Els On The Masters: "I've Had Enough Of It"

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If you were thinking of getting Ernie Els an Amen Corner lithograph for his birthday, think again, reports Mark Cannizzaro for the New York Post.

Els, at age 49 and currently ranked 359th in the world, likely played his final Masters in 2017, his last start at Augusta, and he’s just fine with that.

“To be honest with you, I won’t miss the place,’’ Els told The Post on Friday after shooting a second-round 75 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill to stand at 2-over to miss the cut by one shot. “I had enough of it — especially the last five years I played it terribly.’’

He does go on to say nice things about the members but it’s still odd to see someone with some success there so blatantly declaring that he’s had enough.

First (At Least, Graphically Depicted) Look At Augusta National's Extended 5th Hole

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With no Instagram posts from Augusta National—not even a random post-Daniel Field takeoff photo—the Masters Media Guide provides our first look at the extended 5th hole. The addition of 40 yards will get most of the attention, but the question fans of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie’s design most want to know: has the original Road hole-inspired strategy been restored?

To recap: Bobby Jones described the hole as a reverse of the Road with a carry over the left bunkers and flirtation with the lefthand forest shortening the hole and opening up an ideal angle to most hole locations. The fairway bunkers Jones-MacKenzie answer to the Roads’ Station Master’s Garden. (Here’s an old Golf World piece I wrote on the ties to St. Andrews and in particular, this hole.)

So as today’s modern heptathletes finally stopped downing Jagermeister shots and moved to Cauliflower smoothies, the club pushed forward the fairway bunkers in response. They also planted pines and essentially created a pinched landing area to offset the surge of athleticism. The left risk/reward option of Jones’s day was erased in an attempt to maintain certain distances for the approach.

Going from 455 to 495 in 2019 and our first look at the depiction suggests fairway bunkers have been repositioned. That’s backed by the description of a 315 yard carry in 2018 and a 313 yard carry in 2019. This is very exciting news, though until we see what kind of tree planting and earthwork took place, we should reserve judgement about the potential for a strategic revival.

The 2019 vs. 2018 depictions:

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Latin America Amateur Reminder: Casa De Campo Again Hosting, ESPN Televising

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Ryan Herrington breaks down who the top hopefuls are in the Latin America Amateur Championship, where a spot in the Masters is on the line.

Ron Driscoll writes about the legendary Pete Dye “Teeth of the Dog” design returning as host of the LAAC.

ESPN’s telecast times:

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You can check out the scoring here.

A nice teaser video of the course:

ANWA Invitations Have Arrived, Including Lucy Li's

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The glorious (and big!) Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitations have started arriving in mailboxes of the players who have earned exemptions to the inaugural event. Beth Ann Nichols with Anna Redding’s story of opening the big invite.

Of special note is the glee with which Lucy Li celebrated her invitation as the USGA weighs the 16-year-old’s amateur status following an Apple Watch ad appearance.


Patrick Reed Unveils Plans For Thirtysomething-Friendly Champions Dinner

Oh please let Guy Fieri cook for the Champions Dinner!

Oh please let Guy Fieri cook for the Champions Dinner!

There won’t be much suspense or great surprise at Patrick Reed’s Masters Champions Dinner menu after he revealed it Wednesday in Maui.

Rex Hoggard reports on Reed’s efforts to provide a menu friendly to an older set. Maybe after studying the Woods Jupiter menu?

Reed said Wednesday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions that he plans to serve a bone-in rib-eye steak with mac and cheese, creamed spinach, creamed corn and a Caesar salad at the annual dinner for former Masters champions.

“Hopefully I can please the 30-something guys that are in the room. I mean, putting a piece of meat in front of them I think would do that, right?” he said.

There goes any hope of a passive-aggressive choice of Oklahoma-raised chicken for Jordan Spieth and a plate of Geritol tablets for Phil Mickelson!

Jason Day: Roll Back The Ball? Better Move The Tees Up!

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In a new Golf World interview with Brian Wacker, Jason Day is asked about the prospects of a limited-distance ball at the Masters and the possible effect on the game.

First off, people would still play the Masters. But if they did that, then they better shorten the tees again. If we have limited-flight balls, we're going to have 4-irons into No. 7 and things like that.

Oh no a long iron! We can’t have that!

You see, the idea is to actually make long par-4s long again and par-5s risky again and maybe even get back to getting the fairways at Augusta National running instead of grainy and slow fairways. But go on…

But do I want the ball to go shorter? No. Why? Isn't it fun watching Dustin Johnson crush a drive over a lake 300 yards away? No one wants to see someone plod it down the right and not take it on. That's boring.

If you push trying to rein it in too far, then people will stop watching golf. People want to see risk.

Actually, when everyone can carry it 300 yards, the thrill of such risk taking is gone because it’s no longer risk. The reward for being genuinely long off the tee has been muted either because so many can do it, or because the courses have no chance of keeping up. That’s boring to watch.

The problem is the architects—some of them, anyway—decided that because the ball is going forever, they need to make courses longer to make them harder. No, you don't. Just be a better architect.

Psssssssst…most architects of the courses you play are….dead. They can’t be better architects.

Even after hearing these rationales for so many years, I’m still surprised at the level of misunderstanding about what is genuinely fun and satisfying to watch.

Megha! Fourth Time Is The (DCP) Charm All Over Again

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Megha Ganne has qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt finals at Augusta National for the fourth straight time she has attempted qualifying.

As Ryan Herrington notes at Golf World, Ganne missed in her first attempt, skipped in 2016 but in the other years the 15-year-old attempted what is a very difficult feat to pull off just once, she’s headed to Augusta National again next spring.

Check out the story.

