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, said the Car of Tomorrow would produce close racing, which would produce rivalries and drama that could bring the fans back. “With this car, I can see that sparks will fly once again,” he said.

Of course, the Tour would have to acknowledge first that their races need enlivening! And not by narrowing fairways, growing rough and encouraging plodding golf.

Perhaps nothing has changed more than the television contracts, and the money at stake. Nascar is in the first year of an eight-year contract with Fox, ABC/ESPN, TNT and Speed valued at about $4.5 billion, or $560 million a year. Its previous contract was worth $400 million a year.

Kyle Petty cited NBC’s decision not to renew its television contract with Nascar as a warning flag. “That’s a big, big story that someone walked away,” he said. “That’s a huge blip on the radar.”

Well, at least that hasn't happened in golf!


"The mandated conformity of play on certain holes defies everything that Jones and MacKenzie strived to achieve"

The Augusta Chronicle's Scott Michaux says the trees and rough need to go and recommends that Billy Payne look to a group of former champions to undo Tom Fazio's changes.

It's the trees and the rough, however, that seem to fly in the face of the original design and strategic intent that the club, players and patrons so passionately embrace. The constriction of options and the mandated conformity of play on certain holes defies everything that Jones and MacKenzie strived to achieve with Augusta National.


The Big Three doesn't include perhaps the finest traditionalist architect today - and he happens to have a pair of green jackets as well in his locker. Ben Crenshaw understands the architectural genius that made Augusta National so great, but he's too gracious to publicly criticize the course.

These gentlemen and Payne might be able to restore whatever it is that makes Augusta National and the Masters so exceptional. The club has fixed flawed changes before - from the tributary of Rae's Creek in front of the 13th green to the mounding that abuts and defends the eighth green. Not every change proves to be in the best interests of the course.

We can only speculate as to how Bobby Jones might have reacted to combat the equipment issues that have forced some of the world's greatest courses to change with time.

But's it's unlikely he would have seen the need for a tree - or a whole grove of them - to interfere with the playability and drama of his tournament.

"Zach Saves The Game"

Bob Verdi in his post-Masters Golf World column:

Well, you probably won’t hear about Augusta National making additional land purchases anytime soon so as to elongate some of its 18 holes. They needn’t bring in more trees, either, and the membership likely will postpone discussion about instituting a uniform Masters ball. Last week’s tournament tended to allay concerns about rampant golf technology, not to mention global warming, just as thoroughly as Zach Johnson chloroformed parties throughout distant parts of the world.

And Booger and Google, blogging under the headline "Zack saves the game" write:

So, my friend, you are right once again. Distance, in the majors when it really matters, is not ruining the game. Distance, in the setting by which all other settings are judged, is over.

Uh, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most the post-Masters discussion is not about what a wonderful thing it was to see the highest ever world ranked player win, but what a mess has been made of the course.

And why is the course a mess?

Oh that's right, because a bunch of old guys who are supposed to be really smart--many Augusta National members included--got outsmarted on the distance issue and have been cowering ever since.

No, I'm kind of thinking more people than ever see that these frustrated guys are using tacky setup ploys so they don't have to address the real issue.


Huggan On Seve

The Scottish Paper of Record Scotland On Sunday columnist writes about the sad state of Seve's game and how it can't tarnish his legacy.


Tweaking Torrey

Mark Figueroa on Torrey Pines getting a kikuyu resodding and on changes to the fourth hole:

Woodward added that alterations to the fourth fairway are also being made. The hole, which runs north and is considered one of the South's more difficult holes, has been reconfigured more to the left and will bring the cliffs more into play. The trees that run along the cliffs will be transplanted to the other side to create more space between the fourth and fifth fairways.

Trees also will be planted near the right side of the fourth tee box to discourage players from driving their tee shots intentionally into the wrong fairway.


" Where have you gone, Martha Burk?"

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi manages to turn some mildly oblivious responses from Annika and Nancy Lopez into a hysterical (in more ways than one) rant about the lack of photo-opportunistic feminist leadership in sports. 

Brace yourselves... 

Her response -- correction: her non-response -- is both shocking and disappointing.

Here's the exchange between Annika Sorenstam and me Wednesday during her pre-tournament news conference for the LPGA Ginn Open:

"Annika, some derogatory comments were made about the Rutgers women's basketball team the other day; obviously, you've heard about them . . ."

Before I can finish, Annika stops me cold with her response.

"No, I haven't."

You haven't?

"No," she says, shaking her head.

Uncomfortable pause.

All I can think of to say at this point is, "Never mind."

All she can think of to say is, "Sorry."

Yeah, I'm sorry, too.