And I note this for those wondering if the “DCP” interest has warn off. From Ganne:

“I can definitely say that each year it gets harder and harder to qualify because there are so many more kids that try and compete in it,” Ganne said earlier this spring. “Even at the local stage, the number of kids who were there my first year compared to this past year is not even comparable.”

Rosie: Augusta's Fifth Getting [Only] 30 More Yards

To show how drastically things have changed, Tim Rosaforte reports the new Augusta National-installed tee at the par-4 5th will add only 30 yards with the hope of putting driver back in player hands. And five-irons for second shots. 

"The new hole will play upwards of 485 yards in an attempt to restore the shot value that has been taken away by the distances achieved by the modern game," Rosaforte said. "Instead of 3-woods and 7-irons, the new fifth should require a driver and a 5-iron, at the very least, depending upon the conditions."

Driver maybe, but still very much 7 and 8-irons in today's game. 

Amazingly, it would take at least 50 yards to get a long-iron in their hands. Unless the landing area remains pinched instead of allowing for the risk-taking created in the original design inspired by the Road Hole

Intriguing Tussling: Sky Sports And The Masters

The Guardian's Ewan Murray says all is not rosy between The Masters and Sky Sports--exemplified in part by this year's late renewal of the 2017 edition. 

While this tussling is of seemingly no interest to American audiences, the move to a Sky/BBC split was part of a series of efforts by major championships and the people who own their rights to align with Sky and Fox for broadcasts. Both paid handsomely to strengthen their offerings, but have suffered financial losses and criticism for not reaching enough eyeballs. The Masters currently is seen live on Sky and on BBC for recap shows.

This all gains more intrigue when Fox and Comcast (Murdoch and Roberts) are attempting to purchase Sky, with Fox already owning a big stake and Comcast making what amounts to a hostile bid. 

Murray writes:

 

The standoff for the 2018 Masters meant it took Sky until January to confirm it had secured rights. They were, however, only for a single year. When the Masters took place, Sky’s top brass – as was customary before – chose not to attend. If matters are to be patched up once more, it appears likely this will again be a late call.

Can Augusta National Get The MacKenzie And Jones Back In Their 5th Hole?

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John Boyette and the Augusta Chronicle report on landscaping work around what will be a new property line by Old Berckmans Road. A photo gallery and details from the club's permit filings suggest a robust effort. 

As The Forecaddie explains, this is pretty clearly the beginning phase to major work at the fifth hole. Once the new perimeter is established, the club will be closed and on-course work can begin.

While no changes have been announced, this will be a huge test of new Chairman Fred Ridley's devotion to MacKenzie and Jones.  For Golfweek's April issue, I wrote about the Ridley's comments and fascinating omission of Clifford Roberts in favor of a rare MacKenzie reference, as well as what the future portends.

Which brings us to the 5th hole. Other than the 11th hole's awful pine nursery plantings in place of what used to be fairway, no hole was more perversely compromised to prevent a driver and sand wedge approach than the 5th. In 2002, fairway bunkers were pushed forward to pinch the landing area and force a lay-up off the tee.

Jones, however, described the intent of rewarding those who carried the left bunkers to shorten the hole and enjoy a better angle. He noted the danger looking for the left tee shot pulled into the woods but also the distinct difference in angle and distance for the second shot.

Here is the George Cobb rendering from Golf Is My Game and take note of the contours included by Cobb. There was a high spot down that left side where the best angle was obtained, as well as nice mounding in the right center that added visual deception for the safely played tee shot:

1960 rendering by George Cobb for Bobby Jones' Golf Is My Game

1960 rendering by George Cobb for Bobby Jones' Golf Is My Game

In one of his earliest renderings and comments, MacKenzie even equated the dogleg corner and overhanging trees to the Road hole's station masters garden and the green design's principles inspired by the Old Course's 17th. 

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With additional space behind the tee to add length and Ridley's stated devotion to the original strategies, the fairway bunkers should come back a bit and the left side restored. However, with the tee possibly shifting to the right, this will change the view, angle and maybe effect the ability to restore the very classic risk-reward strategy. 

Time will soon tell if the nuances so well documented by the architects and rooted in the Road hole, are reclaimed during this summer's fifth hole work. 

LPGA Weighs Its Augusta National (Women's Invitational) Options

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On the surface, Augusta National's creation of a women's amateur tournament beginning in 2019 turned heads and seems an aggressive reach into the LPGA's territory.

But in reading Beth Ann Nichols' Golfweek look at the LPGA dilemma in how to schedule their first major of the year going forward and now up against the new Augusta event, I wonder if there is a danger in overthinking this one. 

After all, the Augusta event will only be televised on Saturday and the field only play Augusta National that morning. Given that the members will want to play their course, I suspect play will start early and can occupy a similar time frame as Sunday's Drive, Chip and Putt. That leaves the afternoon to the PGA Tour and LPGA.

“They’re an amateur tournament, we’re a professional major,” Cristie Kerr said. “I don’t think we should have to move our professional major because there’s a one-round event at Augusta National for amateurs.”

I agree! But should the ANA move because the pre-Masters week means it gets lost in some of the attention devoted to The Masters? Yes, say many. But there are scheduling issues with that scenario as well, Nichols notes.

What seemed an obvious fix, at least for one year – to flip-flop the Kia Classic and the ANA – has a significant consequence for TV.

Right now the ANA Inspiration offers 20 hours of live television coverage. Moving one week back puts the women’s major up against the PGA Tour’s Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin. That could mean tape-delayed coverage for early rounds of the ANA and a significant drop in the live window on the weekend. Tape-delayed coverage for an LPGA major would be a controversy in itself.

“The major experience is priority No. 1,” Whan said.