Sorry because herein lies the colossal problem facing female athletes in their ongoing battle against sexism in the sports arena: Nobody cares enough to speak up or stand up for them.

Where have you gone, Martha Burk?

A gender turns its lonely eyes to you.



Truly The Last Masters Question

I've been out and about at some golf facilities the last few days and heard near unanimous frustration at how boring the Masters has become.

We've considered the architectural and setup influences, but after reading Stu Schneider's TV Rewind column in this week's Golf World (column not posted), it seems that we should not discount just how much CBS's presentation has played into the change in perception.

The Frank Chirkinian presentation style that many of us enjoyed showed more shots and imany more of them live than we see with Lance Barrow's production approach. Schneider points out how long it took for CBS to show several shots, including Ogilvy's eagle on 13 and most amazingly, a Zach Johnson eagle birdie on 3 followed by a Vaughn Taylor missing an eagle putt on 2, even though they were paired together.

Is this playing a role in uh, "rebranding" the Masters as more of a U.S. Open style event? 


Watering Greens During A Tournament

syringing_inside.jpgI know I promised I'd asked my last Masters question, but the debate is just too good to let go of in light of all the great comments that this years Masters is generating.

In the Rosaforte and Davis pieces critiquing the setup and architecture, there were a couple of interesting comments about the Saturday night green watering.

Is it the sign of a good setup when you have to water greens during tournament play (with light winds)?

Is it a sound setup when you play three days firm and then soak them for one day?

Consider what Rosaforte wrote

 Some players felt the water should have been turned on earlier, but Ridley and the Competition Committee did eventually turn on the hoses. "Yesterday we saw the weather and relocated some of the pins to make it fairer," said David Graham sitting at lunch. The two-time major winner has served on the Cup and Tee Marking Committee for 17 years and stated the goal was to make it as difficult as possible without crossing the line, "but this week was more difficult than a British Open."

And here's what Davis submitted:

In the past, the competition committee has aimed to get the greens here to dry out as the week goes on. On Sunday morning, the greens were wet and receptive even though it didn't rain here on Saturday night. That's what you call a concession, but by then it was too late. Even though Sunday was a relatively wind-free, balmy day, the average score was 74.33, and the lowest score was a 69 (and only three players shot that).

It seems that the ideal setup is one where the greens do not have to be artificially controlled by such a dramatic shift in watering. One could argue that a SubAir draining of moisture is just as contrived, but I would argue that that is done in an attempt to firm up conditions in order to accentuate skill.

The watering this year was, as Davis wrote, a "concession." A move made after Daddy had whipped the boys around, and decided to let the flatbellies have their Sunday fun. I don't get the sense this concession was one made with great pleasure.

So is this what the Masters will be in the future: three days of torture and one day of watering to shut up the critics who dare to dream that we might see another '86-Masters type finish?

I can only recall such dramatic green watering happening to mitigate impending setup fiascos. And not coincidentally, Fred Ridley was the head man during the two most recent examples: 2004 at Shinnecock and the 2007 Masters.



Bamberger On Palmetto

SI's Michael Bamberger writes about Palmetto Golf Club, one of golf's best kept secrets and talks to Rees Jones, whose changes to the place had to be fixed by Tom Doak.

Rees Jones, who gets to Palmetto once a year, during Masters week, first played the course at the invitation of an old friend, Bobby Goodyear, one of the few Palmetto golfers who is also a member at Augusta National. Jones suggested some changes to the course, mostly in the area of bunker restoration, and oversaw the project. "I did the work for free because I love the place, and they have no money," Jones says. One of the things he likes best about Palmetto is that the members have no airs.

One year during Masters week old Tom Moore squeezed in the Jones foursome in front of a group of members.

"Who the hell are you guys?" one of the aggrieved golfers asked Jones.

"Well, that's Michael Bonallack, who runs the R&A," Jones said. "That's David Fay, who runs the USGA. That's David Eger, who runs the USGA competitions."

"Yeah — and who the hell are you?"

The piece does not mention that the greens will be reconstructed and restored to their original dimensions under Gil Hanse's supervision starting in a few weeks.



Huggan and Schofield Clash!

Okay, well not really. But they do engage in an interesting chat about this year's Masters over at


The Reviews Are In...

masterslogo.gif...and the criticism of Augusta National's setup far exceeds the number of defenders, which in itself is monumental since ust few years ago it was rare for a writer to dare question the direction of the course changes.

For starters, it's clear that all of the bickering I've done with Doug Ferguson over the changes will have to continue, because after hearing for years from our great AP writer that we must reserve judgement until a firm and fast week to evaluate the horrid tree planting, shabby looking rough and lack of tee flexibility, apparently we now need to provide a multi-year window before returning a verdict.

It would be easy to suggest that Augusta National ruined its major by adding nearly a quarter-mile of length since 2001, but that would be measuring the Masters based only on this year.

Ugh. I look forward to our next debate Doug!

Of course, at least there's hope with the always thoughtful and passionate Ferguson, but I'm not so sure about South Florida Chamber of Commerce groupee and Golf Digest scribe Tim Rosaforte, who always gets into trouble when he writes about course setup and architecture matters. His cheerleading sounds especially lame this week in light of the overwhelmingly negative responses elsewhere.

Surprisingly, there wasn't much whining. Some players felt the water should have been turned on earlier, but Ridley and the Competition Committee did eventually turn on the hoses. "Yesterday we saw the weather and relocated some of the pins to make it fairer," said David Graham sitting at lunch. The two-time major winner has served on the Cup and Tee Marking Committee for 17 years and stated the goal was to make it as difficult as possible without crossing the line, "but this week was more difficult than a British Open."

Ah, taking it right up to the line without crossing it.

Sort of like frat brothers hazing those new pledges. As long as no one dies, it's a successful pledge drive! They all had to go through it. It was tough but fair! Oy...

Sunday, it warmed slightly and so did the mood. The big hitters were reaching the par-5s again, the Cup and Tee Marking Committee gave the field more accessible locations and there were birdie and even eagle roars echoing through the pines.

Right. And oddly, both pointed out that no one complained, but I'm afraid they weren't talking to the right folks. 

masters_fields.jpgRemember that declaration of Sunday joviality when reading the next few pieces, starting with Rosaforte's colleague at Golf World, Bill Fields whose excellent online "letter" was excerpted in this week's Golf World.

Interestingly, the magazine picked his criticism of the course changes for publication.

I found myself in almost complete agreement with Tom Watson’s assessment last week: “They had to do what they did with the length of the course because the equipment mandated it,” Watson said. “The drivers and the balls go so much farther, and the kids are stronger. They had to do that. When Tiger hit two sand wedges and two pitching wedges into No. 5, they said that’s enough. They had to do something. And that was right. Add the length, and let these guys play it the way they did before. But they added the trees. They dressed it up a little too fancy. It used to have a simple elegance to it off the tee.”


But following the second round, Crenshaw was asked when the course, usually so alive with cheers during the tournament, had been so quiet.

“Yeah, [the last] four years,” he said, his answer covering the period of the most extensive changes. “A day like today, this course is real difficult. It’s a combination of the length and the width of the fairways. If you’re just a little bit off-line now, you can be behind a tree or a funny spot, in the little bit of rough, then you just can’t play. It’s the nature of the course now, you try not to get hurt.”

While Crenshaw was talking to reporters he was interrupted by Chris DiMarco, who was making his way from the ninth green to the 10th tee. “How is it out there?” DiMarco said.

“Pulling teeth,” Crenshaw said.

Meanwhile SI's Seth Davis also blasted the lack of excitement that seemed to be a direct result of the changes, and not the weather as some have suggested.

In the past, the competition committee has aimed to get the greens here to dry out as the week goes on. On Sunday morning, the greens were wet and receptive even though it didn't rain here on Saturday night. That's what you call a concession, but by then it was too late. Even though Sunday was a relatively wind-free, balmy day, the average score was 74.33, and the lowest score was a 69 (and only three players shot that).

Don't try to blame all this on the wind and the cold. They've been playing this tournament on this course every year since 1934. You think this is the first time they've had a little inclement weather? Johnson's score of one over par was tied for the highest ever by a winner, and it was the highest since 1956. That's not because of the weather. That's the course.

The saddest part of all this is that we had absolutely no excitement on the back nine on Sunday. The only spine-tingling moment was Woods's brilliant approach at 13, which led to an eagle that moved him to within two of the leader. That leader was Johnson, who had just 216 yards to the green on No. 13 but laid up. You have to give the plucky Johnson credit for making a 10-foot putt for birdie, but when you lay up from that close at 13 on Sunday at Augusta, you should be penalized half a stroke. (Johnson also laid up on every other par-5 this week.)

Goosen was still in the hunt when he got to the 13th tee. He hit an iron off the tee. Guess I picked the wrong week to quit drinking coffee.

Gary Player has been one of the biggest advocates of making the course tougher so today's players use the same clubs on their approach shots that they did in Player's prime. Yet even he said this was the toughest layout he had seen at Augusta in 50 years — and that was before the cold weather rolled in.

So no, things weren't any easier early in the week, when the sun was out and the wind was quiet. After shooting an 83 in the first round, Larry Mize said, "I was out there practicing yesterday afternoon and there were no roars out there. No roars at all. I think they need to get the roars back, because that's part of Augusta."

Not anymore, Larry. This is the new Masters. The tournament ends on the front nine on Thursday.

And finally, just to validate the point that fans did not enjoy the antics, check out the blog of user comments on the event. This was my favorite of the many comparisons to U.S. Open golf, from Mike Moyle:

When a course is so tough it exceeds the actual skills of the players involved, then you are not "identifying the best player" as the USGA likes to quip. You are identifying the luckiest player! Its disappointing to see the Masters set up this way.

"Don't worry about this week, this is not real golf."

An epic little pre-Harbour Town diatribe from Davis Love on the state of Augusta National, The Masters and the trends in course setup:

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think it's taken four or five years for everybody other than players to realize how difficult that golf course is now and what a challenge it is. They've taken the scoring and the fun out of the golf course and made it -- they hate the comparison, they've made it like a U.S. Open rather than a Masters. It's a grinding week. It's a real hilly golf course. It's a tough tournament, plus they've made the golf course extremely hard. So it's a long week. It's been that way for the last five or six really, at least.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about how a lot of people have talked about how Augusta was limited to the big hitters winning the last couple years, but this year it played so firm and fast, some of you guys' balls may have actually been running into trouble and actually could have hurt some of the big hitters a little bit, how it played this year?

DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I don't think it's really ever -- that's always been a big talk. You have to be able to hook it and you have to be able to hit it a long way. Ben Crenshaw has done well there, and the list of guys I just gave, plus Mike Weir. Not necessarily do you have to be a bomber any time. You have to chip and putt well and you have to hit really precise irons to be able to play. Yeah, they've made it long, but we're used to that. Everybody has got length now. It's just a big overreaction to they've perceived that the game has gotten too easy. They want scores to be high.

I think a short game has always been good at Augusta, and Zach proved that, and like I said, Olazábal, Langer, grind it out, chip and putt. It's gotten to be Retief Goosen kind of golf, make a lot of pars and you can win. I certainly wished that I could do that because that's what it takes to win more out here now.

The Greg Norman or Jack Nicklaus style of -- a lot of big, flashy shots and a lot of birdies will win, but that style of golf is tougher to do now. It's got to be more methodical and you've got to chip and putt way better. If I'm teaching my son to play golf, sure, I want him to be long, but you've got to have all the short game shots because they're not going to give you a golf course where you can hit 16 greens a round like they used to. You've got to chip and putt.

If I was a fan, I would be -- I think as a Tour, we can't control the majors, but as a Tour we have to be real careful with our Players Championship and our course setups, that we don't fall into that trap, because most people don't want to watch pros putt for pars on TV. I think we've got to be real careful about that and make sure there's some risk-reward. There's no risk-reward on laying up on 15 every day or laying up on 2 every day or 8. It's just wedging in. Long putts for birdies or short putts for par, I think we have to be real careful about that.

Q. Does that change coming here a little bit? Is it a little bit less demanding?

DAVIS LOVE III: This tournament is more about the weather, really. When it's windy and cold and dry, it plays tough, and when it's wet and calm, you see 13, 14, 15, every once in a while 18-under will win. But if it's really windy and it's really cool, then the scores go way down. We've seen 6-, 7-under win. But that's because it's a good, solid golf course, and it's dictated on the weather.

Here and Colonial seem to get the best reviews from the players because it's all golf course, it's not tricked up. It's a good, solid design, and you can still play. If the weather is bad, the scores go up. That's the thing, at a major now, if the weather is bad they go ridiculous, rather than just from 13-under to 7-under, it goes to average scores of 77s and 78s. And you know if the pros are averaging 77 or 78, the course is probably not fair. It's probably over the edge.

I said to Rich Lerner this morning, what would I shoot at your home course? We go out and shoot 66 every time. On Tour maybe the average should be 68 or 69 or 70, not 77. That just shows you how hard it is.

I mean, even we are astounded at how hard the U.S. Open and The Masters is, so the average person just can't comprehend how hard a golf course it is. I told John Kelly when we got down to 18 on Friday, I said, "Don't worry about this week, this is not real golf. Don't beat yourself up." Because it's not, it's some other game, and it's more a mental test than it is a physical test.

That's why, again, you see guys like Langer and Mize and Mike Weir, guys like that, do well, Retief Goosen, because they're really, really good. But you put them on The International, that format on that golf course, they're not going to do very good with that style of game.

It's nice to have a variety. It seems like the variety has gone out of -- especially out of our three majors over here.